First Drive Review: Toyota Yaris Hybrid facelift 2014
Only three years have passed since the third generation Yaris came to the UK, but such is the supermini’s importance to Toyota’s European sales – representing almost one in four - that they deemed it worthwhile spending €85 million to improve it.
Exterior changes are obvious with a bold new front end mimicking the X-graphic seen on the second gen Aygo city car. It's not quite so marked though, with the gap between the bottom legs being filled by a massive grille area.
New headlights, with different configurations for each specification, finish off the changes at the front, while the rear sees LED lamps in place above a wider bumper and diffuser setup that lowers the cars stance. A few other detail and trim changes tidy up what was an already neat if unremarkable design, refreshing it nicely.
Inside, there's been more substantial alterations with a step-up in quality around the cabin. The dashboard is now slimmer and covered with soft-touch materials, while door cards have been upgraded and colour options improved.
The previously shiny chrome highlights are now finished in satin chrome, lending the cabin a more modern feel.
Revised dials in front of the driver emit a cool blue glow and are easier to use, while Toyota's excellent Touch 2 system finds its way into the centre console, bringing easy touch-screen access to audio, climate and, where specified, navigation controls.
Each small change doesn't sound much, but the combination improves the perception of quality quite significantly over the outgoing model.
Ride and handling
Under the skin, there are improvements to various structures around the car, including 36 extra spot welds to improve rigidity.
Changes to the steering and suspension have softened the ride without affecting handling. There's also less noise around from wind, tyres and engine, creating a more harmonious feeling inside.
Finally, CO2 emissions have sunk 4g/km to just 75g/km (82g/km in upper Excel trim), low enough to exempt it from not only car tax but also London's congestion charge. Take that, Boris.
The changes have worked, too. The steering now provides more feel thanks in part, bizarrely, to better bonding of the windscreen, while the ride quality remains mostly good.
There's a slight thumping through the suspension that could cause problems on the pitted city streets found in the UK though, and handling is best described as uneventful rather than involving, but few buyers will be taking their green steed off to set records at the Nürburgring.
It goes, it stops and it turns, all with enough alacrity and feel that the driver isn't redundant, but it's never going to qualify as fun.
Equipment levels are decent enough, with climate control, 7-inch touch screen in the dash and a rear-view camera coming as standard on the Icon spec. Spend a bit more on the Excel model and you'll get bigger 16-inch wheels, cruise control and part leather trim.
None of that means anything if it guzzles fuel like footballer WAGs quaff champagne. Fortunately, there's no doubting its eco credentials.
Trundling around Düsseldorf, an unusually flat city but at least one with plenty of stop/start traffic, the plucky Hybrid returned an impressive 63.2mpg.
That means it's using roughly 50% less fuel than a colleague managed in the characterful but asthmatic 1.0-litre petrol-engined model.
Sticker prices look a little steep for the hybrid model initially, but that's put right once lease costs are looked at - upgrading from a traditional petrol model to the tax-busting hybrid costs just £20 extra per month on Toyota's consumer plans, which looks like excellent value when you realise that a sunroof adds an astonishing £17 per month.
Resale values make the difference there and the eco-friendly Yaris scores well in that department.
The Yaris Hybrid was always a strong choice for anybody covering a lot of miles while being stuck in the city.
The update sees that remaining true, but now it's that little bit better to drive, that little bit more comfortable, and that little bit cheaper to run.
Toyota want 50% of Yaris sales to be hybrids by 2020. The all new fourth-gen model should be here by then, but this facelift will undoubtedly push the brand further towards hitting that target.
Yaris Hybrid at a glance:
Width: 1695mm (without mirrors)
Boot space: 347 / 768 litres
Powertrain: 1.5 100bhp petrol
0-62mph: 11.8 secs, 103mph top speed
Trims: Icon, Excel
CO2 emissions: 75g/km – Icon, 82g/km – Excel
Combined fuel consumption: 81mpg – Icon, 76mpg – Excel
Cheapest: Icon - £16,195
Priciest: Excel - £17,695
As tested: Icon 5dr - £16,195
Rivals: Volkswagen Polo, Mazda2, Honda Jazz, Vauxhall Corsa, Ford Fiesta
On sale: August 2014