Toyota Yaris new car review – already outstanding in its class, so is £76m revamp worth it?

Toyota Yaris new car review

Toyota Yaris new car review

Toyota Yaris Icon Tech new car review

Toyota has splashed out £76 million re-vamping its Toyota Yaris, a car that was already outstanding in its class.
 
There is no longer a three-door model nor a diesel engine in the line up, which now offers 1.0 litre, 1.3 and new 1.5 litre petrol engines. A 6-speed manual gearbox is standard, auto tramission an option, and you can also get a fuel-saving hybrid model.
 
Yaris competes in the tough supermini sector dominated by Fiesta, Corsa and Polo and so needs to be impressive – and it is. The £76 million has been partly spent on giving the car a sharper and more substantive new exterior appearance and the refreshed cabin also has a more contemporary look.
 
Upgraded technology and safety features also add value.
Prices start at £12,495 for an adequately equipped 69 hp 1.0 litre version, but most buyers will be heading up-range, and some will be opting for the new 110 hp 1.5 litre petrol engine which offers improved performance and almost 60 mpg.
This was the engine in my Icon Tech version, laden with kit and costing £15, 845. The 0-60 mph time is a modest 11 seconds, top speed 109 mph and the fuel figure very respectable at 58.9 mpg combined.
 
It’s a smooth quiet engine mated to a positive-shift 6-speed manual gearbox, and with light precise steering too, the new Yaris delivers a pleasing driving experience with compliant ride and composed cornering.
 
The car offers a slightly higher driving position than some in the sector, and there is plenty of adjustment for seat and steering wheel so most people should easily find their ideal settings. There is no wow-factor for the dashboard but it is well-designed for ease of use, with good placement of dials and switches.
 
The Yaris has a surprisingly amount of cabin space – more than appears from the outside – and can accommodate five adults with decent leg and head room, though four will be more comfortable. At 286 litres, the boot is quite large and folding the rear seats boosts space to 768 litres.
 
Standard equipment on the Icon Tech model includes auto wipers, auto lights (including auto-high-beam), alloy wheels, air-conditioning, cruise control, multi-media 7-inch touchscreen, sat nav, on-line connectivity, front parking sensors, rear view camera and safety kit including pre-collision response and
lane departure alert.
 
Main rivals in the sector all have strong individual plus-points but my overall impression of this latest Yaris is that it is a great all-round package under-pinned by Toyota’s fine reputation for reliability, robust re-sale values and a five-year warranty – many rivals offer only three years.
 
FOR: Toyota dependability, smooth driving dynamics.
 
AGAINST: Rear seats don’t fold flat.

Mini Countryman new car review – too big for its boots or is larger better?

Mini Countryman new car review

Mini Countryman – New Car Review

How big can a Mini be before it is no longer mini? Looks like the German owners of the Mini brand feel there is no upper limit, for the latest Mini Countryman is even larger than before and can now be regarded by many as a mid-size family car.
 
With famous brand image and build-quality, plus increased practicality, the new Countryman is certainly going to please existing customers and win over a lot of potential new buyers.
 
Six Countryman variants are available, all with the Cooper prefix, with different engine outputs spanning 136 hp to 228 hp. There is also the option of a plug-in hybrid.
 
All except the hybrid have a 6-speed manual gearbox though there is the option of an automatic, and all-wheel-drive.

Mini purists might baulk at appearance, but …

To Mini purists, the Countryman’s exterior styling may look a little awkward but there will be no complaints about the larger interior space, which allows it to rival crossover models such as Audi Q2, Mazda CX-3, Peugeot 3008 and SEAT Ateca.
 
Prices start at £22,695 for the model featured, the entry level Countryman Cooper with the 1.5 litre 3-cylinder petrol engine and standard 6-speed manual gearbox. Top speed is 126 mph, the 0-60 mph time 9.6 seconds.
 
Fuel economy is 51.4 mpg combined.

New Mini Countryman not quite as nimble, but still Nippy

While this larger Mini heavier than the standard car and therefore is not quite as nimble, it is still nippy enough to add a fun factor to the driving.
 
The steering is precise and reacts swiftly, giving good grip and
composed handling. The ride is on the firm side, but acceptably so and overall, noise levels are low and the driving feel quite refined.
 

Mini Countryman entry model is well-equipped

The Mini Countryman entry model is well-kitted with 16-inch alloys, 6.5 inch touchscreen, sat-nav, DAB radio, Bluetooth, air-con, cruise control, roof rails, auto lights and wipers and rear-view camera. Standard connected services on all models include compatibility with an iPhone via MINI’s Connected app.
 
The larger cabin means four adults can travel in comfort, and five if the rear occupants are prepared to squeeze up.
 
The 40/20/40 rear seat fold configuration is useful for occupant and load variation and the boot space, up from 350 litres on the previous model to 450 litres on the latest, can extend to 1,390 litres with rear seats down. Interior materials have a quality look and feel and help make the cabin a pleasant place to be. The dashboard is lifted by chrome detailing, big dials and chunky switchgear and the overall impression is of classy durability.
 
This new Mini Countryman will be a hit with loyal fans and will convert others. While not as practical as some crossovers/compact SUVs, it has the bonus of a cool image and BMW-Mini build integrity.
 
FOR: Agile driving dynamics, charismatic brand image, strong re-sale values.
 
AGAINST: Not as much rear-seat space as some rivals.
Mini Countryman

Overnight stay, anyone?