Toyota Yaris I is the car that gave birth to the self-powered transportation for ladies and gents who want a simple, yet good car to take them from the mall parking lot to the next mall parking lot.

Except the Toyota Yaris I started out as a curiosity rather than a star in the supermini world. Like the first generation Rav4, the Toyota Yaris I wasn’t the instant success of following generations, but it paved the way for success. In fact, even the interior of the Yaris is very similar to that of the Rav4.


The Toyota Yaris I was an odd car in its day, being neither very reliable nor very cheap, but it still stuck to the brand’s reliability and managed to slip through the automotive world like a student you never see studying, but promoting all the exams with B grades. At least it’s a car that’s easy to drive and not too punishing on running costs. Even if it takes a while to get used to the dials sitting in the middle of the dashboard, you will eventually come to realise that it’s more comfortable to just glance over the middle of the dashboard rather than glancing under the steering wheel.  However, you can see that the Toyota Yaris I wasn’t the most popular car at the time because if you take a look at the car sales platforms you can see that the first generation Yaris doesn’t suffer from the “Toyota tax” and remains at civilized prices of up to 1500 euros. 


Toyota Yaris I Engines


  • 1.0 1SZ-FE of 70 horsepower  – A Daihatsu-derived engine that is mediocre at best. Excessive oil consumption, performance worthy of a gestating snail and few features make the driving experience miserable enough to want to drive something better. Which is great, because the next step is literally a few euros away.
  • 1.3 2SZ-FE / 2NZ-FE of 87 horsepower  – Here starts the genesis of Toyota’s famous 1.33 engine. The first generation, codenamed 2SZ-FE, is the same Daihatsu-branded dubious brother of the 1-liter. Next however came the 2NZ-FE and 8A-FE which are two legendary engines in terms of reliability. They need occasional air sensors, PCV and VVT valves cleaning, but in general it’s hard to find anything more reliable than that. 
  • 1.5 1NZ-FE of 109 horsepower  – Same legendary 1.33 2NZ-FE, upgraded to 1.5 and 109 hp. A faster engine than it sounds, especially in the Toyota Yaris I, but good luck finding this engine.
  • 1.5 1NZ-FE Turbo of 148 horsepower – Too bad we didn’t get legendary Yaris RS in most countries, but oh man, 150 horsepower in an Yaris. It’s basically the same as the 1.5 N/A engine but it’s more prone to oil consumption because most of these engines have been trashed and the previous owners made sure to get the most out of ALL those 150 horsepower. Or more, if they tuned it. Which they prolly did.


1.4 1ND-TV of 90 horsepower – A slightly unfortunate diesel. Well, it’s actually one of the most unfortunate diesel engines in recent Toyota history. Turbo issues, oil consumption issues, headgasket issues and other engine stuff. To be avoided. Especially when you have those reliable, fuel-efficient petrol engine alternatives. The diesel engine is just not worth it on the Yaris.


Toyota Yaris I General issues

  • The Freetronic multimatic automatic transmission doesn’t relieve you of anything but money and will give you plenty of time spent in service so that you may reflect on what you’ve purchased. There are 2 other automatics available on this generation Yaris, which is a 4 speed classic Aisin automatic which is good, and there is an CVT which is Japan exclusive and I don’t approve CVTs in general. So make sure to ask what automatic gearbox the Yaris has.
  • Weak suspension (except for the RS and TRD models which have sport suspension), starting with anti-roll bars, bushings, and suspension arms. Normally this would be a concern in a country with bad roads, but on UK’s pristine roads, you should be safe and stress-free. And if the suspension is not put to work, it will rust, another weak point for the Toyota Yaris I.
  • The radiator is sitting lower than my self-esteem so it can pick up stones and break. Like the suspension, this issue is only true in countries with bad roads, not the UK.


Toyota Yaris I verdict

The fact that you still see these boxes on the road is a testament to their reliability. And I say box because if you still want a cheap car to get you around, you have the Opel Astra G. Yes, it’s not as reliable, but it’s roomier. However, the only logical use for the Toyota Yaris I is in town, used by beginners and people who couldn’t care less about driving. It’s small, it’s reliable, it’s easy to drive, it’s fuel efficient and you won’t complain too much if you hit a kerb or a pole in the parking lot.


Which engine do I recommend? Clearly, the 1.33 petrol ( not 2SZ-FE) with a manual gearbox. It’s the only engine worth it.