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Toyota Yaris SX manual 2017 review

We wonder if Toyota has maybe priced the Yaris a little above its station.
EXPERT RATING
6.8
Toyota has just updated the Yaris range here in Australia, and we're testing the middle of the range SX in manual form.

It’s funny… Toyota's all-new World Rally Championship contender this year is one of the wildest looking cars you ccould ever imagine, with a bodykit that wouldn’t look out of place on a Star Wars set.

Its donor vehicle, however, is the humble Yaris light car, and it couldn’t be more different to the fire-breathing, dirt-shredding race machine. 

Toyota has just updated the Yaris range here in Australia, and we're testing the middle of the range SX in manual form. Let's check out one of the most affordable cars in Toyota's line up.

Toyota has certainly pushed the boat out a bit on the styling for the Yaris. Toyota has certainly pushed the boat out a bit on the styling for the Yaris.

 

Toyota Yaris 2017: SX
Safety rating
Engine Type1.5L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.4L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$13,990

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

Toyota has certainly pushed the boat out a bit on the styling for the Yaris, which is a risk in a shrinking market. Certainly, from the front it's not your average everyday small hatch, with a very sculpted bonnet and bumper treatment and intricate headlight detail, which sets it apart from the small car pack.

Inside it's a similar story, with a swoopy, multi-layered dashboard treatment and flat-faced dash and console. Even the door card design and the seats are quite contemporary.

Inside the Yaris SX is quite contemporary. Inside the Yaris SX is quite contemporary.

The overall air is let down on the outside, however, by the use of steel wheels, even on this mid-grade SX model, while on the inside, it's all too easy to find a sea of hard-touch plastic throughout the cabin.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

Built as a five-seater, the small Yaris hatch is comfortable even for taller drivers up front with plenty of visibility, easy-to-read controls, and a steering wheel that's easily adjustable for both reach and height. 

While Toyota's ubiquitous small touch screen multimedia system controls functions like audio, Bluetooth, phone streaming and radio, there’s no satellite navigation, there are climate control dials instead of buttons even in this mid-grade SX, and it misses out on small nice-to-have features like one-touch indicators. 

The steering wheel features controls for audio, phone, and basic cruise control is standard. The exterior mirrors are electric, and the driver's window sports an auto-up function.

While the central speedometer is large and easy enough to read, there’s no digital version, while the switches for the $650 optional Toyota 'Safety Sense' gear - which includes collision warning, lane departure, and auto headlights - are randomly scattered across the length of the dash. 

Speaking of the auto headlights, they simply don't work very well at all, unfortunately. While in high beam mode, they are unable to pick up oncoming headlights in time to dim, and they simply won't switch on if there is even the hint of light alongside even a darkened road.

For rear-seat passengers it’s a pretty basic story. For rear-seat passengers it’s a pretty basic story.

For rear-seat passengers it’s a pretty basic story, with reasonable headroom but not a lot of knee and toe room if taller people are in the front. The middle sash belt retracts into the roof, too, making it a bit difficult to access.

There are ISOFIX points on both outside rear seat positions, but there are no cupholders or bottle holders in any form for rear seat passengers. There’s a pair of side-by-side cup holders in the front, along with a couple of receptacles in between the front seats, thanks to the lack of a centre console bin.

There’s a pair of side-by-side cup holders in the front. There’s a pair of side-by-side cup holders in the front.

There are a couple of pockets moulded into the plastic of the centre console between the seats, but they are not very deep and don't hold items particularly securely. The front doors do have bottle holders, though, along with small pockets. 

The rear hatch, as you would expect, is quite a small area at 206 litres, although it does have a false floor that that allows you to hide smaller belongings out of sight underneath, and it also makes for a flat loading level when the 60/40 split fold seats are lowered all the way down.

The rear hatch is quite a small area at 206 litres. The rear hatch is quite a small area at 206 litres.

There is a spare space-saver underneath the floor, but little in the way of accessories like 12-volt power points, cargo hooks, and the like, which is not unexpected in this grade of car.

There is a spare space-saver underneath the floor. There is a spare space-saver underneath the floor.

Size-wise, it’s outgunned by rivals like the Kia Picanto, which sports 255 litres, and the Mitsubishi Mirage, which can carry 235 litres.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   6/10

At $17,330 for the manual (it’s another $2850 for the auto), the Yaris is priced relatively well in a class that contains cars like the Mazda2, the Holden Spark and the Honda Jazz

It does come with auto headlights but not auto wipers, standard cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with controls for stereo and phone, electric windows, basic climate control, a single USB port, and nicer cloth trim than the entry-level Ascent model.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

The Yaris uses a 1.5-litre all-alloy four-cylinder petrol engine that’s good for 80kW/141Nm. Fitted with Toyota’s variable valve timing system and a steel timing chain, the 1NZ-FE isn’t the last word in refinement, but it offers a surprisingly spritely mid-range despite a modest torque figure.

The SX uses a 1.5-litre all-alloy four-cylinder petrol engine that’s good for 80kW/141Nm. The SX uses a 1.5-litre all-alloy four-cylinder petrol engine that’s good for 80kW/141Nm.

It’s backed by either a four-speed auto or, as in this case, a five-speed manual. Both transmissions are lacking at least one gear to make highway cruising more bearable, while the listless, unweighted feel of the clutch pedal in the manual is very underwhelming. In comparison, the Corolla's hydraulic clutch is an absolute joy to use.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Toyota claims a fuel consumption figure of 5.9 litres per 100km, and over a test period of 180 kilometres we recorded an average of 7.3L/100km. The Yaris will drink 91RON without a drama.

A modest 42-litre fuel tank equates to a range of about 700km between fills.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

As mentioned, the Yaris is really basic 101 motoring. A five-speed manual gearbox feels like a throwback to the past, but the performance of the 80kW 1.5 litre 4-cylinder petrol engine in the SX is actually quite sprightly. 

There is a lot of noise from the engine that gets back into the cabin, though, and the manual Yaris is compromised when it comes to highway cruising thanks to that lack of a sixth gear. 

At 110km/h, for example, it’s quite hard work. While the ride is comfortable, it is fairly noisy and not really conducive at all to inter-city touring. 

Around town it's much better, especially when using third gear, with just enough torque available to pull you around quite comfortably. 

The clutch action is pretty average, with no real discernible bite point, which makes it a bit of a chore to use. The steering is good, though, and its ride and handling is more than acceptable for the class. It won't scare its WRC brethren too much, though.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / 100,000 km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   7/10

Even the basic Yaris has seven airbags and a reversing camera as standard, which are good additions to the car, giving it a maximum five-star ANCAP rating. The 'Smart Sense' kit, which adds forward collision prevention (but not AEB) and lane departure warning as well as auto high beam, is a $650 option. 

As mentioned, buttons to control the optional safety system are scattered at random around the cabin, which makes them less easy to use. 

For example, the lane departure warning system uses beeps instead of vibrations or light indications, which is quite irritating to use, and with the switch within easy reach, it's too tempting just to turn it off. 

Likewise, the addition of the automatic high beam headlights really isn't worth the price of admission, given their poor performance in our testing. 

Regardless, the addition of AEB is worth the price of admission – see how hard you can push your dealer when it comes time to sign the paperwork for a deal, though.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   6/10

A three-year/100,000km warranty is offered with the Yaris, which is shorter in both time and distance than many of its competitors.

Its six-month/10,000km service intervals are also quite short, offset by relatively low fixed price servicing.

Over three years, the Yaris should cost around $840 to maintain through a dealer.

Verdict

While the light car market continues to soften, it becomes even more and more price-sensitive for prospective buyers, and we wonder if Toyota has maybe priced the Yaris a little above its station. 

With fitment of items like steel wheels and other basic functions, has it missed the mark against newer, better-equipped rivals? 

On the other hand, Toyota's reputation for longevity and resale, especially in the smaller cars, is unrivalled in the category, and that does play in its favour. 

Overall, the Yaris is a solid little city car in manual guise, but maybe just priced out of its league a little.

Pricing Guides

$13,990
Based on 108 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$11,970
Highest Price
$18,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Ascent 1.3L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $11,995 – 16,999 2017 TOYOTA YARIS 2017 Ascent Pricing and Specs
SX 1.5L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $13,990 – 18,062 2017 TOYOTA YARIS 2017 SX Pricing and Specs
ZR 1.5L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $17,470 – 18,990 2017 TOYOTA YARIS 2017 ZR Pricing and Specs
YRS 1.5L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $9,790 – 13,420 2017 TOYOTA YARIS 2017 YRS Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
6.8
Design7
Practicality7
Price and features6
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption7
Driving7
Safety7
Ownership6
Tim Robson
Contributing Journalist

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