2021 Toyota Yaris SX Review: Flying the Light Car Flag
Price & Specs7
Interior & Practicality7
Performance & Economy8
Ride & Handling8
Running Costs & Warranty9
What we like:
  • Much improved dynamic package
  • Charming and efficient engine
  • Excellent running costs
What we didn't like:
  • Huge price increase
  • Other countries get more equipment
  • Rear seat largely featureless
7.8DiscoverAuto Rating

The Toyota Yaris is the brand’s smallest car on sale in Australia, it competes in the ever-declining light car segment. Thanks to ever increasing SUV sales, this segment has seen the death of a few cars well known to Australians as cheap runabouts such as the Nissan Micra, Honda Jazz, Ford Fiesta and the Holden Barina. With today’s SUV crazed market people are looking to be higher off the ground in larger cars so does that mean the 2021 Toyota Yaris SX deserve to be the next famous name to disappear from our market? Let’s find out.

Recently renewed for the 2020 model year, the Toyota Yaris got completely revamped making it one of the more technologically advanced light cars on the market. With the addition of new hybrid models, the new Yaris it is now the most fuel efficient car in the segment and it competes with the Mazda2, Volkswagen Polo, Skoda Fabia and Kia Rio in a segment that continues to decline in both sales and available offerings.

Price & Specs: 7/10

The model we tested here is the mid-spec 2021 Toyota Yaris SX, which is priced at $27,020 plus on-road costs and compared to the $19,610 previous-generation Yaris SX auto, even with inflation included, the price has increased significantly. This is due to the addition of safety features and modern creature comforts that buyers have come to expect from even the cheapest available cars.

So despite a big price increase, the Yaris now comes with significantly more standard equipment across the range, including 15-inch alloy wheels, LED lighting, keyless entry and start, a 7.0-inch touch screen with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite navigation with live traffic updates, digital radio, a six-speaker sound system, rear privacy glass, a reversing camera, single-zone climate control, automatic headlights, electric-folding mirrors, a digital instrument display and a leather steering wheel, gearknob and handbrake.

Despite the increase in equipment, some features that aren’t seen on the 2021 Toyota Yaris SX are automatic wipers, more than one USB port, wireless phone charging, an electric handbrake and a centre console with covered storage.

Standard safety kit on the 2021 Toyota Yaris SX has been dramatically increased though, with eight airbags, high-and low-speed auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, front cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, driver fatigue detection, road sign recognition, adaptive cruise control and auto high beam for the LED headlights. There isn’t much in the way of safety that the 2021 Toyota Yaris doesn’t get.

The colour seen on our test car is a deep purple called ‘Scarlet’, which is part of the metallic colour range that also includes ‘Crystal Pearl’, ‘Silver Pearl’, ‘Atomic Rush’, ‘Lunar Blue’, ‘Bronx Bronze’, ‘Cherry Blossom’, ‘Coral Rose’, ‘Eclectic Blue’ and ‘Electric Green’ for $575. The two standard colours on the 2021 Toyota Yaris SX are ‘Glacier White’ and ‘Ebony’.

Compared with top-spec rivals from Mazda (the $25,990 2 GT) and Volkswagen (the $25,690 Polo Style), the mid-spec Yaris looks underdone on equipment – the Mazda comes with features such as leather trim, a 360-degree parking camera, larger wheels, front parking sensors, auto wipers, a heads-up display, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and automatic rear braking. The Polo counters with dual-zone climate control, a fully-digital instrument cluster, a larger centre screen, a Beats sound system and wireless phone charging, though buyers must option the $1,500 Driver Assist Pack to get adaptive cruise control, lane assist and power-folding mirrors that the Yaris SX has – plus blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors and auto parking.

Performance & Fuel Economy: 8/10

Two drivetrains are available in the new Yaris range, and our test car featured and all-new 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol unit that’s mated to a CVT in the mid-spec SX model that we tested – the base Ascent Sport can also be had with a six-speed manual as well, which is a shame as it’s quite poorly equipped. The CVT in the 2021 Toyota Yaris is different to most others as it features what is called ‘stepped gear’, meaning the car will take off like a normal Automatic gearbox and change into ‘second’ but then act like a CVT afterwards, which eliminates the usual loose feeling of a CVT transmission.

Producing a respectable 88kW of power and 145Nm of torque, the new 1.5-litre petrol engine is an excellent drivetrain – especially compared with the ancient engines used in the last-generation car. It feels particularly nippy in and around town and the engine never feels sluggish when pulling away from the lights. Being a three-cylinder engine, it also exhibits a warm and characterful warble engine note, which makes it fun to punt around.

Toyota claims the Yaris SX petrol will use 4.9L/100km of fuel, and with a mixture of city and some highway driving, we got a still-respectable 6.0L/100km. It will happily run on 91RON regular unleaded fuel, and it features a 40-litre fuel tank.

For an additional $2,000, Toyota will sell you a Yaris SX Hybrid which is powered by the same 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine but also paired to an electric motor and a small 0.8kWh battery pack for superior economy. The average fuel consumption for the hybrid model is a class-leading 3.3L/100km and in our testing, we got comfortably under 4.0L/100km.

Ride & Handling: 8/10

While the previous-generation Yaris was zippy, it was outshone by many competitors when it came to ride and handling. Thankfully, the 2021 Toyota Yaris SX feels more solid on the road than its predecessor. As we’ve seen with other recent Toyotas that also use the TNGA platform such as the Corolla and C-HR SUV, the new Yaris is dynamically a far better car thanks to an excellent ride quality and actually feel through the steering wheel. Its short wheelbase also makes it quite nimble in the urban jungle darting between lanes. The suspension is well damped and can cope with the usual speed humps and potholes of city life with ease.

There is very little body roll from a car of this class and if shown a corner, the 2021 Toyota Yaris SX can handle its own. The Yaris feels like it eggs you on in a light car cheeky car sort of way, which we love. It asks you to push it harder through corners and to really get the most out of it. It is much more nimble and agile than the car it replaces and even more sporty.

There are a few issues however – the lack of road noise insulation can be annoying on highways, the visibility isn’t amazing thanks so small and oddly-shaped windows and the whole range has drum rear brakes, which is not good enough in 2021. But aside from these issues, the dynamic package of the 2021 Toyota Yaris proves that there is life in both Toyota and the light car.

Interior & Practicality: 7/10

Compared with the previous generation of Yaris, which had an interior that best described as ‘developed in the Global Financial Crisis’, the new car is much more modern and much higher quality. The materials used and even the ergonomic nature of the interior is far superior and the quality of the plastics used are good and give off a Euro vibe. Yet because it’s a Toyota, you can feel they will stand the test of time and wear well. The dash is also soft touch which is a rarity in this category, and the leather used on the steering wheel and the gear knob are of a surprisingly good quality.

Centre of the Yaris’ cabin is a 7.0-inch touchscreen with inbuilt navigation with live traffic, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a reversing camera and digital radio. It’s the same system as in other Toyota products and it’s very easy to use, though the screen quality isn’t the best. Sound quality is reasonable though, thanks to a six-speaker sound system, but we’re not sure why Australia doesn’t get the larger 8.0-inch screen offered on European models.

Storage in the 2021 Toyota Yaris SX is not amazing as you always seem to be looking for places to sit a phone or wallet. There is however a tray ahead of the gear shifter, some small cupholders, shallow trays on the dashboard and reasonably sized door pockets, though no covered centre storage is disappointing, as is a lack of a centre arm rest at this price point. That’s especially considering that even entry-level versions of the Yaris in the UK get a centre armrest as standard, as well as a space-saving electric handbrake.

Unusually, the 2021 Toyota Yaris SX got smaller in this generation compared to the car it replaces, and you do feel it in the interior. The rear seat room is cramped and can leave rear passengers wishing they’d sat in the front. Another reason rear passengers will be fighting for the front is that there are no rear seat amenities at all, aside from bottle holders in the doors and a single map pocket – the Yaris misses out on rear air vents, rear charging ports, a rear centre armrest and cup holders.

One redeeming feature the new Yaris is its competitive boot space, as you get 270-litres, which is 20-litres more than the Mazda2 – though the Volkswagen Polo does get a larger boot at 351-litres. Fold the rear seats forward and there is a reasonably flat space as well, though like the rear seat, there are no features in the boot at all – it’s just a space with no hooks, nets or cubby holes. A space-saver spare wheel lies underneath the boot floor.

Service & Warranty: 9/10

Like all other new Toyota products, the 2021 Toyota Yaris SX has a five-year/unlimited km warranty with five years of capped-price servicing. The service costs are dirt cheap – over five years, you’ll spend just $975 on servicing the car, and unlike Toyotas of the past, its service intervals stretch to once yearly/every 15,000km. Unfortunately no current Toyota has any form of roadside assistance as standard.

Compared to the 2021 Toyota Yaris SX’s rivals the Yaris is nearly half the cost to service. If you were to service a Mazda2 over the same period of time it would set you back $1,874 and you would also have to service it more often as the Mazda has 10,000km service intervals. Although the Volkswagen Polo has the same intervals as the Yaris, servicing one over the same five years will come to an eye-watering $2,500.

2021 Toyota Yaris SX DiscoverAuto rating: 7.8/10

In the ever-declining light car segment, manufacturers are pulling at teeth to make their offerings viable in Australia. Toyota have done a good job of keeping the Yaris fresh and much more mature than before, although with the drastic price increase over the previous model, buyers could be pushed into the bigger and not much more expensive Corolla – which could be entirely intentional, if you ask us. The Yaris is become a really good car – finally – but both we and Toyota know that its pricing will put people off.

But regardless of its price, the 2021 Toyota Yaris SX is more fuel efficient, cheaper to run and much more advanced than the previous Yaris, so is it worthy of your money? We would say yes, but there are better value options in the market such as the Skoda Fabia or the Kia Rio. And while all cars are getting more expensive, options such as the larger Skoda Scala prove that you can still get a mid-size hatch for comfortably under $30,000.

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