Starter in the Blocks

On your marks…

Toyota Yaris.

As age creeps ever on, the eyes often need time to adjust to unexpected occurrences. Seen from a good hundred feet, I liked what I saw. The car was glossy black, small, by modern standards but owning its stance. Goodness, it’s a new Toyota; the fourth attempt at the Yaris. And, by George, Akio’s gone and done it – at least on first impressions.

Released August 2020, saw round four of the Big Small car bucking the trend; smaller, improved upon by degrees. Yaris part three was doing nicely for Toyota. A rising market share, reasonable looks and prices, typically impressive warranty – a customer mainstay. Nothing lasts forever; Yaris 4.0 moved over to the TNGA-B platform.

The Yaris 4.0 programme, internally known as The Compact Car Company, saw Chief engineer, Yasunori Suezawa prioritise five main principles alongside a sporting-based ethos: fuel economy, safety, spaciousness, usability and performance. Suezawa states, “The styling captures the stance of an athlete on the starting blocks.” The French-produced Eurocentric city slicker also happened to win the 2021 CoTY gong.

The five door bodywork (no more three door models) is certainly muscular. The front, whilst not necessarily angry is forthright and perhaps slanting toward fussy. It’s the rear arch where the athletic structure predominates, making the car appear perhaps rear wheel drive – it isn’t. Sinewy then, even the roof has visible bulges – distant from Zagato’s correlation, their purpose must contribute to fuel economy or those suburban streets really are meaner than at first glance.

The hybrid power plant sees many improvements. The trip-off-the-tongue M15A-FXE speeds up to 80mph, achievable on electrical power alone. Tesco trips should be adequate with 90bhp at 5,500 rpm alongside a city traffic friendly 120Nm at just 3,600rpm. The hybrid transaxle has lost size and weight, the two electric motor / generator units (MG1 & 2) having separate shafts capable of 17,000rpm.

MG1 starts the car alongside generating power to the batteries. MG2 owns the larger shaft to power the front wheels. As to batteries, the nickel-metal hydride from the third Yaris has gone, replaced by a smaller lithium-ion collection. Cells have reduced from 120 to 48, placed underneath the rear passenger area assisting a lower centre of gravity, increased body rigidity and saving a vital 12Kgs. 

Emphasis on the exterior appearing condensed yet agile whilst extending and improving upon internal dimensions. Such is the Toyota way, no leaps or bounds, shortening the new model a whopping five millimetres. Compared to its forebear, Yaris 4.0 sits 40mm lower whereas the wheelbase has been extended by 50mm. Those moderately larger wheel arches house either 16 or 17” wheels, dependant on trim level, stiffer springing for the larger wheel. The A-pillars have receded. Elfin canvas changes a Toyota orthodoxy.


Looking inwardly, the dashboard has been lowered, the focus of the driver’s eyes having less movement. Higher trim levels incorporate coloured HUD with other essential features within your binocular vision. Redolent of a science fiction movie, the armrests quite literally stand out, especially when backlit; the cabin remainder suitably modern, connected and, on the model seen (Excel) pleasantly light with faux grey leathers.

Allowing for greater driver and front passenger flexibility, the seats have retracted 60mm with their hip point lowered by some 21mm. Little things in small packages add up. A significant plus point being the leather clad, slightly thinner steering wheel, which, according to Autocar is both pleasing to hold and worthy of a more sporting motor.

Reviews in the main circle the commendable adjective. Would you expect anything less from Toyota? Only things have changed. Excluding a certain Korean brand’s eighty four month warranty, Toyota offered sixty months protection until recently. Following the perceived industry norm, Toyota now give every new car a three year warranty under the rather dismal sounding “Toyota Relax,” banner.

Also covering the used brigades up to 100,000 miles or ten years, the only stipulation being to have one’s Toyota serviced at a dealership brandishing the ovoid enveloped T. This means one could snap up a nine years and six month old 80,000 mile, 2011 Toyota and remain covered until the next service where cover is then rescinded; handy to know. As are the hybrid batteries; getting upwards of fifteen years cover should anyone keep their Yaris that long.

On delving deeper though, cracks begin to appear. Prices kick-off with the Icon at £20,210 where at least the alloys are silver. Rivals are significantly cheaper though Toyota’s retaliation revolves around the overall package. Next level up being the Design. From here on in, the wheels are available in any colour as long as it’s black; only the spokes and radii alter followed by Dynamic then Excel, landing at £22,705. Your author is not a fan of the shaded wheel but, granted such hues obscure the brake dust.

Topmost package having the enigmatic moniker, Launch which you may attempt to with the salesperson when told this sticker price begins at £24,420. Mostly the interiors follow the shade of those alloys, the Excel a welcome lift. Further research found Titan Bronze to my liking but costs close to £600 more; add three hundred for red or white pearlescent. Those rear haunches will sully faster than the athlete jumping the gun.


Reviewers suggest higher specifications are the Yaris to aspire to but not to fall fowl of the 17” wheel as ride and fluidity is sacrificed. Which appears to be the Yaris Achilles heel; surely such a city bound car, however decent looking should be affordable to the many? One suspects the monthly PCP charges will be favourable as noone uses filthy lucre these days. The internal changes have robbed rear passenger and boot space; concerned customers voicing their opinions directly to source – Toyota UK without much heed. The Yaris will sell handsomely, regardless.

I want to like the Yaris but feel compelled to seek out alternatives as the starting pistol fires, or was that an exhaust note, backfiring? For Toyota can now offer an altogether different blend of Yaris, dealt with in the forthcoming episode.

Data sources: Autocar, Honest John,,

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

22 thoughts on “Starter in the Blocks”

  1. I am on record as being a fan of the original Yaris, indeed I rate it as Toyota’s best piece of design that made it to production. The current car featured here is much better than its predecessor, but is still way over-styled for my liking. There is a three door, by the way, for the GR AWD hot hatch, which I think looks great and very much how a small, pugnacious, extreme hatch should.

    Disturbingly, I note that Mazda is very simply rebadging the Yaris as a Mazda2 in order to access the emissions advantages of the hybrid drivetrain, no doubt. I am sure that this is a very convenient solution for Mazda, but it indicates that it might be running out of road in its attempts to keep up with the pack in investment terms in order to transition to the HEV/ PHEV/ BEV era.

    1. Good morning Andrew. I have to agree with S.V. regarding the design. At first glance, I thought I was looking at some super high performance variant, but even the entry-level versions look like that:

      The consequence of all that that bulging bodywork is that it looks under-wheeled, even on 16″ wheels. It’s a glorified shopping trolley, for goodness sake, not a WRC car! Moreover, the ratio of interior space to exterior footprint must suffer considerably because of the (over)styling, which is not what you want in an urban car.

    2. Good lord, the red one looks like a VW New Beetle after a horrible accident. It’s painful to look at in that high gloss finish.

  2. Toyota cars are the ones I seldom think about, but when someone actually asks me for advice what car to buy in C or B segment, I usually come to conclusion that Toyota is the best choice (usually it’s Corolla or Yaris of course).

    I work in IT, so I like having the latest solutions, but in the case of cars this often means unproven and unreliable gadgets that give the user little gains.Toyota may seem “a generation behind” compared to other manufacturers, but usually the solutions are well thought out and proven. I know that if someone is looking for a car for more than 5 years, they can feel safe with Toyota. And in 5 years every car will seem “old-timey” anyway, but Toyota will drive for many years to come…

  3. Good morning, Andrew. I agree with S.V.’s and Daniel’s comments. I don’t think I’ll warm up to the current generation of Yaris. This morning I passed a Toyota iQ. Smaller than a Yaris, but that’s a car I’ve always liked and still do.

    One of my friends had a first generation Yaris. A very good car, if a bit noisy. It did leave him stranded once as the semi-automatic gearbox was stuck in first gear. The exception to the rule, I reckon.

  4. Morning Andrew. I agree with the others. It looks over designed and bulbous and doesn’t do anything at all for me. On further reflection the front end looks almost “codfish” like.
    I drove a first generation Yaris when I worked in the Southern Ireland as they were cheap on tax iirc. It was a lease car so had done a few miles but certainly wouldn’t buy one myself.

  5. That´s inflation for you. A base model Citroen XM cost 20,000 GBP in 1990.
    If the bumper carried less insane swirling I´d like it more. Ford or Kia offer much nicer looking vehicles for this money.

  6. I’ve been lurking here for several months but this is my first post.

    I’ve been a Yaris owner for just over 10 years. I currently have the model previous to this (owned for 4 years) and previously had a Mk2 version for 6 years, and have been very happy with them for many reasons. Their performance – with the normal petrol engine – is better than most alternatives, and their mpg is excellent. The interior isn’t as plush and tactile as other manufacturers, but that doesn’t bother me.

    When test-driving alternatives what immediately struck me about the Yaris (Mk 2 onwards) is that the interior feels big when you’re sitting in the driving seat. The much-lauded Fiesta has always felt very claustrophobic and narrow in comparison.

    But the big winner for me is the Yaris reliability. Apart from once needing a new battery, I’ve never had anything other than routine servicing in 10 years. And the two Toyota main dealers who I’ve used have both been excellent, and I didn’t feel I was being ripped off or conned.

    1. Hello KC and thanks for your post. You offer a story pretty consistent with what I expect from Toyota which is why they have such a loyal customer base. Your view of the Fiesta indicates Ford went with a more “confining” interior in order to suggest a more sporty character. I think many cars have this feeling rather than one of spaciousness. I notice this difference getting into newer bigger cars than my own – bigger on the inside but less so on the outside. I recall Citroen offering the roominess of the C5 Mk1 as a selling point. The Mk2 was much less roomy-feeling and that put me off it the one time I got on board one. And the 407 had the same change compared to the 406 (which I drive). I suppose customers think they want this but I suspect the change is driven as much by what car testers prefer.

  7. My neighbour has one of these hybrids and loves it. The fuel consumption is negligible and the way it manages the electric/petrol transitions very well balanced. The family went to the showroom and all went for this since the interior felt as spacious and comfortable as both the Carolla and the whatever-they-call-it SUV thing they make but it was less expensive.

    As for the exterior design…has anyone ever bought a “standard” Toyota for it’s good looks? Personally I would say that they have mostly been wilfully ugly, inoffensive at best. In fact I’ve admired people who buy them for placing build quality and reliability over everything else. The various coupes and what not are only marginally better looking too!

  8. It is a bit gargoyle-like, but having looked at it for a while, its grown on me. I wonder if younger buyers think it looks exciting – it’d be interesting to see the comparative demographics between models in the B segment.

    Toyota have also been very clever with the GR version – it’s made the brand (and their supermini) amazingly cool amongst male enthusiasts, and that’s a hard trick to pull off.

    The list price does look stiff but, as has been said, in terms of a deposit and monthly payments, it looks much more reasonable. After some quick research, I found that they’re roughly in-line with other models in the segment – no doubt helped by reasonable depreciation figures (e.g. £1.7k deposit with £190 per month).

    The market liked the previous model – in Europe, it was fourth in sales in its segment, behind the Clio, 208 and Corsa, so Toyota must know what they’re doing.

    Then there’s the Yaris Cross, of course.

  9. My partner had a first generation Yaris new, it needed a clutch within weeks and was returned with the reversing light not connected.
    I leased a second generation Yaris, mainly because of the low cost. The interior plastics were nasty with sharp edges and the six speed gearchange appalling. At the time I had a 20 year old rear engine VW van as well and the gearchange of the Yaris was worse.
    The current version still has work out windows in the back of the base version, stupid cost cutting in a car whose rear seats are only big enough for children.

  10. Evening all. The new Yaris appears quite the fence sitter. On seeing maybe another half dozen examples since the one to inspire the piece, Im still ambivalent towards this new version. As it appears Mazda are with their badge engineering; shameful.

    I can fully understand and appreciate the lack of reliability woes and excellent fuel figures in making this an ideal runabout type of vehicle but just what is this car trying to be – too muscular to be taken seriously without the clout to do the overly complicated bodywork justice?

    With regard to “no three door” available, indeed the run of the mill Yaris is a five door only. The “boy racer” version is subject to a separate piece in the near future.

    As a way of redemption, here’s the latest Yaris WRC hybrid version under test and under camouflage:

  11. Whenever I see one, I have a good look because it seems to be the rare GR version, only to observe the rear doors and realise that they have fooled me again! The original Ford Ka is said to have encountered issues with some inexperienced drivers, who forgot that that rear was a little wider than the front; I wonder whether this will suffer a similar fate?

    Suzuki are following Mazda – their first electric vehicle will be a rebadged Toyota BZ4X, following the Across (RAV4) and Swace (Corolla).

    1. Euro NCAP is not what seems to be. It is just one of those certification companies that has learned to loot the western world.

      Just one example: When the Renault Zoe was launched, it got 5 stars. In the last test this year it got zero.
      Do you really think the car has become less safe in the last few years?

      Euro NCAP is just bulls**t bingo with “vehicle safety” – but it apparently rakes in enough money to keep up its mischief.
      But you are welcome to call me biased towards these kind of companies.

    2. If the Zoe can go from hero to zero, just because of a change in the side airbag, then it demonstrates that something is seriously wrong with NCAP.

  12. The front does not resemble to an angry carnivorous animal, because the eyes, where we focus to catch the intentions, the light clusters, display some calmness. It certainly does not approach to attack you, like a hyena or so, therefore should I see one of them in the rear view mirror trying to overtake, I will not feel threatened. What I wanted done in an other way, is the shelf behind the rear window, between the rear light clusters. Its extension towards the rear wheel arches is too long and pointed.

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