Pocket-lint is supported by its readers. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

(Pocket-lint) - When the Toyota Yaris was launched in 1999, it signalled a shift in the manufacturer's small cars.

Affordability was front and centre, but the design saw a lift and it broke new ground - a 1-litre engine provided frugality, a sliding rear seat brought practicality and the original central, almost holographic, driver display was forward-looking.

Over 20 years later, and through several iterations, the Yaris is still going strong. And while those original features may have been designed away, the principle remains the same.

The Yaris is about being a modern, future-facing compact car, which this hybrid still is.

But what tricks does Toyota have up its sleeve here, and what's this latest Yaris like to drive? Here's our verdict.

Our quick take

The Toyota Yaris remains a fun compact car that's both affordably appointed and offers good performance, with plenty of standard equipment across the range of trims offered.

It also looks great, with a design that's a little more exciting than some of its compact rivals.

For us, it brings with it all the thrills of small car driving, feels faster than it is and those happy to spend a little more can add in more premium features.

Really, though, it's all about efficiency and offering great performance for the range. You might not have all the benefits of emission-free driving, but you get great fuel economy from a sophisticated, if slightly noisy, hybrid arrangement.

Toyota Yaris Hybrid review: A compact that still excites

Toyota Yaris Hybrid

4.0 stars
For
  • Great compact design
  • Good fuel economy
  • Fun to drive
Against
  • Not much space in the back
  • Engine is a little noisy
  • Basic user interface
  • Small boot

Design

The design of the Yaris has gotten progressively more aggressive, moving from soft and bubbly to sporty. Toyota pulls this off in a way that gives a more interesting design than some small models - also reflected in the even smaller Aygo - and we'd rate these as some of the best-looking small cars on the road.

Pocket-lintToyota Yaris Hybrid photo 2

Of course, the Yaris GR now takes the sporty crown, but the great thing about having a performance model is it turns heads, makes people dream, and does wonders for the regular model. 

From the exterior, the Yaris curves and sculpts the car around those rear doors - light clusters popping out of the rear to provide some definition - while the front has that sporty look. The great thing is that from the finish to the plastics used, there's the impression that this design is more than it is - you could almost think it's some sort of exotic carbon fibre - and that just lends this car a good overall look.

Pocket-lintToyota Yaris Hybrid photo 6

The advantage that this class offers is that it's ideal for urban environments. They're much easier to park in tight spaces - perfect for those multistory car parks where you can turn corners without worrying you're going to scrape a panel. And, of course, crossovers are en vogue, and that explains why there's a Yaris Cross, too, for those wanting something that rides a little higher.

As ever, there's also a range of trims on offer, with this model - Design - fitting into the middle of the range. That means you have fun things like a rear spoiler, body-coloured door handles and great overall looks.

Interior

The Yaris has never been a big car on the interior, but there's ample space up front for all but the tallest of drivers and passengers. The rear seat is a little more cramped, saved only by the fact that the front seat's rear is soft, so it will give a little when your knees press into them.

While the rear bench will seat three, there's not a lot of headroom. A 6-foot passenger will slip in, but, if you're sporting any sort of quaffed hair, you might find that squashed - or, as in our case, sunglasses on the head that got squished against the roof liner.

The interior is classic Toyota territory, using more hard plastics and fabrics and not so much leather, all designed to keep the price in check. While that means it won't compete with the likes of the Audi A1 for quality, we don't find that to be a problem at this price.

Pocket-lintToyota Yaris Hybrid photo 14

It's an efficient layout - except, perhaps, for the overly-large drive selector on the automatic, which is a hangover from the manual version's gear stick. 

However, everything falls easily to hand, with climate controls within easy reach and the dash-mounted display providing access to the car's various infotainment functions. It's a touchscreen, but one that's flanked with buttons to access the various areas. It's not the tidiest, but it's simple enough to use. 

The boot, naturally, is small, with its 286-litre capacity just about enough for the weekly food shop. The parcel shelf can be removed for more loading space, but it's never going to be a big load carrier.

The rear seats can be folded, too. So, if you're a couple wanting to carry more, that's always an option.

Pocket-lintToyota Yaris Hybrid photo 18

Display and infotainment

The central 7-inch display, as mentioned, is flanked by buttons and two control dials to take you to the main functions it offers. It's worth noting that there's no satnav on lower trims, but you do get Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard. So, for many, the best approach is going to be connecting the phone and using those interfaces, instead.

That's no bad thing, as the stock user interface that Toyota offers is rather basic. It's mostly text-based, so the temptation to connect your phone and never really look at Toyota's offering will be overwhelming. 

Bluetooth is standard, as well, so there's no problem with connectivity on even the lowest level of the car. However, there are other benefits that the screen brings, such as a reversing camera - even on this fairly low Design trim level.

That's a benefit that some premium cars don't get until higher up the scale - although, arguably, the Yaris is so compact you'll rarely need to actually use the camera when parking.

Pocket-lintToyota Yaris Hybrid photo 16

The driver display is split into two dials - left and right - encircled in a plastic trim with a central 4.2-inch information display. There's a menu here so you can display your averages - or other pertinent information - and provides some degree of customisation. 

The layout is great, so it's easy to see both displays, and the high position on the dash for the central display makes it easy to glance at navigation details as you drive.

There's a four-speaker system, too, which can be a little mild in delivery, and it's certainly worth tweaking the levels to give it a little more bass punch and bring a more rounded sound quality to it.

On the road

The Yaris Hybrid comes with a three-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol engine. It's a hybrid, meaning it can make use of the onboard battery to boost efficiency, seeing the fuel economy check in at around 60mpg. Such are the advantages of having a hybrid system on a small car.

Of course, electrification means there's the opportunity for some limited emission-free driving, as well, though this mostly comes in the form of engine-off reversing or creeping forward in traffic.

Pocket-lintToyota Yaris Hybrid photo 9

It's only a 4.3Ah battery, delivering 59kW to the front wheels via a motor, so it won't compete with the sort of range you'd get from a plug-in hybrid or, naturally, offer the advantages of a battery electric vehicle

It's a smooth experience, only really let down by the fact that the engine is a little noisy. Whether that's a deliberate exhaust note designed to give the impression of being slightly more sporty than it is, or just a lack of sound deadening, we're not entirely sure - but when it revs high you hear a little more noise than we'd like.

However, it's a blast to drive. It's not hugely powerful - the 0-62mph speed is 9.7 seconds - but it feels faster. It's nippy, because it's small, so it's great for darting through traffic, quick to turn and easy to handle on the road. Sitting pretty low to the ground also boosts that sense of speed. It's a little like driving a go-kart - and while it's not to the extent that Mini offers, this is certainly not a boring car to drive.

Pocket-lintToyota Yaris Hybrid photo 3

That's true of the automatic we had, at least, with the real advantage being that these are so much easier to handle whenever there's any sort of stop-start traffic. We found it to be smooth, and there's little indication that you've switched to EV mode. It all just works seamlessly.

There are also driving modes to notionally let you change the character of the car slightly, along with a button to engage EV mode - although, as we've said, that only gives you limited driving range, so will probably only really be useful for creeping onto the drive when the rest of the street is asleep.

To recap

The Toyota Yaris is a great compact car, offering good exterior design at all trim levels and offering good value for money. The hybrid setup means great fuel economy on an already small car, while its compact nature makes it ideal for smaller urban and suburban roads.

Writing by Chris Hall. Editing by Conor Allison.