Toyota Yaris VS Volkswagen Polo
- Plenty of exterior style in a tiny package
- Safety stuff on point
- New cabin tech a major bonus
- The price raises eyebrows
- Interior treatment doesn't feel particularly plush
- Petrol-only models can feel a little thrashy
- Looks super polished
- Tiny engines don’t feel underpowered
- Sharp-looking multimedia
- Engines can feel raspy when pushed
- Ride might be too firm for some
- Very sparse back seat
Have you ever heard the saying you can’t get something for nothing? It could have been written about this all-new, fourth-generation Yaris.
It’s bigger, far safer and more feature-filled than the ageing city car it replaces. It introduces hybrid powertrains for the first time, debuts safety systems never before seen in a city car, and rolls-out the long-awaited cabin technology that the last Yaris sorely missed.
All of which is good news? The not so good news? You will be paying handsomely for all those changes. Yes, the new Yaris marks the end of the sub-$20k Toyota. And it ends it by some margin.
So does the value proposition still stack up? Or are you better off taking the never-smaller step up to the bigger Corolla. Join us as we find out.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The new Volkswagen Polo has been so supersized you half expect to find Morgan Spurlock hiding in its (now much bigger) boot.
For one, this sixth-generation car is longer than the model it replaces. And it’s wider. And there’s more room for passengers and cargo than ever before.
But are they enough to push the bigger-than-ever Polo around?
|Engine Type||1.2L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
By far the biggest and most lasting impression from my initial time with the Polo is that it feels like a whole lot of car for the money, even in its base-model guise. There is a feeling of quality in (most of) the cabin and in the drive experience, and its improved ability to people or cargo will surely put it on more customer’s radars than ever before.
For ours, the entry-level Trendline with the DSG gearbox makes the most sense, getting the best of the standard features without breaking the bank.
Short answer? I like it. The Yaris wears a shrunken version of Toyota's design language, a little like a Corolla's been shrunk in the wash.
Like with any car, the more you spend, the better it looks, and the little Yaris looks its sharpest in top-spec ZR guise, with its 16-inch alloys and two-tone paint job (the black roof looks especially sharp against the electric blue paint job).
The blacked-out grille area looks a little like a grouper feeding, but for mine, it works, lending the Yaris a street-smart style that sets it apart in the city car segment, but I simply can't stomach steel wheels on a car that's north of $20k, which rules the entry-level model out, for me at least.
Step inside, and you're met with a quality-feeling interior, if one that lacks some creature comforts and soft-touch materials when you consider the price point. There is no shortage of hard plastics, and even the material that lines the doors in the top-spec models feels paper thin.
The view from the front seats especially is light-years ahead of the car it replaces, with the 7.0-inch colour screen and digital driver display dominating the view. The back, however, is fare more austere, where you'll find seats and... well that's about it.
Well, a lot like a Golf that has been shrunk in the wash. But in a world of super-busy design, the Polo’s exterior treatment is refreshingly simple and unfussy.
A single accent line that runs the length of the body, joined by a kink at the base of the door, gives the Polo a clean, polished look, and it’s difficult to catch it at a bad angle.
There’s no angry body kit, rear spoiler, side skirts, rear diffuser or front spoiler either, but in this case, that’s a good thing. You could perhaps level the accusation that it looks a little boring, but for mine, that just means it’s unlikely to age poorly.
The pick of the regular fleet, design-wise, has to be the Comfortline model - the hubcaps of the Trendline do it absolutely no favours.
Inside, the interior treatment is clean and straightforward, with a two-tone dash with a soft top that’s joined by the very premium-looking 8.0-inch touchscreen in a gloss-black surround. Honestly, look at the interior images and tell us it looks like it belongs in an entry-level model.
The flat-bottomed wheel and silver-edging on the centre console are nice touches, too - as is the functionality of the driver’s binnacle that houses the trip computer (MFD) - but some of the plastics are utterly unforgiving to the touch.
The new Yaris measures 3940mm in length, 1695mm in width and 1505mm in height, and rides on a 2550mm, making it a bigger car than the vehicle it replaces. It will also serve up some 270 litres (VDA) of luggage space with the 60:40 rear seats in place.
The extra room is a boon for rear passengers. I put the backseat to the test sitting behind my own 175cm-tall driving position, and I had more than enough knee and headroom to make me feel comfortable. Then for the ultimate test, I put CarsGuide's tallest scribe (and NBA star in another life) Richard Berry in the window seat alongside me, and we decided we could both travel in genuine comfort.
There are ISOFX attachment points in each window seat in the back, and cupholders up front, but the backseat does lack cupholders, a pulldown seat divider, air vents or climate controls, USB ports or power outlets - there's not much of anything back there.
Front seat riders get a pair of cupholders, a single USB port and power outlet, and a deep, phone-sized storage bin in front of the gear shift.
Thanks largely to the merits of VWs MQB modular platform (the same chassis that underpins everything from the Golf to the Tiguan), the new Polo now stretches 4053mm in length (78mm longer than its predecessor) and sits on a wheelbase that is 81mm longer.
But of all the dimensions, it’s the 69mm in extra width (now 1751mm) that really counts here. It doesn’t sound like much, sure, but every centimetre counts in a city car, and it means you can fit full-size adults into the backseat without breaking any ribs.
I still wouldn’t rush to go three adults across the back, but the improved interior dimensions ensure two can ride in plenty of comfort, with good head and rear legroom on offer for all but the tallest of passengers.
There’s little else to enjoy back there, though, with no air vents, USB connections or power sources. Hell, there aren’t even any cup holders. You do get two ISOFIX attachment points for your baby car seat, though, one in each window seat in the back.
Up front, it’s only the cheaper plastics at key touchpoints (the area your knees and elbows constantly contact, for example) that diminish an otherwise comfort-packed space. The touch screen set-up is clean, clear and simple to use, and there are two USB connection points and a power source for all your gadget needs. There are two cup holders for up-front riders, room in each of the doors for bottles, and a central cubby that adds a little extra storage space.
Another benefit of the Polo’s growth spurt is the new boot space dimensions, now 71 litres bigger than before. It means you’ll now find 351 litres on offer - 1125 litres with the rear seats folded flat - a number VW proudly points out outshines even the bigger Mazda3’s luggage capacity.
Price and features
Let’s get the tough stuff out of the way first: the new Yaris arrives in three trim levels - the Ascent Sport, SX and ZR - with the cheapest, manual-equipped vehicle costing $22,130, stretching to $32,100 for the most expensive, hybrid-powered ZR.
That marks an entry-point increase of almost $7000, with the former model’s cheapest offering being the $15,390 Ascent Manual - a price increase of more than 40 per cent.
An even tougher pill to swallow? The cheapest Corolla is the manual-equipped Ascent Sport, yours for $23,895 ($1765 more than the entry-level Yaris), and if hybrid is your bag, you can opt for the $27,395 Ascent Sport Hybrid - which means you can get an electrified Corolla for less money than an electrified Yaris.
Anyway, let's unpack. The Yaris range kicks off with the Ascent Sport, which can be had with a manual transmission ($22,130), or with a CVT automatic $23,630.
Outside, you get 15-inch steel wheels, halogen headlamps, LED DRLs and tail lights and rear fog lamps. Inside, you'll find fabric seats, manual air-con, a USB charge point and a 12v power outlet.
On the tech front, you'll find a 7.0-inch touchscreen inside with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as a smaller 4.2-inch driver info screen. You'll also get a six-speaker stereo and DAB+ radio.
But it's on the safety front where the tiny Yaris really shines, with the brand boldly declaring it the world's safest city car. But we'll circle back to that under the Safety sub-heading.
The range then steps up to the SX, which can be had with the conventional petrol ($27,020), or with a hybrid powertrain ($29,020), which adds a lithium-ion battery and electric motor. The new hybrid system includes a pure EV driving mode, but Toyota is thus far unable to confirm now many electric-only kilometres it will deliver.
That extra spend also buys you navigation with live traffic, auto air-con, keyless entry and push-button start, a digital speedo, tachometer and hybrid use gauge, as well as a leather-accented wheel and better cabin materials. Outside, you get 15-inch alloys, LED headlights, privacy glass and silver exterior design elements.
Finally, you can opt for the top-spec ZR, available as a petrol ($30,100) or hybrid ($32,100). For that, you get optional two-tone paint, as well as 16-inch alloy wheels, and a rear spoiler.
Inside, you get sport seats up front, paddle shifters for the non-hybrid model, and nicer interior design elements like piano black inserts and Y (for Yaris) embossed seats. You also get a head-up display, blind-spot monitoring and an intelligent parking system.
The new Polo arrives in a fairly limited range, with just the entry-level 70TSI Trendline and top-sec 85TSI Comfortline on offer initially - though they’re joined by a limited-run 'Launch Edition' which adds some extra styling kit.
Crystal-ball gazers will see a GTI sport edition following a little later this year, along with what will surely be the first of many special editions, the Polo Beats edition, with the associated RRPs for those models climbing accordingly.
For now, the price list kicks off with the Trendline, which will cost you $17,990 (five-speed manual), or $20,490 should you opt for a seven-speed 'DSG' dual-clutch auto. Those are drive-away prices, too, which makes them seem very sharp indeed. In short, it’s a new car at near second-hand price.
That money buys you cloth seats, a lovely (and vaguely flat-bottomed) leather steering wheel, keyless entry, central locking (with automatic unlocking and door locks that activate once you’re in motion), air conditioning, cruise control and electric mirrors. You also get halogen - not projector, bi-xenon or LED headlights - lights with daytime running lights.
There are some reminders of how much you’ve paid on the Trendline, though, like the 15-inch steel wheels with hubcaps - still, they’re better than 14 inch. Silver linings and all that.
Stepping up to the Comfortline trim level will set you back $19,490 for the six-speed manual ($20,490 drive-away), and $21,990 for the DSG automatic ($22,990 drive-away). You get more power, of course, but you’ll also upgrade to 15-inch alloy wheels (vs the hubcaps on the Trendline), rain-sensing wipers, some chrome highlights and a better quality cloth seat in the cabin. There are no leather seats, a panoramic sunroof or climate control on any of the trim levels.
Tech gadgets across the Polo range include a fantastic 8.0-inch touchscreen that’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto-equipped, and which pairs with a sound system with six speakers - but no sub-woofer, of course.
The screen controls your radio (though there’s no DAB) and there’s a CD player (but not a CD changer or a DVD player). Or the Bluetooth connectivity function will stream your MP3s. It’s an undeniably strong tech pack for a city car, and those features are unlikely to hurt resale value.
There’s no sat nav, but happily, your phone’s GPS system subs in as a navigation system, displaying directions from Google or Apple Maps up on the touchscreen.
Finally, a Launch Edition car ($20,490 manual, $22,990 automatic) completes the models comparison. arriving with 16-inch rims, tinted windows, fog lights and LED taillights, as well as a wireless charging station for your compatible phone - sorry iPhone users, you’ll need a special case. And those prices translate to $21,490 and $23,990 drive-away.
There has been no word on comfort or convenience packs as yet, but the night is still young for the sixth-generation Polo.
You can have your Polo in 'Pure White', which is free, or opt for 'Energetic Gold' (a kind of burnt orange), 'Limestone Grey', 'Reflex Silve'r, or a 'Deep Black Pearl', all of which will set you back $500. Not exactly a rainbow of colours, then, and there’s no blue, red, yellow or green, etc.
Roof rails or a roof rack to carry sports equipment, and premium floor mats appear in a fat official accessories guide.
Engine & trans
The Yaris is offered with a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder engine which will produce 88kW and 145Nm, paring with a six-speed manual transmission in the cheapest model or a CVT auto in the more expensive cars.
The hybrid system adds a lithium-ion battery and an electric motor for a combined power output of 85kW (Toyota hasn't confirmed the torque figure), which suggests its running a de-tuned version of the 1.5-litre engine.
The new hybrid system includes a pure EV driving mode, but Toyota is thus far unable to confirm now many electric-only kilometres it will deliver.
Just the one engine on offer here; a tiny and turbocharged 1.0-litre, three-cylinder unit - a motor borrowed from the brand’s Up! - which is available in two states of tune. Both are petrol-powered, and there are no diesel, LPG, EV or plug-in hybrid options.
It’s a tiny engine size, but neither option feels underpowered. The cheaper 70TSI Trendline cars make use of the lower-spec version, good for 70kW at 5000rpm and 175Nm at 2000rpm. That’s enough to produce a fairly leisurely 0-to-100km/h sprint of 10.8 seconds.
The 85TSI Comfortline shares the same capacity, but ups the horsepower to 85kW at 5000rpm and 200Nm at 2000rpm. That set-up will up the speed, too, with the acceleration to 100km/h now at 9.5 seconds.
They might not be the most pulse-quickening performance figures, but they do suit the personality of the little Polo, as does the turning radius of 10.6m.
You can then choose between a five-speed manual (Trendline) or six-speed manual (Comfortline) gearbox, or you can spring for a seven-speed DSG gearbox in both. Either way, the transmission will shuffle power to the front wheels, with both the Trendline and Comfortline Polos exclusively front-wheel drive; there are no 4x4, all-wheel drive, or rear-wheel drive cars here.
The perks of a hybrid powertrain reveal themselves here, with the electrified Yaris reporting a claimed 3.3L/100km on the combined cycle, with 76g/km of C02. Petrol-powered cars (CVT) make 4.9L/100km and emit 114g/km of CO2.
Petrol vehicles are fitted with a 40-litre fuel tank, while hybrid cars make do with 36 litres.
The Trendline will sip 4.8 litres per hundred kilometres in manual guise (5.0 with the DSG) on the claimed/combined cycle, with emissions pegged at between 110-113g/km of C02.
The Comfortline ups the consumption to a claimed 5.1L/100km for the manual cars (5.0 with the DSG), with emissions of between 115-116g/km of CO2.
Either way, that’s near-diesel fuel economy/consumption, and they’re impressive mileage figures. The Polo’s fuel tank capacity size is 40 litres, and will accept 95RON fuel.
It’s a tough nut to crack, the Yaris. Largely because the vehicle that appears to make the most sense from behind the wheel, also makes the least sense in a lot of ways, too.
We cycled through petrol-only and hybrid cars, and in my opinion, the electrified vehicles feel the most natural from the driver’s seat - and deliver the most of what you might be expecting from a vehicle touted by Toyota as a revolution in the city-car space.
While the petrol vehicle can feel a little thrashy and loud in the cabin under hard acceleration, the hybrid - which, given its combined power output is actually lower than that of the petrol-only vehicle, must be using a de-tuned version of the 1.5-litre engine - feels a smoother, more complete drive.
The extra weight, too (though only around 65kg or so) seems to help settle the ride, which, when combined with Toyota’s TNGA platform, delivers a car that feels fun and enthusiastic from behind the wheel, with a satisfying ride and steering that’s both easy and predicable.
All of which makes perfect sense. The part that doesn’t, though, is that you need to weigh those facts against the fact that, at either $29,020 or $32,100, you can own a bigger hybrid Corolla for less money. Hell, you can just about buy a hybrid RAV4. And given there’s not a lot of duds in the reborn Toyota’s line-up, that’s a tough financial pill to swallow.
All the things the hybrid models do well are performed a little less impressively in the petrol-powered cars. They remain fun, perky little city cars, but they don’t shift the needle in that segment, at least as far as dynamics go, in the way we perhaps expected them to.
The engine is a little louder and a little courser, and the ride a little more jumpy - the latter of which is a bigger complaint amongst my CarsGuide colleagues than it was for me, but I do like the feeling of being truly connected to the road below me, and am willing to make some comfort sacrifices as a result.
All in all, it’s a very good offering from Toyota, with only the sky-high weight of our expectations, and its price, weighing against it.
If you have a love of small, easy vehicles, there’s no doubt the Yaris will scratch that itch. It’s lightyears in front of the car it replaces, is surprisingly spacious and practical, and the tech and safety updates are a very welcome addition, the former of which - led by Apple CarPlay and Android Auto - will genuinely transform your ownership experience.
If the Polo doesn’t look like a cut-price city car, then the good news is that it doesn’t drive like one either. Our several-hour test route took us from city streets to broken B-roads, freeways to fast-flowing county runs, and the pint-sized Polo handled it all with little bother.
The single-tune suspension is definitely set up to favour firmer sportiness over comfort, and while you can catch the outside edges of the ride on seriously rough tarmac, it’s never overly teeth-rattling, and the little Polo will happily chug along no matter where you point it.
The steering, too, is perfectly suited to the character of the car, feeling connected without being darty, and plenty light enough for easy city use. The cabin is commendably quiet, locking out intrusive noise on all but the loudest road surfaces, too.
The biggest question, of course, is whether the little three-cylinder engine options pack enough grunt to push the Polo along faster than a slow-moving snail. But even the smallest output version never feels underpowered, and is more than peppy enough even with two adult passengers on-board.
The clever turbocharging has even largely done away with the lag sometimes associated with VW’s bigger cars, with the power arriving nice and early when you plant your foot from a rolling start, the 1.1-tonne (tare weight) Polo pulling away pretty cleanly.
What’s that? You want me to nitpick? Well, it can feel a little uncertain at times - especially when pulling away from hills - rolling back more than you’d like before engaging and pulling away. It’s far from a deal-breaker, but you’d need to get used to it.
It's got to a high score here, given the Yaris debuts safety systems not seen in cars this size, or this price bracket.
That story begins with eight airbags - including two front centre airbags, the only car in this segment to get them - and the usual suite of braking and traction aids.
Then the tech steps up, with Toyota's pre-collision safety system, which has AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, as well as active cruise control, intersection turn assistance, lane trace assist with active steering, road-sign recognition and a reversing camera.
That's on all models too, with the top-spec ZR adding a head-up display, blind-spot monitoring and an intelligent parking system.
The new Yaris scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating.
It’s a strong safety story, even from the base model, with every Polo arriving with an airbag count of six, a reverse camera, parking sensors and AEB with pedestrian detection. You get a fatigue-warning system and a tyre-pressure monitor, too, along with hill start assist, and the usual suite or braking and traction features like ESP.
An optional 'Driver Assistance Package' ($1400) adds VW’s manoeuvre braking system to the Polo, which combines with the rear parking sensors to act as AEB in reverse when you’re parking, along with adaptive cruise, blind-spot monitoring, rear-traffic alert and 'Park Assist', but no lane assist.
The Polo was awarded the maximum five-star safety rating when tested by Euro NCAP last year - a score that has since been adopted by Australia’s ANCAP.
The Polo is covered by a three-year/unlimited km warranty, and will require servicing every 12 months or 15,000km - the annual schedule helping to lower maintenance costs. Dealerships will likely offer an extended warranty, but always read the fine print.
There’s no need to crack the tool kit out either, with VW’s capped-price servicing - the 'Assured Price Program' - limiting the service cost for five years, and there’s roadside assistance for the duration of the warranty period, too. There’s a full-size steel spare tyre, and the owner’s manual will tell you all you need to know about the required oil type and capacity.
As with all cars reviewed here, if any owner issues, reliability issues or common faults are ever reported, including automatic gearbox problems, oil pump, clutch, injector, engine, battery or suspension issues, turbo complaints, defects, or issues with the timing belt or chain, you’ll find them on our owner’s page.
Where is the Volkswagen Polo built? Well, many places around the world. But ours will arrive from South Africa.