You may have heard the saying, ‘It’s more fun driving a slow car fast, than it is driving a fast car slow’. Sure, you might not get the same looks when slowly cruising in your Lamborghini Aventador than when you’re thrashing an old Holden Barina, but you get my drift.
The 2019 Toyota Yaris Ascent is neither of those cars, but it fits into the bracket of a ‘fun little car that might not be the quickest in the world’. The Yaris is now getting on in its current platform, with the second and last facelift in 2017. In the middle of 2020, we will see an all-new Yaris hit the showrooms, so before it arrives, let’s take a last look at the most affordable automatic Yaris money can buy.
Starting from $16,920 ($1520 less for the manual), the Ascent auto hides a 1.3-litre petrol engine under the bonnet and is paired with a four-speed automatic transmission. Go higher up in the grades to the SX and ZR, and you’ll get a 1.5-litre engine.
This Yaris Ascent on test here has the optional $675 Toyota Safety Sense package (comes standard on the ZR), which includes lane-departure warning, automatic high beam, road-sign assist, active cruise control, and a pre-collision safety system with autonomous emergency braking (AEB). This means that without optioning this pack, the Ascent and SX do not come standard with AEB.
The cabin layout is simple, with large easy-to-read dials and buttons, but the Yaris is showing its age with the relatively small 6.1-inch touchscreen and CD player. It also doesn’t come with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto or satellite navigation.
There is scratchy plastic everywhere, with the only padded area being the door armrests, thankfully. Even though there isn’t a central armrest with storage, there are other storage options, including a shelf above the very large glovebox, the roomy door pockets, and a removable cupholder divider that your phone can sit in.
The urethane steering wheel doesn’t feel inspiring in the hand, but has media and phone controls at the ready. The front seats are quite high, so it feels more like sitting in a chair, which means getting in and out of them isn’t as hard as some other hatchbacks. The high seats don’t impede on head room, either.
Vision from the driver's seat all round the small car is fantastic. Being able to clearly see out the side windows when doing head checks, and with large front side windows with a quarter window, you will struggle to find any large blind spots.
The six-speaker stereo system isn’t the greatest-sounding unit in the world, so forget about listening to music loud and clear. However, connections are plentiful, with one USB, AUX, and 12-volt found in the front.
You won’t find any connections in the second row, though. And let’s face it, anyone who buys a Yaris most likely won’t be having full-time back-seat passengers, anyway. Rear passengers sit quite high, and with a low floor and okay leg room, adults would find it surprisingly comfortable. But head room starts to get a bit tight. Storage options include two large map pockets, a cupholder, and bin at the rear of the front central armrest.
The boot can hold 286L, with a parcel shelf hiding your luggage. An interior light and side storage compartments can be found, and under the floor is a temporary space-saver. The rear seats fold in a 60:40 configuration.
So, how does the little-Yaris-that-could drive? Well, with 63kW and 120Nm, it won’t blow your socks off. But we will say strong winds on the highway can almost blow it off the road. Be careful with that. It’s noisy once the key is turned, it can sound thrashy and buzzy when out on the road, and the engine skips a beat when the manual air-conditioning is turned on, but that’s all part of its character.
The throttle is touchy, and the Yaris will jump off the line from a standstill if you’re a bit too keen to get going. Road noise is bearable at 80km/h, but things do start to get loud at 100km/h, which is also thanks to its high-revving four-speed auto transmission.
It rides quite well on the 15-inch steel wheels (with wheel covers, ergh), and is hilarious fun to rip around corners, with the fabric-trim seats keeping you in place. The analogue instrument dials do not light up if the headlights aren’t on, and they can be a little hard to see at times. Its tight 9.6m turning circle (1m tighter than the Volkswagen Polo) is a blessing when attempting turns in narrow streets or that quick three-point turn.
The claimed combined fuel reading is 6.4L/100km; however, we got a higher reading of 7.9L/100km.
Packed with seven airbags, the Yaris received a five-star ANCAP safety rating in 2017. Even though the servicing intervals are frequent, they are affordable. Across its five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, each service will cost $140 at every six months or 10,000km.
The Yaris is showing its age in its cabin quality, powertrain, and technology. However, it is a charming little runabout if you rarely hit 80km/h. With the all-new MY20 on its way soon, you might be able to snap up a good deal with the current model at your local Toyota dealership.