People setting up a picnic from car.
On the road

Road test: Toyota Yaris

Toyota has moved the hatchback up several notches in safety and style with the ultracute new Yaris. Fiona Stocker puts it through its paces on the West Tamar Highway.

Not everyone in rural Tasmania drives a ute – most of us have a small car for everyday family use. Here in the Tamar Valley, we’re looking to be safe and steady on rural roads, as well as economical. Our teenagers like their cars a bit sassy and, guess what, some of the grown-ups do too.

For a test drive in Toyota’s new Yaris, I’m bringing my daughter Daisy. She’s adopted a ‘your car is my car’ approach since passing her driving test, and there’s every chance she’ll be sticking her P plates on a Yaris – especially when it looks this cute. She’s here to give me the Gen Z perspective, and to make sure I can work the technology. 

The Yaris gets the Gen Z vote too
Snazzy interior
Tamar Valley farm gate buys

The first thing we notice is the quietly snazzy interior. Even in the mid-range SX model, it’s sleek, matte and all-black. There’s also that thing I’d call a ‘nice feel’, and which David at Toyota calls New Global Architecture. He tells me it’s a one-piece chassis and bodywork, for safer structure and better handling. I tell him that as a woman, I often find cars are not designed with me in mind. The Yaris, however, fits like a glove.

With a push of the start button, we’re off and heading up the West Tamar Highway, where there’s everything you want on a test drive – city traffic, highways and rural roads, with inevitable roadworks thrown in for good measure.

The Yaris has a two-tier deck board in the boot to help divide cargo

The first corner onto the highway is a sharp right angle. The Yaris takes it like a tiny dancer – neat and steady – and silky automatic transmission has us at 70km/h quick smart. As the River Tamar glints alongside us, I get comfortable with lane trace assist and speedlimit indicators on the compact screen between the speedos. Discreet but helpful, it is part of the Toyota Safety Sense suite now added to the Yaris as standard – measures that helped win it ‘safest car for under $30,000’ in RACV’s inaugural Safest Car Awards last year.

I’m told it also has software that detects likely collisions with other road users and even pedestrians, and radar cruise control.

So far, it feels like this little car is working very hard on my behalf, and doing it with style and aplomb.

I wouldn’t normally do my shopping during a test drive, but Muddy Creek Apples is just off the highway at Legana and multi-tasking is a hard habit to break. The Yaris makes light work of backing up to the shed, and even does a little off-roading in the orchard.

Toyota Yaris does a little off-roading at Muddy Creek Apples

As a storage-nerd, I instantly loved the split-boot feature of the Yaris. I’ve got my laptop out of sight in the lower compartment. Now we’re adding baskets of Jonagolds on the shelf above. It’s a neatly designed space to keep your valuables secure.

We’re crossing the river after a quick stop for coffee, and there’s always a frisson of excitement and sometimes lusty crosswinds on the Batman Bridge. Today, the gusts from Bass Strait slip unnoticed across the Yaris’ streamlined curves. Even as trucks rumble past on the narrow two-lane A-roads, the little car holds its course, and nobody inside turns a hair.

It’s an easy cruise back to town along the East Tamar Highway in a roadwork-free world. I pick up speed, and the three-cylinder engine sees us flying over Dilston Hill in the sunshine. The Yaris has proven it can pack a punch as well as having integrity, and I’d add one of these to our family fleet in a heartbeat.

Back in the city we make a quick stop at Launceston College for Daisy, who tells me she wouldn’t mind if I rocked up at the school gate in this. Guess it gets the Gen Z vote too.

The specs

Pricing: Driveaway $30,386

Safety: ANCAP5 Stars (2020)

Engine type: 3-cylinder in-line VVT-iW petrol 

Engine capacity: 1.5L

Max. torque:  145Nm @ 4800– 5200rpm

Max. power: 88kW @ 6600rpm

Body style: Hatchback

Transmission: Direct Shift Continuously Variable (auto-CVT) 

Drive type: FWD

Seating: 5

Fuel consumption: 4.9L/100km (Combined)

0-100km/h: 11.4 seconds