Toyota’s little car has a grown-up feel

Toyota’s baby hatchback has been around for over two decades, and this latest model is the fourth-generation edition of the car. It went on sale last year. But if you do a search for the new 2020 Yaris online and you’ll find pages of links eulogising over the wanna-be rally car edition that is the GR Yaris.

That highly acclaimed pocket rocket, a fierce little £30k all-wheel drive halo car inhabits a realm frequented by the likes of racing drivers and YouTubers– and I await to have my own moment to rave about its brilliance soon.

But for most of us, and in the real world, the regular Yaris is of far more crucial concern. Talking of concern, you may be worried that – especially as the GR Yaris is pretty much an entirely difference car from the front pillar backwards, that all the investment went into the headline-grabber and that perhaps the regular bread-and-butter version was overlooked.

Well worry ye not, because the humble Yaris remains as ruggedly reliable, durably dependable, perfectly practical, and as convincingly cost-effective as it’s ever been. And more so in fact.

Prices for the Yaris, now only available as a hybrid, start from just under £20k. It’s powered by a 1.5-litre three-cylinder motor producing 114bhp and driving the front wheels through an Electric CVT automatic. It can accelerate from 0-62mph in 9.7 seconds and reach 109mph, while sipping fuel at a rate of nearly 69mpg and keeping CO2 emissions down to just 92g/km.

Taking inspiration from its haughty naughty sporty sibling, the new Yaris looks substantial, pumped up with bulges over its wheels emphasising its planted road stance. The front is the sharpest and most aggressive it’s ever been. Meanwhile those muscly rear haunches make you think this is the beefed-up edition with torque being deployed through the rear wheels. It isn’t, this is still a front-wheel drive car.

It looks sleeker and it is lower and slightly wider. You might then question if the practicality has been compromised. Nope. The boot is about as happy to swallow as much load as could be expected from any car this size. There is an underfloor space – where a space-saver spare wheel sits – and you have split folding rear seats.

In the back it’s actually more accommodating than you’d expect and that’s the testimony of a 6ft 2in long-legged tested sitting behind a driver’s seat set for himself. It should be a squeeze in the back there, but in fact it is entirely tolerable.

Up front, you’re instantly welcomed by a grown-up big-car feel. There’s no more ‘sitting up straight’ sensation, you’re more reclined, more stretched out even and you can wear a variety of hats if you’re so inclined. The seat seems lower, it’s certainly comfortable. Ahead of you is a digital display, a multi-layered dashboard design, reasonable quality trim, straight forward controls, good visibility and a great seating position.

The ride is impressive, although the worst undulations will unsettle the small car, smoother surfaces play to its next-level refinement. It has active cruise control and is a markedly comfortable highway companion. Hit the back roads and it is game for a bit of chucking around the twisties. Push it hard and safe understeer will become apparent. Keep it moderate and it’ll reciprocate by keeping you engaged.

The performance is more than adequate and the CVT gearbox – which is a given with the hybrid drivetrain – does well to disguise its origin and behaves like a normal auto would. The steering is faithful if not as sharp as the most eager of little hatchbacks.

Where it really excels is as a daily-grind and chore-running city commuter. It remains an accessible and handy car that’s very much about giving you ease of use and reassurance, but always getting the job done.

The 2020 Toyota Yaris’ real achievement over its forbears, however, is in its design and presence.New Yaris didn’t just get better, it got cooler. So now your brain knows it makes sense AND your heart wants one.

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