Toyota Yaris Review: a staple household name turned best choice for first time buyers

Cian Etherington

‘As many students begin the search for their first car, the commute to college will certainly be a stress free one with the Toyota’s spin on the Supermini’

The Toyota Yaris burst onto the scene in January 1999, boasting quirky looks, some economic engine choices and a supermini size that could get you into almost any parking spot. While it is still on the market today, in both petrol and petrol-hybrid form, the Yaris has become one of, if not, the most purchased cars by new drivers hitting the roads for the first time.

Over the years, life has not been easy for the Yaris, as sportier rivals such as the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and Opel Corsa have sported overall better looks, exciting interiors and engines with a bit more punch than what you get with a Yaris. Despite this, the one thing Toyota has over all of these rivals is its squeaky-clean reputation of being one of the best-built cars in the world.

2015 saw an attempt by Toyota to modernise the supermini and fight back against German brands by adding the newest tech, a broad colour scheme and a petrol hybrid engine. It scrapped the 1.4 diesel engine and revamped its ever-popular 1.0 petrol engine, bringing it into the A2 road tax rating and emissions of just 99g/km and €190 per year, much less than its rivals.
Taller drivers will be thrilled to know that 65% of the car’s total length is devoted to the cabin, giving extra leg room to those who need it. The back is cosy but four adults won’t feel out of place on longer journeys, with plenty of knee room and lots of space for luggage in the boot, which has grown up to 347 litres of space, depending on how you load it. For students returning to university, the rear seats folded give you a whopping 768 litres for all those boxes and suitcases that need moving across the country.

Things became much more plush at the wheel when the face-lifted MK3 Yaris landed in late 2015. Colour coordination brings a spark into the cabin and adds something extra to its rivals, but you’ll have to search for a higher-specked model to enjoy that. For most, however, the most impressive and vital change from 2015 up is the ‘Toyota Touch 2’ system, a first for the Yaris since its launch in 1999. It offers a larger seven-inch display with average graphics for its class, which works well despite the odd lag and difficulty of reading on a very sunny day, due to its positioning on the dashboard. Buyers will be glad to know that ‘mirror link’ allows for flawless Bluetooth connectivity, enabling you to control almost everything from your phone or the car’s touchscreen, whichever you desire. Unfortunately, most models from 2019 down are not supported on Toyota’s Apple-Car-Play system, so Bluetooth must do. That said, the standard doesn’t necessarily make that a bad thing.

The system also incorporates a high-definition reverse camera that works brilliantly when manoeuvring in tight locations such as car parks or one-way streets and parking sensors that aid the camera while navigating tricky situations. Higher specked models (SOL, SOL HYBRID) also avail of the ‘Toyota 2’ navigation system, including full in-depth maps of Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Under the bonnet, the most significant change came in mid-2016 with the remake of the ever-popular 60 HP 1.0L petrol hitting top speeds of 160 km/h, not that you’ll need it. 0–100 km/h will take about 15.3 seconds, with newer models taking just a tad quicker at around 13.5/14 seconds altogether. If you opt for the CVT petrol hybrid engine, the 73-horsepower Multidrive S transmission will sail through the gears getting you to motorway speeds in about 12 seconds. A lack of refinement, however, means you may have to tolerate some moaning from the gearbox as you accelerate through the motions.

According to, a full petrol tank will cost you €60, which should last a few trips back and forth to Dublin at weekends before another stop at the garage. Two thousand fifteen models and up have seven airbags, both front and back and a five-star safety rating overall.
Generally speaking, the Toyota Yaris isn’t going to be the most exhilarating car that you thrash into corners on weekends and push to the limit. Its refined manual transmission and engine are enough to commute up and down the motorway easily, and the technology allows you to listen to music and podcasts as you sit in Dublin’s rush hour traffic. However, the most important thing to remember is that Toyota is the world’s most reliable car brand, so overall, the Yaris is the intelligent option that’ll keep you on the road for less and away from the mechanics.

Cian Etherington

Image by Frank Nürnberger from Pixabay