Toyota Yaris D-4D 2002 Road Test

Wed, 08 May 2002

When I was a kid I had a teacher called Harry Hawler who boasted that his Morris Minor would do fifty miles to the gallon. But even that was too profligate for Harry, so he rode to school most days on a noddy bike. Harry would have loved the Toyota Yaris D-4D.

He could have sold the noddy bike, stayed dry, and still got nearly seventy miles to the gallon.

I'll make a very simple statement: The Toyota Yaris D-4D is a staggeringly good little car. I'm well aware that after winning the 2002 J.D. Power Customer Satisfaction Survey the Yaris needs no help from me. But I'm afraid I'm going to rave about it anyway. I have never driven another car that could happily tootle along at 80–90mph, nip past obstructive drivers in old-shape Merc CL500 coupes, and still take me 63 miles on a gallon of diesel. Even the radio got perfect AM reception on the fringes of LBC's transmission area. This is the sweetest, most economical little diesel your money can buy.

The competition is, admittedly, stiff. VAG set the ball rolling with its 3-cylinder belt-cam 1.4TDI PD in the A2, Polo, Lupo and Arosa. PSA joined with Ford to produce a cracking 4-cylinder belt-cam 1.4HDI with eight or sixteen valves. Renault got in on the act with its ultra-economical 1.5D. Then along came Toyota with an equally powerful, equally economical lightweight 4-cylinder chain-cam direct-injected diesel at a starter price that undercuts everyone else's with PAS, ABS and EBD all thrown in.

Granted, £8,395 only gets you the basic 3-door D-4D S, with its 74bhp diesel adding all of £1,200 to the price of the 67bhp 1.0 litre petrol version. And, with 155/80R13 tyres, the S doesn't put much rubber on the road. But it's still a lot of car for the money. Anyone who does mega miles will find that extra £1,200 well spent, not just for the extra fuel economy, but for the quicker yet more relaxed driving experience of the lower-revving diesel.

At first it doesn't seem to go as well as a Citroen C3 1.4HDI. But as soon as you get it out into the country the reason becomes apparent. Unusually for a diesel, and unheard of for a 1.4 diesel, second gear doesn't hit a brick wall at 40. It's slightly slower on the uptake, yet good for more than 50mph. Third then carries you to 77mph, and if you think that's a bit close, it is. This is the first diesel I've driven with a sporty, close-ratio gearbox and a limit of 5,000rpm. With a 0-60 of 12.5 seconds and a top speed of 106mph it's as quick as you\'re likely to want it to be.

The huge advantage of the Yaris has always been ease of entry and exit. The FIAT Punto was good. The Yaris is better. You just sort of walk in and sit down as if there's no car around the seat. Even the back seats of the 5-door are a doddle to get in and out of. And if the boot's not quite big enough for your weekly trip to the cash-and-carry you can always slide the seat forwards. The other benefit of this, of course, is if the back seat is occupied by your little darlings you can slide them closer to you.

Inside the car there is somewhere to store almost everything. Two glove pockets in front of the passenger, sliding tray under the passenger seat, deep cubbys either side of the instruments, an under-dash shelf in front of the driver, cup-holders, door-pockets and even a handy place for pens and mobile phones next to the hand brake. The only bit that lets it down is the cumbersome fall-down rear seat. The spilt backs come down easily. But to fold the one-piece squab you have to remove the head restraints, slide the seat to its forward position, then fold it over. The Honda Jazz beats it for dead in this respect.

Ride quality on the 175/65 R14 tyres – on all but the S model – is astonishing. (It might be better still on the 80 profile tyres of the S.) The comfort level beats everything else in the class and then some. It\'s certainly a lot better than that of the otherwise excellent Honda Jazz. Handling is good, too. The steering is just a bit slow and you can feel the pull of the car wanting to run wide if you push it hard. But I can\'t imagine anyone getting into difficulty unless they go completely bonkers.

As far as I'm concerned, the D-4D has kept the Yaris top of the supermini class. It's only beaten in part by the much better looks and brilliant versatility of the Honda Jazz. So if you need a supermini, try both. And think very carefully as to whether the looks and packaging of the Jazz beat the fuel economy, comfort and driving experience of the Yaris.

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

(2008 Minitest of Yaris II 1.3TR at

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