First drive: 2020 Toyota Yaris

  • Swoopy new styling set to broaden appeal
  • Improved hybrid system should remain popular
  • Toyota*s even promising it will be fun to drive

After 20 years and three generations, the all-new Toyota Yaris is set to hit a Toyota showroom near you in September 2020. We've managed to bag an early drive of this exciting new small car to tell you if it's worth waiting for.

It can't come a moment too soon. The outgoing Mk3 Yaris is already eight years and two facelifts old, but is still the fourth bestselling small car in Britain. It has a tough fight on its hands, with rivals such as the Ford FiestaPeugeot 208Renault ClioSEAT Ibiza and Volkswagen Polo offering exceptional refinement, value-for money and refinement.

As is the case with most of its rivals, the new Yaris will only be available as a five-door. The only way to get a three-door version will be by opting for the sporty GR Yaris.

What engines does it come with?

2020 Toyota Yaris left-hand drive dashboard

As before there will be a hybrid version that features the latest petrol-electric drive system that Toyota catchily refers to as self-charging. The net benefit is improved fuel efficiency and performance.

It joins a more conventional petrol version, which is available with six-speed manual and an optional Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) automatic. They may be joined by a 1.0-litre derivative at a later date, paired with a five-speed manual transmission.

Toyota says that a high performance version known as the GR Yaris will join the range in 2021. This Fiesta ST rival will be powered by a 1.6-litre, three-cylinder, turbocharged engine producing 260hp and 360Nm of torque and will feature four-wheel drive.

Shorter, lower, wider than before

The new Yaris is 5mm shorter, 50mm wider and 40mm lower than the outgoing one, but there's more interior room thanks to the wheelbase (distance between front and rear wheels) being 50mm longer. There's certainly a decent amount of room in the rear, especially compared with the cramped Renault Clio. And if you have kids, be aware that it's rather dark in the back thanks small rear windows.

Those up front benefit from sitting lower by 21mm and the added width means they also sit 20mm further apart. The other big news is that the body is lighter and as such, means the Yaris should be more efficient.

Engine and hybrid system detailed

Toyota Yaris Hybrid 2020 town driving

The 116hp 1.5-litre version is expected to be the most popular model. It*s a hybrid, so the engine is linked to a new electrical motor system producing 79hp and 141Nm of torque, along with a lighter lithium-ion battery pack that drives the front wheels via an automatic gearbox. Compared with before, it delivers 16% more power than the outgoing Yaris Hybrid, with CO2 emissions of 86g/km, making for a 26g/km drop.

Toyota says it feels &more natural* to drive, by using more electrical energy rather than a high-revving engine during harder periods of acceleration. This additional injection of battery power clearly works as it accelerates between 49-74mph two seconds quicker than before 每 now 8.1secs.

The Hybrid is claimed to operate in zero-emission electrical mode for around 80% of the time in town and can be driven at speeds of up to 80mph before the engine kicks into life. The new battery pack has 50% more output than before and is 12kg lighter than before, so it runs on electric more of the time.

What's it like inside?

We're driving the 1.5-litre hybrid version. Climb in and you*ll find a cabin that*s both functional and up to date. The plastics feel sturdy, the use of textures on the door cards are pleasant to touch. Our pre-production model doesn't have the final finishing touches yet, with some of the trim finishes yet to be decided, so some of our impressions aren't the final ones.

Toyota Yaris Hybrid 2020 driving

The dash itself is dark, even if you can have choose two silver colour schemes for the seats and door inserts to offset this. Compared with the Renault Clio and Peugeot 208, it feels ordinary, but the Yaris remains a more colourful place to spend time in compared with a Ford Fiesta, while being miles ahead of the Suzuki Swift.

Sit in the driver*s seat and the instrument panel consists of two circular, digital screens and a trip computer ahead of you. We wouldn*t be surprised if entry-level models come with traditional dials instead, though. The trip computer screen isn*t the largest or the brightest even at its highest setting, and there*s no option to view a sat-nav map here.

Annoyingly, the door-mounted switches for the windows and mirrors are positioned in such a way that when you try to adjust your door mirrors, the palm of your hand can rest on the window switches, causing you to open them by mistake. Thankfully, the door mirrors a large and put a Ford Fiesta to shame.

What's it like to drive?

Toyota Yaris Hybrid 2020 town driving, rear

In town, the Yaris certainly feels lively. It takes off with little hesitation, leaving conventional vehicles fumbling behind waiting for the stop-start systems to kick in. The steering is sharp off-centre and the wheel itself is small, while it feels agile in bends. This perkiness and agility means you can dart around towns and cities at those low speeds and have some fun.

It's not so good out of town, though. It lacks feel and doesn't feel anywhere near as responsive as a Ford Fiesta. We're hoping that's down to the tyres Toyota fitted to the launch cars.

There are three alternative drive modes available: EV only, Power and Eco. Power makes the steering a little heavier but you still don*t get much feel for the road. You can move the gearlever into B mode for regenerative braking, which means you need to use the brakes less, making it useful in town.

Comfort

Our biggest reservation with the 2020 Yaris so far concentrates on the ride quality of the Hybrid model we drove. We*ll have to reserve judgement until we try it in the UK, but in the main, it's comfortable enough, dealing with bigger bumps well and only sending the occasional thump into the cabin. But it is on the firm side and it can become fidgety though on rougher road surfaces.

The seats are firm with good side support, but the seat base might be a little short for taller drivers. Despite sitting lower than the previous model, you still have a good view over the dashboard. The windscreen pillars have also been moved back, closer towards the occupants in a bid to reduce blind spots.

The engine is far more hushed than it used to be, even when working hard, and there*s little vibration coming through into the cabin, making for a relaxed place to spend time. The petrol engine itself makes a nice thrummy sound and no longer sounds strained when worked hard even with this style of automatic gearbox.

Toyota Yaris Hybrid 2020 comfort

Other than that, you get a whining from the electric motor under accelerating and during braking at low speeds. Things get a little louder if you shift the automatic gearbox into B mode, when the regenerative braking system generates a whirring noise that*s noticeably annoying once you*ve tuned into it. Still, the JBL sound system does a good job of drowning it out.

Yaris safety 每 on the up

There are airbags aplenty, with the standard-fit system incorporating an inflatable curtain bag between the front occupants, preventing them from colliding with each other during an impact. Toyota fully expects a five-star Euro NCAP score, as it did with the previous-generation Yaris.

LED headlamps and tail lights will be available 每 likely as standard on higher grade models 每 as will lane-keeping technology, blindspot monitoring, autonomous emergency braking and a head-up display system. There are two Isofix points located on the outer rear seats.

Red 2020 Toyota Yaris LED headlamps

The combined use of a camera and laser scanner on the front windscreen, along with a radar sensor below the front badge (above) all form part of Toyota*s Safety Sense package fitted as standard on all models. The autonomous emergency braking system can detect pedestrians within the speeds of 6-50mph, while cyclists can be detected during daylight only.

Adaptive cruise control is also available with traffic-sign recognition and works from zero up to 112mph, and is able to follow the car in front in standing traffic. The system won*t work if you have the gearbox in its regenerative braking B mode, though.

Practicality

Toyota Yaris Hybrid 2020 boot

The door bins up front are tiny, allowing you to fit little more than a bottle in them, while a smaller cubby situatued higher up right by the door pull could potentially fit a phone. There are also two storage trays stretching across the dash. The depth of these trays are about the width of a large smartphone, but the shallowness means we can see smartphones sliding out in corners.

The glovebox isn*t the deepest, but it*s certainly wider than a Peugeot 208 or Vauxhall Corsa. Under the armrest, you*ll find two cupholders, but once you fold the armrest down, it*ll probably hit the tops of any bottles you place in here.

What this means for you

Deliveries won*t begin until September 2020, but it*s likely that order books will open at late spring 2020, so you have some time to decide whether you want one or not. The new Yaris is a considerable step up from the outgoing model, so it looks like it could be well worth waiting for 每 although the competition is so strong, we won't blame you if you don't.

It's still quite unusual for a small car to offer the option of hybrid assistance, and this will continue to be a major selling for the Yaris going forwards.

The missing part of the jigsaw at the moment is how much the Yaris is going to cost. It's made in France, so prices will be influenced by how the pound performs following Brexit. Under normal circumstances, we*d suggest a small rise over the outgoing model would be most likely, but it's really too soon to say.

Toyota Yaris Hybrid 2020 rear

Keep this page bookmarked for the upcoming full UK review of the all-new 2020 Toyota Yaris.

Also read:

>> Find out how we rate the current Toyota Yaris with our expert review

>> Need something a little larger? Find out more about the Toyota Corolla

>> How does an electric supermini compare? Read our Renault Zoe review