Toyota Yaris 1.33 TR

Toyota's restyling is aimed at the young driver but has something vital been lost?

Small cars are more likely to have a strong personality than a larger one.

A good one can be cute, nippy, frisky and other such adjectives. You are more likely to "bond" with a small car, because it becomes more a part of you.

Capitalising on this, the most interesting small cars have a strong identity of their own which transcends that of the company which made them. The first Toyota Yaris, launched in 1999, had the might of a huge Japanese company behind it but it didn't look much like a typical Toyota. It was far too cute, too rounded, too minimalist. It was its own car, and its cabin shouted that fact by featuring a dashboard unlike any other, with a central digital speedometer viewed via a mirror.

Now there is a new Yaris, the third generation of the breed. Outside, it looks like a typical modern Toyota shrunken into a smaller package, with an overwrought front end and no Yaris-specific identity. Inside, the Yaris-unique dashboard has gone and a generic instrument cluster sits directly ahead of the driver. And despite claims of improved perceived quality, the cabin is once again furnished with acres of hard, unyielding plastic.

The costcutters have been in, it seems, because the previous car's "Easy Flat" folding mechanism for the rear seats has also gone. That means the backrests simply fold onto the fixed cushions, creating a higher load floor which is no longer flat. The way the steering wheel crashes into your lap when the adjustment handle is released smacks of penny-pinching, too, as does the flimsy feel and grinding action of the seat-height adjuster. However, today's ready availability of cheap electronics rescues the new Yaris from austerity, with all models apart from the basic T2 featuring a large display touch-screen, built-in Bluetooth, and a reversing camera.

This "Toyota Touch" multimedia system can be rendered even more multi for an extra £500 – the upgrade is included as standard for the first few months of sale – to create "Touch and Go". This is a sat nav/text message/Google Local Search/Facebook/etc interface which uses your mobile phone as the gateway to the airwaves. And it works well once you have got to grips with the menus.

This Yaris has more interior space than the last one, thanks to thinner seatbacks and tailgate, and it has shed 20kg. The engine range, however, is much as before, which means a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder unit of 68bhp; a 1.33-litre with 98bhp; and a 1.4-litre turbodiesel with 89bhp. The latter two have a six-speed gearbox, with a CVT (continuously variable automatic).

How, then, do these initial new Yarises (prices range from £11,170 to £15,385) – available as TR, slightly sporty SR and highly equipped, panoramic-roof T Spirit, as well as base T2 – feel to drive? The diesel feels the punchiest and has the lowest CO2 output at 104g/km, but it's quite gruff and, like the 1.33, has a clunky, imprecise gearchange. At the other extreme, the little three-cylinder engine has a smooth, deep note, is matched to a sweet-shifting transmission and has a crispness and eagerness which belie its modest performance.

Which leaves the 1.33, core of the range and likely to be the most popular. It is spoilt by a mushy response to the accelerator but is very quiet. I am not normally a fan of automatics but in this case the optional CVT is a better bet, with smooth and responsive ratio-changing, an effective seven-speed manual mode and the potential for better economy.

All the Yarises ride smoothly and quietly over bumps, and have quick, accurate and stodge-free electric power steering.

All in all, then, the new Yaris is a competent-enough car with some features sure to appeal to the youth market that Toyota is desperate to capture (the current average age of Yaris buyers is 60). But the spark of individuality has deserted it, and that's a pity. Toyota can be individual if it tries, as the tiny iQ proves. Next to that clever little car, the Yaris seems a bit half-hearted.

The Rivals

Ford Fiesta 1.4 Zetec: £13,395, 96bhp, 133g/km

It's highly stylish, comfortable, good fun to drive, and has a quality interior. Deservedly popular.

Kia Rio 2 1.4: £13,095, 107bhp, 128g/km

Impressive newcomer looks good outside but bland inside. Very quiet. As good as anything from Japan or Europe. (Next week's test drive.)

Volkswagen Polo 1.4 Match: £13,225, 85bhp, 139g/km

Today's Polos are good value and have the most natural-feeling steering in this class. Rather dour cabin, though.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
tech

Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff
tv

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
tv

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
Life and Style
i100

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Year 4 Teacher

    £20000 - £31000 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to wo...

    English Teacher Thetford Secondary

    £110 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Cambridge: An Academy based in Thetfor...

    Year 1 Teacher

    £100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to work at ...

    Data Analyst / Marketing Database Analyst

    £24000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week