Toyota Yaris GX

AutoTrader NZ
Published 3 September 2020

Base price: $24,990.

Powertrain and performance: 1.3-litre petrol four, 63kW/121Nm, 4-speed automatic, front-drive, Combined economy 6.3 litres per 100km.

Vital statistics: 3905mm long, 1510mm high, luggage capacity 347 litres, fuel tank 42 litres, 15-inch steel wheels on 175/65 tyres.

We like: Bold new front, good cabin storage, spacious and practical.

We don’t like: Ancient powertrain and chassis, sober styling save the X-fighter front.

How it rates: 5/10

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? Good old Toyota Yaris: it’s one of the country’s favourite models, frequently a top-ten performer in the sales charts and currently second only to the Suzuki Swift in the supermini class.

It shows the power of a brand, because “old” is the operative word for Yaris. The upgraded model launched this year has a bold new front, a mildly reshaped dashboard and a flagship ZR model designed to appeal more to the private buyer (as opposed to the fleet and rental business this car does so much of). But that’s about it.

The ZR might add a bit of sex appeal, but it’s down at the business end with the entry GX model that we find out whether the Yaris still cuts it in the highly competitive world of the supermini, circa-2014.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? The Toyota’s 1.3-litre engine and four-speed automatic transmission can be traced back 20 years. So if you wanted to say it nicely, this car has proven technology. If you wanted to say it another it: well, the basic powertrain is ancient.

It’s been tweaked along the way of course, and although the power and torque figures are modest it does at least achieve impressive fuel economy, with a Combined figure of 6.3 litres per 100km for the automatic version.

It’s hard to get the best out of a small engine when it’s driving through a four-speed automatic gearbox. Remember, this car’s rivals have five, six or seven-speed units. Not to mention the continuously variable transmission (CVT) offerings.

Four ratios is just not enough these days, and the Yaris really struggles to deliver smooth progress on hills or accelerating out of corners. The gaps between ratios are large and there’s not enough torque from the engine to paper over the cracks.

The chassis is better. There’s not a lot of self-centering in the steering, which is a plus around town but makes the car less adept on the motorway. The handling is competent: complaint ride and safe understeer.

In case you want to show your children what drum brakes used to look like: the Yaris GX is still fitted with them on the rear.

IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? The Yaris remains a well-packaged machine, with great visibility and cabin space inside a body that’s well within the four-metre length limit generally accepted for superminis.

The dashboard is subtly different from the previous model, while looking strangely similar. There’s a different shape around the instrument binnacle and the centre console has been redesigned to accommodate Toyota’s latest infotainment head unit. In fact, the interior design isn’t quite as clean looking as the previous car, but swapping some smooth lines for technological progress is an acceptable swap.

About that head unit: it’s not a great looker, but the 6.1-inch unit has a touch screen and handles audio, Bluetooth and trip computer functions in an intuitive way. It also allows the standard fitment of a reversing camera, complete with parking guidance lines. Now that’s progress.

The Yaris cabin has plenty of storage, with a dual-layer glovebox, tiny trays around the dashboard (although they would benefit from a grippy surface finish) and generously sized door pockets.

The boot has a false floor, which gives you a flat load-through when the rear seats are folded and a secret compartment underneath – or simply remove it and get a deeper cargo space.

SHOULD I BUY ONE? Cheap and cheerful cars have their charm. But the Yaris just seems a bit lazy, a new model with an old powertrain and so-so dynamics. It’s not even that cheap compared with the competition.

Not that anybody seems to care, which perhaps goes to show Toyota is playing it smart after all. The Yaris’s interior packaging, practicality and the brand’s ability to do sharp deals see it continue to sell in huge numbers, particularly to business buyers. It’s far from the best in class, but it is one of the most popular.


  • Air conditioning: Manual
  • Audio: CD, iPod compatible
  • Automatic lights/wipers: No
  • Blind spot warning: No
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Cruise control: Yes
  • Driver footrest: Yes
  • Head-up display: No
  • Heated/ventilated seats: No
  • Keyless entry/start: No
  • Lane guidance: No
  • Leather upholstery: No
  • Parking radar: Rear camera
  • Power boot or tailgate: No
  • Power seat adjustment/memory: No
  • Rear ventilation outlets: No
  • Remote audio controls: Yes
  • Satellite navigation: No
  • Seat height adjustment: Yes
  • Self-parking technology: No
  • Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
  • Steering reach adjustment: Yes
  • Stop-start: No
  • Trip computer: Yes

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