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When an Ambulance dinted my little Renault Clio I was pleased when my insurance offered me a hire car. I was even more excited when I was told that my hire car was going to be a 1.3 automatic Toyota Yaris. It had been a long time since I had driven an automatic and I had always liked the look of the Toyota.
Unfortunately, the Yaris is one of the worst new cars I have ever driven. To be fair, let us start with the good things. It looks the part in jet black and it is certainly one of the prettier compact hatchbacks available. Also, despite appearing very small, the adverts are true. It is very roomy for driver and passengers and has loads of little hidey holes and pockets. The boot room is a bit tidgy and the glovebox is tiny but the back seats collapse completely turning the Yaris into the World's smallest minivan.
In regards to petrol, the Yaris also performs well with the projected 42 miles per gallon estimate pretty much spot on with a lot more than that if you are just doing the school run or driving round town. The 1.3 engine also packs a fair bit of punch and acceleration with the cars small size making it a nippy round town car that handles well in this situation. Unfortunately, this is possibly the last really good thing I can say about the Yaris. It has some nifty little ideas like opening the fuel cap from the drivers seat and steering wheel controlled radio but after that, it really is all downhill.
Perhaps, the thing I hate most about the automatic version of the Yaris is it drives so dreadfully. For me, the joy of an automatic is that it makes driving easier and less stressful. The Yaris manages to achieve the opposite. This is down to how it reacts to you pressing the accelerator. Driving like an eighty-year-old the car is okay. Being ever so gentle on the accelerator it is quite smooth and, as an around town car never going above thirty miles per hour it is bearable. However, this car cannot cope with you putting any pressure on the accelerator with the automatic transmission acting like some sort of pre-emptive artificial intelligence. It presumes that you are overtaking the minute you apply pressure often dropping two gears at random with fifth to third being the norm. This is quite scary when you simply want to get to sixty on a dual carriageway and find yourself in third gear at fifty miles an hour! Switching to Semi-Automatic makes this easier but then if you want to drive in Semi-Auto then you might as well have the manual version!
Reversing is also an absolute bugger thanks to a weird, and completely uncomfortable driving position. A high back rest makes it impossible to look behind you without some discomfort. I am not huge at five foot eight but then I would think the majority of people driving this car would not be much taller. Much craning of neck and lifting bum off seat does not make reverse parking a pleasurable experience! The much vaunted adjustable seats do not lower enough to make driving comfortable and the stiff back rest does not help driving either. A shame when the Yaris's compact nature, coupled with it's power steering and automatic transmission, could have made parking a dream.
The dashboard also manages to get right on my wick. Toyota have plumped for a digital, three-dimensional holographic system but it is also set back miles into the dash creating a weird experience were it feels like you are looking at a reflection of the speedometer. Kind of like one of them clocks that reflect the time of the ceiling. Might just be me but it makes me very disorientated. The idea behind it is that it is set back so far you can see it while looking at the road. Why then contradict that with an air conditioning system virtually on the floor were I have to look at my feet to adjust then!
So, what else annoys me about this car. Oh yes, there is no key! Sounds like a good idea eh? You get in, press a button and off you go. What if you are as daft as me though and often forget to lock your car. The vigilance you need to stop your car being stolen is verging on the ridiculous. How easy would it be to be car jacked in a car that has virtually no security? How easy is to lose a key fob in the footwell? Very! As a three-door model it is also an absolute bugger to get the kids in and out off. The seats slide forward easy enough but if you let go for a second you will likely take someone's toes off!
I suppose I should end on a positive and this is in terms of safety. The Yaris does appear sturdy for a compact hatchback and has performed well in safety tests. All models have front and side airbags and the brakes respond well. However, since most modern hatchbacks boast this it does not make the Yaris any more worthy of a purchase in my view. At £8,000+ it is a fairly reasonably priced hatchback but not one I could ever recommend. Bring back my battered Renault Clio, all is forgiven!
Good review, especially on the auto. This was a car I was considering to replace my Clio - but not now.
Pity really. It has a a good running cost value with low road tax and high mpg.
Unfortunately I have to drive an automatic. I have an automatic licence. I do not need a car that wants to be a manual though.
So I guess its back to the £200 road tax and bite the bullet.