It’s 15 years this year since Toyota shook-up the European supermini sector by introducing the Yaris. Built on the simple principle of being ‘compact outside, spacious inside’, the chic Yaris was a hit from day one. In the years that have followed, its racked-up over 425,000 sales in the UK alone, and almost 2.5 million throughout Europe. We take a look at 15 of the car’s highlights from 15 years at the top.
1. Yaris sales begin in 1999
Launched on April 8 1999 in four grades, S, GS, GLS and CDX, Yaris replaced the enduring popular Starlet. The range started at £7,495 for the S, which was only available as a three-door, and rose to £10,995 for the plush, five-door only CDX (pictured).
2. Yaris becomes first car to be named European and Japanese Car of the Year in same year
It wasn’t long before the talented Yaris caught the attention of automotive industry experts, and in 1999, it made motoring history by becoming the first model to be named both European and Japanese Car of the Year concurrently.
3. Yaris Verso arrives
In 2000, the prayers of buyers wanting more space were answered, with the arrival of the Yaris Verso. The tall model was equipped with rear seats that could fold flat to provide a load space of up to 2,160 litres – more than its closest rival, the externally larger Renault Scenic.
4. 2000 Geneva Motor Show sees Yaris Cabrio Concept unveiled
We saw Yaris’ playful side in 2000, when the Yaris Cabrio Concept was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show. It never reached production, but its youth-orientated nature manifest itself in the Yaris range through a series of funky special editions.
5. Yaris ushers in T Sport range
Two years after Yaris was launched, the line-up was bolstered by the arrival of the warm T Sport model. It was the first Toyota to wear the T Sport badge, and was powered by a 1.5-litre VVT-i petrol engine; it put out 105bhp, did 0-62mph in 9.0 seconds, and had a maximum speed of 118mph. Economy was an impressive 40.9mpg on the combined cycle. A beefy body kit ensured that it looked good too!
6. Land’s End to John O’ Groats averaging 116 mpg
In 2002, driving instructor John Gough of Gloucester achieved 116.1mpg in a fuel economy run from Land’s End to John O’ Groats in a Yaris 1.4-litre D-4D. The 881.8 miles journey cost just over £25, and John maintained an average speed of 35-40mph.
7. The Yaris cop car
It might not seem the most obvious choice for a police car, but back in 2005, Yaris became just that when St Leonards Motors Toyota in Bexhill prodvided the village’s dedicated Police Community Support Officer Sharon Eldridge with a Yaris 1.4 diesel to help her manage her parish patch.
8. Safety first
The first-generation Yaris (1999 – 2005) was the safest car in its class at launch, and the second-generation (2005 – 2011) followed in its predecessor’s footsteps, gaining a five star crash test rating from EURO NCAP. By the time the current-generation model was launched in 2011, the test had become even more stringent, but the car still achieved the maximum five stars, and the highest possible raw mark.
9. The hot Yaris SR 1.8 bursts on the scene
Toyota turned up the heat on the second-generation Yaris in 2007 by introducing a hot ‘SR 1.8’ model, which had a 1.8-litre Dual VVT-i petrol engine under the hood. It boasted 131bhp and a healthy 173Nm of torque. Visually, the car was striking, and featured unique LED tailights, 17-inch alloy wheels, and a full body kit. Lowered suspension gave a firmer, sportier ride, and Vehicle Stability Control and Traction Control were fitted as standard, keeping the extra power in check.
10. Yaris GT-S Club Racer
In 2010, a Yaris took pride of place at the SEMA show in Las Vegas when SportsCar Magazine created the Yaris GT-S Club Racer by stripping out a five-door model, and equipping it with a carbon fibre bonnet and hatch. Power from the 1.5-litre VVT-i engine was upped to 145bhp (from 106), and the car was raced in the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) competition that same year, where it took a double class victory.
11. Two million and counting
Yaris celebrated a milestone in October 2011, when the two millionth Yaris in Europe rolled off the line at the Valenciennes factory in northern France. The milestone was reached in the same year that Toyota Motor Manufacturing France celebrated its 10th anniversary, and only five years since the one millionth Yaris left the line.
12. Yaris takes on the Clydebank to Monte Carlo rally
At the very start of 2012, Helensburgh Toyota provided reporter Andrew Gibson and photographer Stewart Robertson from the Clydebank Post with a Yaris to take part in the grueling Monte Carlo rally in aid of Help for Heroes. The car was wrapped in Camo print, and completing the 1,300 mile race helped the pair raise £4,079.
13. Yaris Hybrid arrives
Yaris furthered its reputation as an innovator in 2012, when the Yaris Hybrid was launched; making the model the only car in its class to offer a choice of petrol, diesel and full hybrid powertrains. Using a specially downsized version of Hybrid Synergy Drive, Yaris Hybrid has the same load space as petrol and diesel-powered variants, and returns up to 80.7 combined mpg.
14. Yaris Hybrid-R
Jaws dropped at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show when we unveiled the Yaris Hybrid-R Concept. Sporting a dramatic black, white, and blue front-end, pumped-up body kit and two-tone, multi-spoke alloy wheels, Yaris Hybrid-R set pulses racing. Underneath the skin is a 420bhp turbocharged petrol-electric powertrain. The concept previews future hybrid technologies for Toyota.
15. The new Yaris
The popularity of the Yaris is set to continue, thanks to a series of revisions this summer, including refreshed styling, an improved interior and better vehicle dynamics. Full details will follow soon – here’s to another 15 years of success!
You can find out more about the Yaris range on the designated section of the Toyota UK website. If you would like to take a test drive, leave a comment below, and we’ll be in touch shortly.