Driving instructor: Yaris is ‘L’ of a car for new drivers

Driving Instructor Toyota Yaris

When driving instructor Tracey Bradshaw decided to switch from a manual to an automatic car, little did she know what a great decision she had made.

“I’ve been a driving instructor since 2003,” said the 54-year-old from Newcastle upon Tyne who runs Freedom Automatic Driving School. After 15 years I was diagnosed with arthritis and began to get pain in my feet. So I thought I’d try an automatic. Another instructor friend of mine had a hybrid Yaris – he really liked it and I liked the look of it too.”

Driving Instructor Toyota Yaris
Tracey Bradshaw, driving instructor, Newcastle upon Tyne.

“So I ordered one – it’s my first Toyota –  from C & A Cars – a leasing company that specialises in supplying dual-control cars to driving instructors. It’s the 1.5 Icon edition. I wanted a blue one and had to wait nine months for it.

“I instantly found it so easy to drive – I absolutely love it, in all my years of driving, 33, and teaching, 19, it is by far the best car I’ve ever had for both myself and my pupils. For me having the right vehicle is really important as I spend half my life in it. 

Driving Instructor Toyota Yaris
Tracey Bradshaw, driving instructor, Newcastle upon Tyne.

“Also what’s important is the dealership. Stoneacre, are only in Gateshead which is very close – they understand my business – they’re good for getting me in really quickly and let me take the car in really early in the morning so I can keep working – they’re so accommodating. I’ll stay with Toyota now.

“I actually prefer automatics now. Manuals will be a thing of the past and I wouldn’t go back to one.

Tracey Bradshaw, driving instructor, Newcastle upon Tyne.

“Years ago driving automatics was frowned-upon but people are now coming round to them. Ten years ago 95% of students were learning in manuals but now that’s probably dropped to 75%. Historically some nervous drivers were attracted to automatics. I’ve seen a big shift from these anxious and sometimes elderly drivers to young confident drivers who want to drive eco-hybrids and electric cars in the future.

“Here in Newcastle I also get a lot of international students, who have only ever driven automatics. Their international licences are only valid for a year or so – depending on where they’re from.

Tracey Bradshaw, driving instructor, Newcastle upon Tyne.

“One massive benefit to learning to drive in an automatic hybrid is that it’s so much easier. Because of the lack of clutch and gears students have more time to think about roadcraft. This probably also means they need fewer lessons.

“Today’s driving test includes a section of ‘independent driving’ – they can follow road signs or a satnav – so the tech in the Yaris is a great help. Examiners still pretty much expect everything to be done by the book,  but are quite happy for students not to use the handbrake as long as the control of the car is properly maintained, the Yaris’s automatic handbrake and hill assist make this so easy. 

Tracey Bradshaw, driving instructor, Newcastle upon Tyne.

“But I have covered up the speed limit displayed on the dash with some black tape – it’s great to use as a guide but it’s not 100% accurate.

“The reversing camera is absolutely amazing, used correctly it is an excellent addition to safety and makes the accuracy whilst reversing so much easier, I think sometimes my pupils don’t realise how lucky they are learning in such a great car,” explained Tracey.

Student, Layla Hussain. Tracey Bradshaw, driving instructor, Newcastle upon Tyne.

Thirty-three-year-old Layla Hussain is one of Tracey’s students. Her driving test was postponed due to Covid but is now booked for November.

“I wanted to learn in an automatic – lots of my friends have too – they’re the future. Wherever you travel in the world you can always hire an automatic car. The Yaris is a smooth drive – I can’t feel the bumps or hear road noise. It’s comfortable, spacious and cool looking too.” 

Layla nervously added: “I’ll definitely be buying a hybrid Toyota when I’ve passed my test” 


  1. The disadvantage of learning in an automatic is that after passing your test in an automatic you are not licenced to drive a manual gearbox car which can be a serious problem in certain situations. I had a disabled friend with a manual gearbox wheelchair compatible vehicle insured for anyone over 25 WITH A MANUAL LICENCE to drive. On many occasions I drove him around which would not have been possible had I had an automatic-only licence. I have a Toyota Yaris Hybrid and wouldn’t consider going back to a manual car but I’m so glad I learned in a manual car.

    1. Hi John, take your point, but once someone has passed in an automatic & built up real on road experience ie’roadsense’, many people are unaware that you don’t need to sit theory test again,so can take some manual lessons & sit manual test. If you failed that your automatic licence is still valid

  2. Do Toyota really endorse the comment regarding the digital speedometer not being correct and covering it with black tape. The pre 2011 models only had two inch high digital spedo.

    1. Hi Ruth, thanks for your comment.

      The comment you are referring to is regarding the speed limits displayed on the dashboard, not the speedometer.


  3. I have been a driving instructor for 32 years and have been teaching automatic for 7 years.
    I have just replaced my Yaris 2016 Hybrid with the new 2022 Hybrid model and think the Yaris is a great car to teach in and the students think so too.
    Even though there is a lot of technology the driver can use to assist them you can still teach traditional methods to control the car so the student has experience of all methods of reversing and making safe spatial awareness decisions.

    1. Hi Colin, thanks for sharing this with us.

      We wish you many more safe and happy driving lessons.

      Many thanks.

  4. we also use a first edition Yaris and it great car only downside for us is 10,000 service intervals we cover around 30,000 miles a year so 3 services annually when local dealer is 35 minutes away means losing a days work each time ..

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