Toyota’s latest super-mini won’t be available until the autumn, but Ryan Hirons says the prototype he drove suggests a good-looking, improved performer
With the fourth generation of the Yaris, Toyota’s supermini, set to available in September, I drove a prototype version.
It’s a way off dealer forecourts for now, but Toyota let us drive this not-quite, but-very-nearly-production-ready version of the hybrid hatchback, as it heads into its final phase of testing.
With a new platform underneath its skin, a refreshed hybrid powertrain, and more technology, there’s a lot of potential for the Yaris to be a success. So, how is this Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo rival shaping up?
Playing a crucial role here is Toyota’s GA-B platform.
A development of the TNGA underpinnings that its latest models (excluding the Supra) are sitting on, it’s said to offer hugely improved torsional rigidity and a driving position set lower in the car
What that theoretically means is a better driving car, as well as a more comfortable one.
Also new is its hybrid powertrain, with an engine derived from the latest Corolla, as well as a lithium-ion battery pack. The body looks much different from its predecessor’s, too.
Toyota has taken the 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine from the Corolla, knocked it down to three cylinders — which has dropped capacity to 1.5 litres — while linking it up to a new, lithium-ion battery.
Like in the Yaris hybrid before it, power is delivered to the front wheels via a CVT gearbox.
With the car in pre-production phase, Toyota is holding off on full details for now, but the system produces 114bhp and sends the car from 0-60mph in 10.1 seconds.
Toyota also claims 80% of urban driving can be done on electric power alone, and although official fuel economy figures are not yet known, we managed about 60mpg over our test run.
This powertrain is leaps and bounds ahead of the one preceding it. Power delivery is much smoother, refinement is up, and the CVT no longer tries its best to let the power unit imitate an elephant in pain.
Take criticism with a pinch of salt until we get behind the wheel of the production-ready version, but uphill driving confused the gearbox into a whirlwind of droning revs on occasion.
Toyota says the drive is much-improved, thanks to the increased torsional rigidity and the minor alterations to the driving position to enhance the behind-the-wheel feel.
Immediately noticeable is how much more agile the car feels, which doesn’t translate to just more fun, but to a car that’s very well-suited to tackling the urban jungle.
That said, it still feels off the pace of the thrills a regular Fiesta will deliver, and our prototype machine had something of a tendency to crash over bumps, though that’s something engineers are looking at. We’ll wait to see if that’s a resolved issue down the line.
That thin line of camouflage on the car’s lower panelling may make it hard to see the Toyota Yaris, but it is there.
Joking aside, the relatively exposed body allows us to judge the hatchback’s look.
A more aggressive approach to design has worked impressively well here. Its angry face, which has more on-road presence, and smart rear end put it at the forefront of the supermini beauty contest.
Toyota has improved the overall feel of the cabin.
The increased space up-front, between driver and passenger, is welcoming, while the newly engineered driving position is leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor’s imitation of driving a lorry that has offset pedals.
Boot capacity weighs in at 286 litres, which puts it a fair way off the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo, though space in the back row is sufficient for the average-sized adult during a typical-length journey.
With some of the cabin plastics in our prototype said to be less than production standard, we’ll wait to get behind the wheel of a market-ready car before passing judgement.
With its market arrival still some way off, exact pricing for the new Toyota Yaris is still a guess, though Toyota has thrown around the word ‘competitive’, when pressed on the issue.
It will feature the firm’s Safety Sense suite of assistance technology and for no extra cost, as Toyota pursues a five-star Euro NCAP rating.
Keep your eyes peeled to see if that comes to fruition.
It may only be early days for the fourth-generation Toyota Yaris, but signs of the hybrid hatch being a real contender for the supermini crown shine through.
Drivability is much improved over its predecessor, both around town and when things get a little twistier on country roads, and the overhauled powertrain has taken the hybrid from testing the waters in the last Yaris to a genuinely recommendable option over petrol rivals.
We’ll have to wait until later in the year before making a definitive verdict on the new Yaris, but things are looking good.