The Toyota Yaris first took to the tarmac in 1999, replacing the Starlet and is now in its fourth generation. It is proving to be an ideal car for town or country driving, as I discovered and it is the first application of new GA-B platform which enables style, compactness, practicality, driving enjoyment and safety. This platform is central to the car’s improved dynamic performance, giving a lower centre of gravity and much greater body rigidity and it also enabled the designers to create a more distinctive and powerful-looking car with an appealing and individual identity. In its latest guise it is chunkier than ever with the overall length reduced by 5mm, but longer wheelbase and greater width ensure cabin spaciousness and comfort.
We all approve of economy when it comes to our motoring and a new fourth generation hybrid system provides 114bhp, with CO2 emissions from 92g/km delivers just that. We will leave out and out performance to the GR version of the Yaris; however I have no complaint with the performance I enjoyed from the model on test, with rest to 100kph (62mph) coming up just shy of ten seconds. Toyota claims that their Yaris has been engineered to be the world’s safest compact car with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) as standard. This is a car designed and developed for the European market and it is built in Valenciennes, France. I was able to take in country and urban driving; it was agile on busy and confined urban streets, very much reflected in its compact proportions and tight turning radius. Most will agree with me that obtaining a parking space in some towns is difficult with cramped spaces, so a car such as the Yaris is ideal and with five doors easy access for what ever the need.
Moving to the interior, and it is a sharply designed space that has the solid and high sensory quality and spacious feel of a car from a class above. The increase in the car’s width has allowed for more space, an extra 20mm between the driver and front passenger, and for a wider front console to be designed. Similarly, load space is good with the boot offering 286 litres of storage, enough for a weekend away. For the driver’s cockpit, the concept is “eyes on the road, hands on the wheel” with the arrangement of displays and controls organised to ensure the driver can focus on the road and keep informed of key vehicle data with the least distraction, and excellent all-round visibility. This is something very important and often car manufacturers fail to take these onboard, full marks to Toyota in this respect. Visibility is improved by setting the instrument panel lower and pulling the A-pillar further back and the front seats were also moved outwards, so there is more space between the driver and passenger. The designers wanted to let the driver take in the flow of information with minimal eye movement, so a large colour display is easy to read with the minimum distraction from the task of driving. There is a larger area of soft-touch padding across the dashboard, soft felt inserts in the door panels, a wider front console, a lower hood for the driver’s instrument binnacle and a small-diameter sporty steering wheel. For entertainment and communication the focus on connectivity is with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration and I was able to use my smartphone linked to the system to find my way around.
Like so many mainstream carmakers, Toyota places much attention on the safety of the driver and passengers and the Yaris comes very complete in this respect with Toyota Safety Sense. I am reminded that we have had a Yaris in one form or another for around twenty years and no surprise; I can state that the fourth generation is the best of the bunch and for choice- four grades- Icon, Design, Dynamic and Excel (NI); Aura,Luna, Luna Sport and Luna Bi-tone (ROI).