‘You could love it too much” was the theme of an advert for the Toyota Yaris after it arrived here in the early 2000s.
The message was that owners considered their car more important than anything else. You might remember the one where a window cleaner slips and is hanging life-threateningly above the resident’s Yaris. She rushes out, jumps into the car and moves it, paying no regard to the predicament of the unfortunate cleaner dangling above.
Another showed how some owners threatened to sacrifice their relationships because their car was more important to them than their friends, especially the woman who brushed her hair in someone’s Yaris and dropped the strands on the floor.
Toyota Yaris 1.5 Hybrid e-CVT auto Bi-Tone
Engine: 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, ,petrol plus 45 kW electric motor
Top spedd: 103mph
0-62mph: 11.8 secs
Econmy: 78mpg combined
CO2 emissions: 82g/km
They were classics from the world of advertising but back in reality it seems the small hatchback has been well loved over the years with more than 200,000 taking to roads around Europe in the past year alone to make it the bestselling model in the Toyota range.
It was designed specifically for the European market and has continued to be built at Toyota’s manufacturing plant in France but its success has been global with more than three million sold around the world including Africa, North America and Middle East markets in Asia.
Now with a 90 million Euro investment and no fewer than 900 new parts, the latest update has arrived and Toyota has handed over responsibility for it to its European operations. In a role reversal, for the first time, the changes are being adopted for its sister Vitz model, which is manufactured in Japan.
It retains the classic Yaris hatchback silhouette but has been freshened up with a new front and rear to give it what the designers call a “more active and dynamic look”. They don’t stop there. They say that as well as new head and tail lights, the low door mouldings emphasise the car’s “athletic” profile and “catamaran shape architecture”.
I’m not altogether sure what that means, but the car does look more significant than the outgoing model while retaining the fundamental features which has made it such a hit over the years.
There are new colours too including a Bi-tone version which comes with a black roof and pillars – previously only an option – and some extra bits and pieces including LED daytime running lights.
Toyota say their customers are “demanding” which I’m sure is meant in a positive way so they’ve set out to meet their higher expectations in a compact, value-for-money car with a quality finish.
The interior has been tweaked and looks fresh but I felt the new 4.2 inch colour display in the centre of the dash should have been angled more towards the driver as at times I found it difficult to read because of glare from the side windows.
One challenge they’ve tackled is to reduce the often-criticised booming noise encountered in the cabin under acceleration on the open road. A lot of work has been done on improving the soundproofing, not just with insulation, but also reducing vibration with new engine mounts, front driveshafts and subframe and the car does seem a lot quieter on the move.
It now comes only as a five-door and the old 1.4 diesel version has been dropped. The engine choices now are limited to the impressive three-cylinder one-litre petrol and a new 1.5-litre petrol which replaces the old 1.33-litre and is much quieter and 10 per cent more efficient while increasing power and torque by the same percentage.
It comes with a choice of six-speed manual gearbox or a CVT auto box which can seem a touch whiney to the unaccustomed ear.
But the version likely to attract the most attention is the hybrid version which matches the 1.5 with a 45Kw electric motor and is the focus of Toyota’s attention in the coming years. By 2020, they expect half of their sales across their entire range will be hybrids.
It’s anything from around £1,300 to £2,300 more than the standard version through the six-grade range but will appeal to environmentally-conscious buyers who also want the greater economy.
Coupled with the CVT transmission, it returns an effortless, if unmemorable drive and as we were given the preview of it in the pancake-flat landscape of Southern Holland I can’t verify its abilities in hilly countryside with a full load on board.
The engineers say it should be able to be driven 55 per cent of the time on electric power for 37 per cent of the distance on a standard journey and are piloting their Driveco smart data-gathering box to help retailers demonstrate to potential customers the benefits of a hybrid.
The new range starts at £12,495 for the entry-level Active version, rising to £19,845 for the bigger-engined Hybrid CVT in Bi-Tone livery. They all come with a five-year, 100,000-mile warranty and Toyota are confident they’ll sell more than 26,000 of them in the UK this year to buyers who will love them a lot, if not too much.