TOYOTA YARIS SR - SPORTS HATCHBACK FOR THE HEAD AND THE HEART.
IF the market for performance hatchbacks has a problem it is the question of insurance because these cars, and the typical profile of their buyers and users, have a less than sparkling record when it comes to claims.
As a rule of thumb insurers tend to get nervous over cars with more than 150 bhp available to the driver and although there are plenty of very good sports hatchbacks with a lot more than this, there is also a sizeable sector of less powerful cars offering the looks and handling but without the running costs of the more potent versions.
These are not so much hot hatches as warm ones and the benefits are clear - despite looking the part of a performance car, this Yaris SR has an insurance rating of just Group 7.
Toyota has recently joined this market with the SR which comes with a range of engines starting with a little 1.3, going through a 1.4 diesel and up to the car tested here, the 1.8 flagship and I can say that with the exception of one problem, I thought it was a little cracker.
The most obvious change to the SR relative to the rest of the Yaris range is the styling package because there have been some additions that make it a very eye-catching car. There is a deep front bumper unit, 17 inch alloys filling the wheelarches, a little roof spoiler and at the back, LED rear lights and a chromed exhaust tailpipe. Inside the sporting theme continues with a leather covered steering wheel, more supportive seats and amber backlighting of the main instruments at night.
I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that but I really like the SR's looks and think the styling package is just spot-on.
The SR sits slightly lower to the road (by eight mms if you want to know) so it feels a little firmer and the steering is a little sharper in its response (by 12 per cent) by recalibrating the electric power assistance.
The result is a car that delivers the goods when you want that sports feel through the bends but which doesn't have a rock hard ride. It's a good combination that works well.
The only thing I could find to complain about was the speedometer display. This is mounted in a central binnacle rather than ahead of the driver and needs a deliberate turn of the head to read it. That, plus the less than clear numbers on the dial itself, mean it is not always easy to know exactly how fast you are travelling and in a world of speed cameras that is not good. I don't know why Toyota can't fit a digital display instead of, or as well as, the analogue one.
The 1.8 has 131 bhp on tap, enough to make it interesting and the SR feels quite lively but it doesn't guzzle fuel, averaging a very respectable 39 mpg.
Toyota has made a really good package with the SR, a car that looks and feels the part but which is accessible to premium-sensitive younger drivers and which won't break the bank. It's definitely worth a look if you're in this market.
Toyota Yaris SR
Car tested 1.8 five-door £13,575.
0 to 62 9.3 seconds
Top speed 121 mph
Average mpg 39
CO2 170 g/km
Insurance Group 7