Yaris raised supermini stakes

The first Toyota Yaris established itself as the finest supermini of its generation, says Andy Enright.Winner of the 2000 European Car of the Year award, it brought sophistication to a small car sector which had previously excelled only in being built down to a price.

The first Toyota Yaris established itself as the finest supermini of its generation, says Andy Enright.

Winner of the 2000 European Car of the Year award, it brought sophistication to a small car sector which had previously excelled only in being built down to a price.

Other manufacturers quickly cottoned on to Toyota's formula and ruthlessly improved quality. Toyota's response was the second-generation Yaris that was bigger and better than ever before. Given that these qualities also applied to the rest of the market, its lead was no longer so clear cut.

Used examples are proving popular with customers realising that when you're buying Toyota, you're still buying peace of mind.


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What you pay

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One thing that hasn't changed a great deal over the two generations of Yaris is the car's ability to cling steadfastly to residual values.

The first of the 2005 55-plated Yaris 1.0 T2s starts at �4,000 and a clean 06-plated 1.3-litre T3 five-door is �4,500.

Insurance for the Yaris is, as you might well expect, very cheap with the entry level cars rated at group one and the rest of the range climbing up to a still hardly eye-watering group four. The sole exception is the 1.8-litre SR which carries a group seven banding.

What you get

There's only so much money that can be thrown at a car where margins are this tight and there are plenty of unlined cubbies and hard plastics on display.

The seats seem rather insubstantial too, Toyota realising that big seats are the enemy of packaging in a small car. They've tried to create a lightweight but comfortable place to park yourself. Lightweight buyers will probably find them OK, but tip the scales at 16 stone and you'll probably grumble after an hour or so.

Despite its 11cm growth in overall length, the Yaris is still shorter than many of its key supermini rivals such as the Fiat Grande Punto and the Renault Clio. Part of the reason why these cars are so large is compliance with pedestrian impact legislation which required the adding of a few centimetres to the nose of many models. The Yaris gets round this one by arcing the bonnet high over the unyielding mechanicals to provide a deformable surface.

This means that despite being shorter on the outside, the Yaris is competitive in terms of interior space and easy to park at the same time.

Fold the EasyFlat rear seats down and you're treated to a huge stowage area for a supermini. This system allows the rear bench to be split 60/40 and both sections to slide independently. Therefore, it's possible to transport long, bulky items without impinging on a rear passenger's legroom allowance.

On the road

Three petrol engines are available - a 1.0-litre three-cylinder unit, a more conventional 1.3-litre four-cylinder powerplant and the 131bhp 1.8-litre range-topper. Diesel buyers are catered for with a 1.4-litre turbodiesel.

Overall

Although it no longer wields the same crushing superiority over its rivals as its predecessor, the second-generation Yaris is still there or thereabouts when it comes to shortlisting the best supermini around.

Keen drivers will choose a Ford Fiesta or Vauxhall Corsa and those looking for cutesy styling may plump for the Nissan Micra but, as an all-round proposition, the Yaris still takes some beating.

With reliability being a key criterion when it comes to choosing a used car, it's hard to look beyond the Yaris. I certainly wouldn't.

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