SAFE CITY BET
The Yaris won’t thrill but it will be economical
Cheap to own and run, enviable reliability and not half bad to drive ... it’s little wonder the Toyota Yaris has a loyal following among first car buyers, retirees and those just after a bargain runabout. The Yaris in Toyota showrooms has been with us since 2012, with significant updates over the years, meaning that from about $8000 buyers can hop in a pre-loved example that doesn’t look far removed from a new one
There are hundreds in the classifieds. All use a four-cylinder petrol engine and most have an automatic gearbox, although there are plenty of manuals around.
Five-door hatches are overwhelmingly the preferred body style but there were three-door hatches up until 2014, plus less attractive fourdoor sedans.
Whatever body style you favour, the Yaris is a small car, so not really practical for families. Rear seat and boot space aren’t bad for the light car class, storage space is impressive but these city Toyotas make most sense for singletons or couples not needing to carry adults in the back or much cargo.
Don’t expect much in the way of engine performance or intuitiveness from the rather antique auto gearbox.
That said, the Yaris handles well enough, is comfortable and a pleasing doddle to manoeuvre through town.
At the end of 2011, the entry-level Yaris YR hatch was just $15,000 as a three-door or $700 more the five-door, on par with the predecessor, and used a lazy 63kW 1.3-litre engine.
Included were seven airbags, Bluetooth, USB and MP3 input, steering wheel audio controls, multi-info display, airconditioning, power windows and mirrors. You were stuck with far-from-flash 14-inch steel wheels.
Next grade was the YRS with zestier 80kW 1.5-litre engine, 15-inch steel wheels, cruise control and 6.1-inch touchscreen audio.
The YRX was the luxury version (five-door and auto only), with 15-inch alloys, auto lights, front fog lights, climate control and satnav.
Sports fans could go the ZR, which was a three-door manual with sports bumpers, grille and headlamps, rear spoiler, side skirts and sports seats. It used the same 80kW engine.
Sedans had decent 475L boot capacity and came in YRS and YRX grades, basically mirroring the hatch’s specs, although strangely cruise control was not available.
In April 2014 the hatchback, now exclusively a five-door, was facelifted and given a better suspension tune and sound deadening. All models now had the 6.1-inch touchscreen plus reversing camera and cruise control.
To confuse things, grade names changed to Ascent for the 1.3-litre base model, and SX and ZR for the 1.5-litres. The range-topping ZR added LED headlamps and ToyotaLink smartphone connectivity.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Faithful to Toyota’s reputation for reliability, this generation of Yaris is holding up well with no major common faults.
Relatively cheap servicing should bring huge peace of mind to the budget conscious but be aware service intervals are six months or 10,000km. Ensure previous owners have adhered rigidly to the schedule.
Favour a Yaris that’s been in private hands its whole life. Many were used as rental or fleet cars and arguably won’t have been as well cared for as one with its own garage or carport.
Given its popularity with the very young and very old — two groups prone to bingles – check over any used Yaris for dings and dents and avoid any that have been in an accident.
Some owners complain of cabin plastics ageing badly and suffering damage easily, so check for rattles and any bits hanging off.
There are rare instances of engine and gearbox trouble so ensure there are no nasty noises from the engine bay or jerkiness or hesitation from the gearbox. Stalling when coming to a halt is a prime reason to reject.
If you drive over lots of hills favour the 1.5-
litre as the 1.3 is gutless. Reset the fuel economy meter before your test drive — some owners report fuel use a lot higher than Toyota’s quotes.
Don’t discount the manual gearbox. It’s a bit more rewarding to drive unless you spend your life in traffic, and will lower fuel bills.
Toyota has a three-year/100,000km warranty so favour any examples with coverage remaining. A minor recall for a power window master switch was issued in November 2015 but the biggest issue has been the giant Takata airbag recall.
The Yaris had the problem airbags, so ensure any you consider has had the required fix — check the VIN at recalls.toyota.com.au or ismyairbagsafe.com.au.
A safe city car bet, the Yaris won’t thrill but should prove reliable and economical.
With so many on the used market don’t settle for less than a perfect service record and favour higher grades with the stronger engine and touchscreen. Better yet target a post-April 2014 facelifted version — but don’t pay too much. A new Yaris with full warranty can be had from $16,000 drive-away.
ROSIE CRAIG: I have a 2015 Yaris YRS hatch automatic which generally I just drive by myself, rarely with passengers. I fill it with sporting equipment, my swag, luggage and the like, and it does lots of motorway driving on weekends. It uses more fuel on the freeway than I was expecting — but I did have a Toyota Prius before. It runs really nicely but when I have any passengers, heavy luggage or go uphill on motorways then I feel the lag. It’s a really nice car but it could use a bigger engine.
PAULA BLAS: My 2015 Ascent hatch with 1.3litre and auto performs very well. I’ve never had a problem. it’s good to drive on narrow roads and the reverse camera is very useful. The best thing is its fuel economy and it has features I need like Bluetooth. The boot is small and it’s not powerful enough for steep hills.