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Toyota Yaris 2023 review: ZR Hybrid

How much is too much for a Toyota Yaris? The ZR hybrid dares to find out... (image: Tom White)

Daily driver score

3.9/5

Urban score

3.9/5

Small cars aren't what they used to be.

For the most part, I mean this in a good way. A lot of the remaining cars in this ever-diminishing segment are safer, higher tech, and better to drive than ever before. The problem is, they're also much more expensive.

Don't feel like you, dear reader, are to blame. Yes, demand has heavily shifted to the realms of SUVs for reasons most buyers can't properly articulate (they're just trendy, okay?), but there are also safety, expected equipment, and design pressures pushing once-cheap small cars out of Australia.

Maybe you're SUV-resistant (good on you), and you're wondering why the once-ubiquitous Toyota Yaris is now so expensive, and whether it's worth its newfound asking price. Let's find out.

Price and features – Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The ZR Hybrid version we're reviewing here is the ultimate version of the standard Yaris range - excluding the unhinged, rally-bred GR Yaris which only shares a handful of body panels with this car, anyway.

Costing from a frankly wild $33,100, before on-road costs, it's a far cry from the once sub-$20K car the Yaris used to be. It wasn't even that long ago (2020) you could pick up the previous-generation Yaris SX in automatic guise for just $19,610, before on-roads.

Included are 16-inch alloy wheels. (image: Tom White) Included are 16-inch alloy wheels. (image: Tom White)

This new Yaris is truly 'new' though, built entirely from the ground up to suit Toyota's TNGA platform philosophy, and it's also the first time you can buy a hybrid one.

The result is one of the most recently engineered small cars you can buy in Australia, a far cry from the ancient MG3 or ageing Mazda2.

Is this worth a lot of extra money? To many buyers in this small car segment the answer is probably not, judging by the fact the MG3 is now outselling the Yaris at an insane ratio of 8:1. But standard equipment is impressive regardless, especially at this ZR grade.

The seats follow the bucket-like theme of other ZRs, although, in this case they are finished in a light-patterned premium cloth trim. (image: Tom White) The seats follow the bucket-like theme of other ZRs, although, in this case they are finished in a light-patterned premium cloth trim. (image: Tom White)

Included are 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, built-in sat-nav, a 4.2-inch multifunction display and dot-matrix-style dash cluster elements, a head-up display, a leather-accented steering wheel, sports seats with cloth upholstery, single-zone climate control, alongside one of the most comprehensive safety suites in the small car segment.

The unique selling point is the hybrid system, though. It makes the Yaris one of the most fuel efficient cars without a plug in Australia - but perhaps by far the biggest issue facing this car is an equivalent ZR Hybrid Corolla costs just $5020 more.

It features a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. (image: Tom White) It features a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. (image: Tom White)

Design - Is there anything interesting about its design?

It's instantly identifiable as a Yaris, despite getting a significant design overhaul with the last generation. Toyotas don't have a unifying design language, but they do have key elements which tie them together, allowing each model to stand apart, but be recognisable as part of the greater Toyota portfolio, regardless.

This Yaris is much better looking than the generation which came before it, with lots of little detail points which make it an attractive small car to look at.

From the outside this includes curvy panel work which works its way from the button-nose and Toyota logo, all the way down the side of the car and to the boot lid in the rear.

This Yaris is much better looking than the generation which came before it, with lots of little detail points which make it an attractive small car to look at. (image: Tom White) This Yaris is much better looking than the generation which came before it, with lots of little detail points which make it an attractive small car to look at. (image: Tom White)

There's big attention to detail in even the plastic fill panels, which carry a patterned texture to stop them from looking boring up-close, and our ZR is finished with a healthy serve of contrast black across its roof, in its alloy wheels, and on the integrated spoiler it wears on its tailgate.

It's a cool little car, a little bit cute, and a little bit sporty. It certainly needs to be at the asking price.

Inside sports Toyota's typical approach to interior design with some interesting touches. The Yaris gets some common themes, like the little cut-outs in the dash, the multimedia screen perched atop, and thankfully physical controls for the climate functions.

It’s instantly identifiable as a Yaris, despite getting a significant design overhaul with the last generation. (image: Tom White) It’s instantly identifiable as a Yaris, despite getting a significant design overhaul with the last generation. (image: Tom White)

The seats follow the bucket-like theme of other ZRs, although, in this case they are finished in a light-patterned premium cloth trim, as opposed to the suede and leather ones in its larger Corolla sibling.

The three-spoke steering wheel is cool, as are the funky dot-matrix style dash elements, but the strange felt-like door trim, which also lacks padding for your elbow, is a bit odd. Still, it's an upgrade on the rough scratchy material used in lesser variants.

In typical Toyota fashion, there are quite a few hard plastic materials mixed in with the inclusion of a soft dash-topper, but the Yaris is a supposedly affordable small car after all.

The Yaris gets some common themes, like the little cut-outs in the dash, the multimedia screen perched atop, and thankfully physical controls for the climate functions. (image: Tom White) The Yaris gets some common themes, like the little cut-outs in the dash, the multimedia screen perched atop, and thankfully physical controls for the climate functions. (image: Tom White)

Practicality – How practical is its space and tech inside?

The Yaris is small on the outside and small on the inside, too.

This means two things: Firstly this car is a breeze to park and it fits in lots of places, making it ideal to drive around the confines of a city.

On the other hand, there's been a clear design choice here to make the Yaris far from as boxy as it could be, focusing on the curvy looks at the cost of interior volume.

The Kia Rio, for example, does a great job of hitting both tight exterior dimensions with big interior ones, making it perhaps a better choice for those with families, although the Rio is set for the great scrapyard in the sky before long.

The inside of the Yaris adds up to a space which is clearly primarily constructed for the space and comfort of front occupants.

The back seat feels very closed-in, especially in the ZR grade, which makes things worse with its dark headlining and heavy window tint. (image: Tom White) The back seat feels very closed-in, especially in the ZR grade, which makes things worse with its dark headlining and heavy window tint. (image: Tom White)

Adjustability is good, with telescopic and height adjust for the steering, relatively large comfortable seats, and a set of two surprisingly decent bottle holders in the doors with two more running down the centre console.

There's no armrest box, as it would impede the function of the centre airbag, so there's nowhere to rest your elbow, and the rare inclusion of a manual handbrake lever precludes the addition of further storage between the seats.

The dial-based climate control panel is welcome, and there's a small bay underneath for the storage of your phone, although, like every other storage nook in the cabin, the base is not rubberised, so objects will simply slide around when you're cornering.

The back seat feels very closed-in, especially in the ZR grade, which makes things worse with its dark headlining and heavy window tint, and while I still like the seat trim and large bottle holders in the doors, it's not hard to feel forgotten.

  • The boot also offers a tiny 270 litres. (image: Tom White) The boot also offers a tiny 270 litres. (image: Tom White)
  • Just big enough for our largest CarsGuide demo case but not the other two in the set, which is actually only 124 litres once you include the thickness of the case itself and the wheels. (image: Tom White) Just big enough for our largest CarsGuide demo case but not the other two in the set, which is actually only 124 litres once you include the thickness of the case itself and the wheels. (image: Tom White)

My knees have just a tiny amount of room from the driver's seat set to my own driving position (I'm 182cm tall), and even the so-so door trim is instead replaced by a plain plastic panel. There is also no centre drop-down armrest, nor is there a power outlet.

A caution for those with kids: The rear door doesn't even open very far, so it strikes me as being difficult to work with for the placement of child seats.

The boot also offers a tiny 270 litres, just big enough for our largest CarsGuide demo case but not the other two in the set, which is actually only 124 litres once you include the thickness of the case itself and the wheels.

Under the bonnet – What are the key stats for its engine and transmission?

The Yaris ZR hybrid pairs a 1.5-litre three-cylinder Atkinson-cycle petrol engine with an electric motor set-p on the front axle.

The engine on its own produces 67kW/120Nm, but is assisted by an additional 59kW/141Nm from the motor.

The Yaris ZR hybrid pairs a 1.5-litre three-cylinder Atkinson-cycle petrol engine with an electric motor set-p on the front axle. (image: Tom White) The Yaris ZR hybrid pairs a 1.5-litre three-cylinder Atkinson-cycle petrol engine with an electric motor set-p on the front axle. (image: Tom White)

Combined, they are capable of producing a peak 85kW. It's about right for the segment the Yaris plays in, and of course there are advantages of the electrified set-up when it comes to acceleration, smoothness and fuel consumption.

The forces of both drive the front wheels via a silky smooth continuously variable transmission, which makes the switch between the two power sources seamless to the driver.

Efficiency – What is its fuel consumption? What is its driving range?

Fuel consumption sits at 3.3L/100km for the ADR combined cycle, which is one of the best fuel consumption figures for any car without a plug.

This figure will depend a bit on how you drive it, though, with my consumption for the week hitting a more reasonable 3.8L/100km in largely urban testing, which are ideal conditions for this configuration.

Fuel consumption sits at 3.3L/100km for the ADR combined cycle, which is one of the best fuel consumption figures for any car without a plug. (image: Tom White) Fuel consumption sits at 3.3L/100km for the ADR combined cycle, which is one of the best fuel consumption figures for any car without a plug. (image: Tom White)

I am curious to know what conditions make the 3.3L/100km achievable (it certainly seems achievable), but the figure I scored is immensely impressive regardless.

You can even fill the Yaris with entry-level 91RON unleaded, and the 36-litre fuel tank makes for over 1000km of range if you can score closer to the official fuel consumption.

Driving – What's it like to drive?

The Yaris shines when you hop behind the wheel. This car is not just great to drive, it is benchmark setting for the whole segment.

Toyota's TNGA chassis philosophy is on full show, with the components here combining for a nice ride, gentle but meaningful steering feel, and smooth, quiet acceleration.

It feels like a car with the ride and feedback characteristics of something much more expensive, which speaks to its new-from-the-ground-up formula.

Inside sports Toyota’s typical approach to interior design with some interesting touches. (image: Tom White) Inside sports Toyota’s typical approach to interior design with some interesting touches. (image: Tom White)

Older cars in the segment can't hold a torch, while even the better-to-drive examples like the Suzuki Swift and Kia Rio lack the poise or polish of the Yaris, not to mention the hybrid system.

The system itself makes the fuel sipping tech addictive to use, with the drive indicator dial in the dash cluster making it obvious where the engine will turn on.

This helps you tailor your driving style to maximise your time using the electric motor only, boosting fuel efficiency.

Even the execution of this system is at its best here in the Yaris, which is light enough that significant amounts of acceleration time can be spent in pure EV mode.

Like all Toyotas you can expect a five year, unlimited kilometre warranty with the Yaris. (image: Tom White) Like all Toyotas you can expect a five year, unlimited kilometre warranty with the Yaris. (image: Tom White)

It's not rapid, however. Yes, there's sufficient go from the combined 85kW to get the Yaris moving off the lights, but this drivetrain isn't engaging, making it tough to match the great handling characteristics on offer here.

The Yaris eats up corners in its stride, but really misses the turbo surge or engaging gear shifts of some of its rivals.

Like all hybrid Toyotas, this particular combination is a little unpleasant to drive more aggressively, as the little three-cylinder Atkinson-cycle unit gruffly revs its heart out, breaking the EV-veneer and eating into the otherwise impressive cabin ambiance.

Safety – What safety equipment is fitted? What is its safety rating?

If you're looking for a safe small car, the Yaris, particularly in ZR spec, is about as good as it gets.

While it also accounts for the high cost-of-entry for this model, you could argue the inclusion of comparatively high-end features like freeway-speed auto emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and even eight airbags, including a centre airbag, is worth it.

The Yaris range (excluding the GR version) scored a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating in 2020, a particular achievement, as it is to a much more difficult rating criteria compared to the Swift and Rio which were both rated five stars in 2017.

If you’re looking for a safe small car, the Yaris, particularly in ZR spec, is about as good as it gets. (image: Tom White) If you’re looking for a safe small car, the Yaris, particularly in ZR spec, is about as good as it gets. (image: Tom White)

Ownership – What warranty is offered? What are its service intervals? What are its running costs?

Like all Toyotas you can expect a five year, unlimited kilometre warranty with the Yaris, which is extendable to seven years if you stick to the official service schedule.

We recommend you do, not just because you keep your warranty, but because it's so affordable, you might as well.

The first five years of servicing for the Yaris hybrid is capped to just $245 a year. It needs to see the workshop once every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever occurs first.

Combine this with the low fuel consumption, and the total cost of ownership here is impressive.

Like all Toyotas you can expect a five year, unlimited kilometre warranty with the Yaris. (image: Tom White) Like all Toyotas you can expect a five year, unlimited kilometre warranty with the Yaris. (image: Tom White)

The Yaris ZR hybrid is a very impressive little hatch. Small, agile, fuel efficient, nice-to-drive and safe, it's certainly set the bar to beat in the small car segment. The trouble is, all of this costs money, placing this particular version outside the budgets of many would-be small car buyers.

$31,970 - $31,999

Based on 4 car listings in the last 6 months

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.9/5

Urban score

3.9/5
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.