The Toyota Yaris remains a fairly big name in the world of cars, even if sales of city cars continue to slide. And Toyota has reinforced its faith in the nameplate by applying it to the model’s SUV spin-off, the Yaris Cross.
Yet, you could have forgiven anyone for believing the Japanese company had accidentally launched the latest-generation Yaris with the SUV’s pricing. Whereas the most affordable Yaris previously available was $15,990, the cheapest ticket now is about $25,550 drive-away.
That price is for the entry Ascent Sport. Here we have the mid-range 2020 Toyota Yaris SX that comes with a $27,020 RRP and a (NSW) drive-away price of $30,588.
Paying more than $30,000 has traditionally been reserved for pint-sized performance hatchbacks. Toyota has cited the Yaris’s more advanced safety technology and more efficient three-cylinder engine as the culprits for the price leap.
|2020 Toyota Yaris SX|
|Engine||1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol|
|Power and torque||88kW at 6000rpm, 145Nm at 4800–5200rpm|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim, combined||4.9L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||4.5L/100km|
|Boot volume (rear seats up / down)||270L|
|ANCAP safety rating (year)||5 (tested 2020)|
|Warranty (years / kilometres)||5 years / unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Kia Rio, Mazda 2, Suzuki Swift, VW Polo|
|Price as tested (excl. on-road costs)||$27,020|
The safety category is certainly extensively covered. The SX features autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian (day/night) and cyclist (day) detection, lane-departure warning with steering assistance, lane-centring assistance, auto high beam, speed-limit notification, all-speed adaptive cruise control, and an intersection-assist function designed to prevent drivers turning into the path of an oncoming car.
Eight airbags include segment-first front-centre airbags that can prevent front occupants clashing heads in the event of a side impact.
There are some obvious omissions, though. Parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are all missing from the Yaris SX – available only on the top-spec Yaris ZR despite being standard on cheaper rivals such as the Suzuki Swift GLX Turbo (which also matches most of the SX’s driver aids, if not its more advanced collision-mitigation tech).
Rear drum brakes – even if common to the city-car segment (though not the aforementioned Swift GLX Turbo) – also undo much of the good work of the driver aids.
For CarAdvice’s launch review of the new Yaris, our 100km/h to zero brake test revealed the car’s stopping ability was no better than your average dual-cab ute.
Within the Yaris line-up, the SX’s equipment gains over the Ascent Sport include LED headlights, alloy rims (for same-size 15-inch wheels), leather-accented steering wheel, digital instruments, navigation, keyless entry/start, privacy glass and climate control (rather than manual air-con).
Saving about $3000 over the $30,100 ZR means missing out on sports seats (but same upholstery material), paddle-shift levers and a head-up display in addition to the blind spot and rear traffic systems.
Spending an extra $2000 gets buyers into a ($29,020) Yaris SX Hybrid, with the promise of even greater fuel savings.
In the context of the city-car segment, the Yaris SX doesn’t stand out for equipment as would be hoped for its high pricing. The interior doesn’t look as (relatively) premium as the cabin of the Volkswagen Polo, either – though there’s still plenty to like about the Yaris’s presentation.
Younger buyers in particular should find the digital instrument cluster appealing – a distinctive combination of speedo/tacho pods flanking a rectangular display of interchangeable info. Thin, coloured plastic ‘piping’ inserts and long-ovoid vents provide additional visual interest, and the climate-control panel and leather steering wheel add touches of smartness.
The general quality of the cabin is solid, too – seemingly well put together and not completely bereft of some pleasant-feeling materials.
Toyota’s infotainment system combines a 7.0-inch touchscreen with (surrounding) physical buttons. It looks less sophisticated than the 8.0-inch interface found in the Polo in both how it’s placed on the dash and the way the interface is presented. The latter is less relevant for those owners who prefer to use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
There’s no wireless charging tray, though Toyota’s interior designers have at least created two dash shelves for conveniently placing smartphones. Storage is otherwise limited, with a centre console cubby missing and door pockets that will hold drink bottles but little more.
The Yaris has lengthened from 3.89m to 3.94m for this generation, with most of the gain (40mm) coming in the distance between the front and rear wheels. This helps create decent leg room for the rear seat – slightly more, in fact, than you would find in the big-brother Corolla. Head room and foot space are also good, though passengers miss out on a centre armrest and rear ventilation.
Boot space drops from 286L to 270L. It’s still a useful luggage area, with dual floor heights for a choice between depth or underfloor storage. The volume is average for the segment: higher than the Swift (242L) and Mazda 2 (250L), but lower than slightly larger rivals, the Polo (351L) and Kia Rio (325L).
At this pricepoint, most of the Yaris’s rivals are powered by a turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder.
Toyota has moved to a three-cylinder, but has stuck with normal aspiration and bigger capacity (1.5 litres). It has also introduced a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain option, which is available for both the SX and ZR trim grades – and carries a $2000 premium.
This review focuses on the regular petrol SX, which produces 88kW and 145Nm – not dissimilar to the power and torque outputs of the Mazda 2 that employs a 1.5-litre but with four cylinders.
Three-cylinders have come a long way on the refinement front, and the Yaris’s is another to significantly limit the vibrations that used to be typical for this engine type. It even sounds relatively sporty if the driver is more enthusiastic with the accelerator pedal.
Although the Yaris doesn’t feel as responsive through the gears as some of its rivals that combine a turbo engine and dual-clutch gearbox, it’s certainly not sluggish. The CVT features a mechanical launch gear, before switching to a belt-and-pulley system, that also helps to get the Yaris underway promptly – without the slight hesitation that is commonly experienced with dual-clutch autos.
As expected, the Yaris Hybrid is the most economical variant with official combined fuel consumption of just 3.3 litres per 100km. The normal petrol Yaris is rated at 4.9L/100km, and we had an indicated figure lower than that after testing: 4.5L/100km. The test route included a good freeway stint plus long suburban loops, yet the figure never went higher than 5.0L/100km even after some more urban running.
The Yaris didn’t feel out of its comfort zone on the freeway, reflecting an increased maturity to the way the city car drives. It’s not quite the Corolla Junior. Its on-road manners, while good, aren’t as impressive as those of the bigger Toyota hatchback.
While the Yaris provides a mostly comfortable ride, there’s a firmer edge to it compared with the Corolla – getting a touch fidgety over patchier roads and tending to jar over bigger bumps. Tyre noise could be quieter, too.
The Yaris’s suspension is far preferable to the jitteriness of the top-spec Kia Rio, the GT-Line, though not quite a match for the relaxing suppleness offered by the Suzuki Swift and VW Polo.
The steering’s light weighting feels well suited to a city car, while a tight 10.2m turning circle also contributes to the Yaris’s easy-to-drive nature.
A Yaris is easy on the pocket as well when it comes to servicing costs – with each of the first five 12-month visits (or every 15,000km) capped at just $195. That helps when the city-car segment is notoriously price-sensitive, though the Yaris’s affordability has plummeted with its new pricing structure.
In the specific case of the Yaris SX, there’s slightly better value to be found in the $2000-dearer Hybrid variant with its extra performance (albeit a small-ish amount) and even more impressive frugality. (Though even then the Hybrid is more expensive than Toyota’s previous hybrid city car, the $26,450 Prius C.)