Toyota boldly claims that the new car offers higher interior quality, sharper dynamics and more space than ever, but what instantly grabs you is the new exterior design. The anonymous styling of old has vanished, replaced by a pair of angular headlights, a double concave grille, and subtle chrome trim which all reflect the latest family look.
The newcomer has gone up a size too, as it’s 100mm longer than its predecessor. Half of the extra length has been used to extend the wheelbase, freeing up passenger space, while the rest means that the boot is 25 per cent longer than before. It will swallow a decent 286 litres of luggage.
The existing engine line-up has been carried over, so there are two petrols to choose from - a 1.0-litre three cylinder with 68bhp and the 1.33-litre unit tested here. Completing the line-up is an 89bhp 1.4-litre diesel, which will also be the most efficient version until a hybrid model arrives next summer, emitting just 104g/km of C02.
Of the three, the 1.33-litre petrol is expected to make up around half of all sales, and with 98bhp and 125Nm of torque, there’s enough shove to keep pace with town traffic.
Progress is smooth and hushed at city speeds but, as peak torque arrives at 4,000rpm, the engine note becomes more strained once you reach the motorway. The manual gearbox could be more precise too, and while the optional Multidrive S automatic is smoother, it can get noisy unless you change gears yourself using the steering wheel-mounted paddles.
Toyota’s engineers have focussed on improving the car’s agility, ride and handling balance, and to achieve this plenty of thought has been put into saving weight. So despite going up in size, the new Yaris is 20kg lighter than the outgoing model, with thinner seats, aluminium suspension components, and a stiffer body shell all aiding the slimming process.
European versions also get a bespoke ride and handling setup, with retuned suspension bushes and dampers, and a quicker steering rack to help improve road holding and ride comfort.
Unfortunately the extra attention hasn’t had the desired effect – even on our smooth test route the ride felt firm, bouncing and jarring over imperfections. The electrically-assisted steering is light and easy to use, but provides little feedback, and the chassis gets flustered easily by quick changes in direction.
On the inside, the newly driver-oriented cabin and simple, unfussy dash layout marks a big step forward, with an integrated touchscreen system at the heart of the design. It’s an impressive piece of kit, and features Bluetooth, a reversing camera and picture viewer as standard on all but the base-spec car.