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Yaris facelift is muchmore than skin deep 

TOYOTA gave its Yaris a facelift last summer but the improvements go much further than what you would normally describe as some minor tinkering.

I spent some time with one of the supermini models recently and thought it was a striking improvement on its predecessor.

That’s not surprising though.

Despite describing it as a facelift, the 2014 Yaris was a major milestone for Toyota in Europe.

It was the first time their Brussels-based product planning and research and development departments and the European design studio near Nice had worked together on new designs and platforms that would be adopted for Toyota models wordwide.

The Yaris gets a new distinctive look, especially face on with its dynamic X-shaped front – similar to the Aygo’s.

It does look pretty cute with the Toyota emblem at the centre of the narrow upper and large trapezoidal grilles with a thin chrome bar linking the new headlamps cluster.

The floating spoiler at the bottom also gives it a ground-hugging stance.

Other exterior changes include 15 and 16-inch alloys and at the rear new lamp clusters and bumper design with integral diffuser.

Step inside and you will discover the interior has had a lot of work put into it as well.

It feels roomy with lots of space for driver and front passenger, and legroom for rear passen-gers is good.

An all-new dash incorporates bright, clear instruments with surrounds and seating of much higher quality.

Boot space is adequate and average for this size of car at 286 litres, expanding to 768 litres with the split rear seat folded.

There are four trim levels – Active, Icon, Sport and Excel.

Engines have all been improved for better fuel economy, emissions, noise and vibrations, and choices are 1-litre and 1.33-litre petrol, 1.4-litre diesel and a hybrid with a 1.5-litre petrol engine and electric motor.

The test car was a middle-of-the-range Icon powered by what proved to be a very sprightly 98bhp 1.33-litre engine.

Thanks to even further improvements – stiffer body shell, new suspension and electric power steering upgrade – I discovered the Yaris was a super little car to drive.

It’s not a hot hatch so an 11.7 seconds time to reach 62mph is quick enough in a model capable of 109mph.

Steering was light and precise and with its improved road holding, I enjoyed the feel of it on some minor, winding roads.

The short gear stick worked well, going up and down the six-speed manual gearbox, and you also notice a big improvement on engine, road and wind noise when driving at motorway speeds.

It was equally at home in town driving and fuel economy is excellent with figures of 57.6mpg combined, 44.1mpg urban and 68.9 extra urban.

The Icon spec level is pretty impressive and includes 15-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, heated door mirrors, rear-view camera, follow-me-home headlights, air conditioning, Toyota Touch 2 with touchscreen and Bluetooth.

A new range of options and options packs include panoramic roof, LED daytime running lights and rear lamps, rear privacy glass and multimedia system with navigation.

With prices starting at £10,995 on the road, I reckon the Yaris offers excellent value with the £14,095 test car proving to be a popular choice.

The Yaris first appeared on UK roads back in 1999 and continues to be a key player for Toyota in the ever-growing supermini B segment.