BUILDING on the success of the third generation Yaris, Toyota has just given its best-selling European model an exciting and ultra-modern update.
In fact the Japanese company has invested £76million and introduced more than 900 new parts to ensure the car maintains its hugely popular status.
Gone is the diesel powertrain along with a three-door option, but the upgrades see a new 1.5-litre petrol engine which offers excellent economy and fiery performance capabilities.
In addition, the new Yaris boasts a more dynamic design, improvements to the hybrid technology and a raft of safety features as standard.
Priced from £12,495 for the entry level Active model, there are six trims to choose from with the range-topping Excel costing £17,495.
The new line up has a number of highly-efficient engines including a three-cylinder 1.0-litre 68bhp petrol unit or the new 1.5-litre 110bhp petrol version which replaces the former 1.33-litre engine.
There is also a 1.5-litre 98bhp hybrid option. Manual or automatic transmissions are also available.
The design team wanted to give the Yaris a more dynamic appearance and this has been achieved thanks to a new-look front and rear with a greater emphasis on horizontal lines to create a lower centre of gravity and wider stance.
The honeycomb grille is more eye-catching, there are fresh headlights complete with a new lighting signature. At the rear there is a redesigned tailgate, bumper and light clusters.
There are also striking new alloy wheel designs along with some fresh colour trims called Nebula Blue and Tokyo Red which takes the number of paintwork options to 10.
Move inside and you will be greeted by a bright, clutter-free interior with lots of soft-touch materials along with improved upholstery. The instrumentation has been upgraded with clearer read-outs which can be adapted for driver preference.
Other new additions include propeller-style air vents, smart blue instrument illumination and an easy-to-use multimedia screen.
There is a revised trim line-up with buyers offered Active, then Icon grades. At this stage the options split in two directions with one way going to Excel via Icon Tech and the other half offering Design and range-topping Bi-Tone.
In the past, Bi-Tone was offered as an option, but Toyota has introduced it as a trim level this time round and is certainly the head-turner of the line-up.
The hybrid models have been refined to offer a quieter and more comfortable ride after Toyota listened to customer feedback.
Noise levels when the powertrain is pushed hard has been reduced and the introduction of features such as redesigned engine amounts, new front driveshafts, along with a new sub-silencer on the exhaust system have all played their part in refining the car.
Another area Toyota has examined closely is safety and as a result the company's Safety Sense systems are now fitted as standard to all models. This package introduces pre-collision with autonomous emergency braking, automatic high beam assist, lane departure alert and, on higher models, road sign assist.
We tried a full range of Yaris models on the flat roads around Amsterdam and they all lived up to high expectations.
First up was the 1.5-litre petrol model with six-speed manual transmission in Bi-Tone trim. This car was priced at £17,595 and could reach from 0-62mph in 11.0 seconds, maxed out at 109mph, could deliver combined fuel economy of 58.9mpg with carbon emissions of 109g/km (on 15-inch wheels).
This first thing to grab your attention is how very dapper the Bi-Tone styling looks. It has a very market appearance with its contrasting roof and body colours. The stylish design is also carried over into the cabin where the test car featured plenty of smart blue trim and stitching. It helps to give the Yaris a very premium feel.
The on-board technology is plentiful and simple to use. And the engine on the test model delivered all the power you could wish for with ample zip to overtake. The gear shifts are smooth and the all-round visibility is excellent. That said; the positioning of the sat nav screen on the left-hand-drive cars was not ideal as the glare from the sun made it impossible to read. However, I'm informed that on RHD models, the screen will be better positioned to eradicate such issues.
Next up was the 1.0-litre petrol option with five-speed manual transmission in Icon trim priced at £14,495. This model could complete the 0-62mph dash in 15.3 seconds, topped out at 96mph and had combined economy of 65.7mpg with emissions of 99g/km.
Despite the slightly slower performance stats, this car was really good fun to drive and would be ideal for anyone who wants to whizz around town. Unfortunately, it's not available in Bi-tone trim but it still boasts plenty of plus points.
Finally we tried the improved hybrid Yaris and with Toyota aiming to increase the hybrid mix from 33 per cent to 40 per cent, this car is a big test for the company. This model, once again in Bi-Tone trim, was priced at £19,845 and could reach 62mph from a standing start in 11.8 seconds with a top speed of 103mph. Combined fuel economy is 85.6mpg with emissions of 75g/km (on 15-inch wheels).
The car features a CVT automatic transmission and although it wasn't tested on any steep climbs, there was ample power and acceleration at all times. And the company's improvements in refining the noise and vibration levels was noticeable too as even when pushed hard, the hybrid remained nicely composed.
All in all, the latest Yaris is still the great car that has made it such a firm favourite across Europe. It has simply got better. It is on sale now and, as is the Toyota way, all vehicles come with a five year/100,000-mile warranty as standard.
To the delight of thrill seekers out there, the Yaris range will be extended later this year when a high performance version is introduced.
The Yaris GRMN is inspired and influenced by Toyota's return to the World Rally Championship this year. The car will sit in the hot hatch segment and will be powered by a 1.8-litre 205bhp engine with the suspension, brakes, chassis and steering all performance tuned. It will be a car for the elite few but will crank up the Yaris street cred no end.