The multiple award-winning and ever-popular Yaris nameplate has reached 10 million cumulative global sales, joining the ranks of perennially well-received models in Toyota’s stable including Corolla, Camry, RAV4, Hilux and Land Cruiser to achieve the notable eight-figure milestone.
The Yaris has been a class-leading benchmark for innovation, and a pioneer for introducing new technologies and concepts to the compact segment, for almost a quarter of a century during which it has been one of Toyota’s consistently best-selling models in Europe.
The current generation Yaris has proven its adaptability to customers’ needs with the Yaris family growing to include the widely acclaimed GR Yaris pure performance sports car in 2020 and the high-riding urban crossover SUV, the Yaris Cross in 2021.
By the end of February 2023, cumulative sales of the Yaris family in Europe have reached 5,155,506 units since the first generation Yaris was launched in 1999. In 2022, sales of the Yaris family represented over one-third of Toyota’s total sales in Europe with 185,781 Yaris, 156,086 Yaris Cross and 5,392 GR Yaris, accounting for 8% of the total segment.
Yaris is a true global Toyota model with manufacturing sites around the world. Initial Yaris production started in January 1999 at the Takaoka Plant in Aichi, Japan. Today, the Yaris has production bases in 10 countries: Japan, Brazil, China, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Thailand, France and Czech Republic.
In Europe, Toyota Motor Manufacturing France (TMMF) has produced the Yaris since 2001 and the Yaris Cross since 2021, the same year that Toyota Motor Manufacturing Czech Republic (TMMCZ) in Kolin also started Yaris production to cater for the increasing demand for the model in Europe. Cumulative European production of the Yaris family reached over 4.6 million by the end of 2022.
Key components within the Yaris, such as the petrol and hybrid electric engines and transmissions are also locally produced, at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Poland (TMMP), which supplies both TMMF and TMMCZ.
As part of its mission to provide stylish, practical mobility for the demands of modern life, the Yaris has an enviable history of innovation in safety, efficiency and performance, driving an enduring allure for customers.
The first generation Yaris won the coveted Car of the Year title in 2000, the first Toyota model ever to earn that accolade, complementing the Japanese Car of the Year in the same year awarded to the Toyota Vitz, the name of the model in Japan. Every subsequent generation of Yaris has been short-listed for Car of the Year and, in 2021, the current generation became the first nameplate to achieve a second Car of the Year title in the 21st Century.
First Generation – Piccolo Genio a.k.a. Little Genius
In the late 1990s, Toyota wanted to develop a new compact car for global use in the 21st Century. The brand-new model was set to build upon the footsteps of the highly regarded Toyota Starlet supermini, a tough act to follow. To achieve this, the model had to adopt a modern appearance and feature the latest technologies, offering a preview of motoring in the next millennium by re-writing the rulebook for small cars with its revolutionary “big-small” design.
The world got its first glimpse of Toyota’s vision with an all-new concept, the Toyota Funtime, at the 1997 Frankfurt Motor Show, part of the “Fun” project of concept models to showcase the versatility of shared platform engineering. The concept car was styled at Toyota’s European Office of Creation (EPOC) in Brussels, Belgium.
A year later, the new production Toyota Yaris made its debut at the Paris Motor Show. The exterior was styled at EPOC—which would soon become Toyota European Design Development (ED2)—while the interior design was a collaboration between Europe and Japan. The first generation Yaris was stylish, characterful and purposefully European in flavour, with a relatively tall, spacious and organically shaped body built around the central design concept of the human dimension.
Although the external dimensions were pleasingly compact, inside the supermini Yaris boasted a comfortable and practical interior which exceeded the space offered in many larger vehicles, with generous headroom and flexible seating to maximise storage.
Clever, minimalist packaging and appealing aesthetics came without any compromise on safety, with the first Yaris becoming the safest car in its segment according to Euro NCAP ratings, setting a trend which continues to this day.
Powering the innovative first generation Yaris was an advanced and efficient 1.0-litre petrol engine—nicknamed “Mighty Atom” for its ability to deliver power equivalent to a traditional 1.4-litre engine—which achieved a punchy 68 DIN hp and earned the inaugural 1999 International Engine of the Year award.
The Yaris forever wrote itself into Toyota’s history when it was awarded the 2000 Car of the Year, the first Toyota model ever to win the prestigious award by a jury of European automotive journalists. The jury praised the first generation Yaris’ looks both inside and out, as well as the versatility of the cosy cabin. The Yaris’ 1.0-litre engine was also acclaimed for its brilliance and efficiency, with the jury saying it is the best 1.0-litre engine money can buy. A second engine option was introduced later in the year, offering customers of the high-spec five-door model a 1.3-litre VVT-i unit delivering 87 DIN hp.
In 2001, the Yaris helped launch the T-Sport performance brand in Europe. The three door Yaris T-Sport was equipped with a powerful 1.5-litre VVT-i engine delivering 106 DIN hp at 6,000 rpm, and featured a performance-tuned chassis, strengthened bodyshell and a sporty interior. The class-leading hot hatch was quicker from 0-100 kph than most 1.6-litre competitors at time at 9.0 seconds, and faster in the mid-range from 60 to 100 kph (8.4 seconds) than any comparable competitors. The success of the Yaris T-Sport set the foundations for performance versions to be included in the line-up of every Yaris generation since.
With the introduction of a 1.4-litre D-4D diesel engine in 2002, which saw Toyota become the first manufacturer in the world to produce a diesel engine entirely of aluminium, the powertrain choice for the Yaris range was complete.
The Yaris quickly became a favourite with customers across Europe, who found it a practical, fun and fashionable solution to the demands of everyday urban life and a reliable partner for longer distances, emphasised by worldwide sales of over 1.2 million units of the first generation.
The innovative and amicable character of the first generation Yaris is perhaps best summed up by the tagline used by Toyota in a highly successful advertising campaign in Italy which affectionately nicknamed the new car “piccolo genio” or “little genius”.
A Car with Many Names
Apart from affectionate nicknames, the Yaris has been known by different names around the world. The now well-known Yaris name is derived from “Charis”, the singular form of Charites, the Greek goddesses of charm, beauty, nature, human creativity, goodwill and fertility.
Since the model’s debut in Japan in 1999 until the launch of the current generation, the model was marketed as Vitz. Depending on variant and region, the model has also been known as the Toyota Platz, Echo, Belta, Vios and Scion iA. It has also been marketed as the Daihatsu Charade and Mazda2 in certain markets.
The 10 million cumulative sales milestone considers only the Yaris, Vitz, Yaris Cross and GR Yaris nameplates.
Second Generation – Five-Star Performer
The Yaris grew up with its second generation, launched in Europe for 2005. The car’s reputation for clever packaging for optimal interior space and comfort, combined with advanced technology for safety and performance, was enhanced, while the user experience became more refined.
A “big car thinking” approach and larger dimensions all round made the second generation roomier than ever, delivering space to rival cars from the larger C-segment, thanks to a flat rear floor which allowed three adults to sit comfortably in the back where each 60:40 section can slide and recline to deliver an impressive 880 mm legroom for rear passengers.
A best-in-class 737 litres of load space was achieved in part via Toyota’s convenient Easy Flat system, which created a flat-floored area by quickly and easily folding down the rear seats. An obsessive attention to detail and passenger comfort included fine-tuning the sound of the doors closing and delivering 18.2 litres of storage capacity within the dashboard alone.
Performance and efficiency were enhanced as well as driving dynamics and ride comfort, aided by an aerodynamically efficient body with a low drag coefficient of 0.30.
An enviable history of setting higher safety standards was extended with a five-star Euro NCAP rating for occupant protection, the first time for a Yaris. That peace of mind came thanks to Toyota’s advanced Minimal Intrusion Cabin System and up to nine air bags installed throughout the cabin, including a driver’s knee airbag; a milestone for a car of the Yaris’ size.
The second generation Yaris was offered in three- and five-door styles with a choice of three engines. A new 1.0-litre VVT-i petrol powerplant delivered economy and performance while remaining lightweight, producing class-leading power (69 DIN hp) and torque (93 Nm). The 1.3-litre VVT-i unit carried over from the previous generation remained popular with low-end torque and high-end power improved for a sporty yet smooth feel. The 1.4-litre D-4D diesel engine had evolved and now produced 90 DIN hp at 3,600 rpm.
As the Yaris continually gained popularity among drivers of all ages, clamour for a sportier option was met by the Yaris TS. This new sports hatchback variant was launched at the 2006 Paris Motor Show and equipped with a new 132 DIN hp 1.8 litre Dual VVT-i engine with a top speed of 194 km/h, sports suspension and sports styling, including rear spoiler and side skirts.
With environmental awareness on the rise, customer demand for smaller, more efficient cars was accelerating in Europe. The Yaris led the way by combining dashing urban good looks with engineering innovation. Toyota Optimal Drive technology was introduced in 2009, bringing fuel efficiency and emissions improvements without compromising the Yaris’ famously nimble performance.
Third Generation – Hello Hybrid
A pioneering spirit characterises all Yaris models and, in 2012, the third generation revolutionised the supermini market by introducing a full hybrid option and becoming the most technically advanced Yaris yet.
Three years of development were dedicated to comprehensively revising the Hybrid Synergy Drive, including redesigning around 70% of engine parts, to make it Toyota’s lightest and most compact hybrid system, without compromise on performance, interior comfort or load space.
As the first full hybrid vehicle in the B-segment—yet another first for the ground-breaking nameplate—the Yaris became symbolic of Toyota’s dedication to make the hybrid benefits of efficiency and stress-free driving accessible to an ever-growing number of customers, and the company’s commitment to introduce full hybrids across its model range.
Thanks to state-of-the-art exhaust gas recirculation technology and an electric water pump, hybrid power in the Yaris brought best-in-class performance and fuel efficiency from the 100 DIN hp system, as well as the ability to drive in full electric mode for the first time, without tailpipe emissions.
Not only was the third generation Yaris a ground-breaking technical step forward, it also set a benchmark in stylish, sophisticated exterior design, with bold colour choices and an aerodynamically optimised body shape, which achieved a class-leading drag co-efficient of 0.287.
In 2017, Toyota European Design and Development and engineering teams in Europe took a lead role in a global €90 million project to update the third generation Yaris, which saw the introduction of more than 900 new parts to improve design, dynamic performance and safety.
Building on another five-star Euro NCAP rating, Toyota Safety Sense technologies were introduced across the range as part of the facelift, proving once again that safety comes as standard with Yaris, while a fresh look, featuring changes to the front and rear styling and created at Toyota’s ED2 design studio also made its debut.
Toyota’s return to the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) in 2017 under Toyota GAZOO Racing led to the development of the limited-edition Yaris GRMN, the first GRMN (which stands for “GAZOO Racing tuned by the Meister of Nürburgring”) performance Toyota to be built and sold in Europe. The Yaris GRMN’s authentic sportscar quality ensured all 400 units sold out before the car even reached the showroom.
In 2018, the Toyota GAZOO Racing-inspired Yaris GR SPORT was introduced to the range as the first GR SPORT specification model to be launched in Europe. The continued success of the GR SPORT grade has seen the sport performance-inspired specification introduced across the Toyota range in Europe including Yaris, Yaris Cross, Corolla, C-HR, RAV4 and Hilux.
Fourth Generation – Dynamic Performance and Safety
The fourth generation Yaris, launched in 2020, was engineered to be the world’s safest compact car, thanks to Advanced Driver Assist systems (ADAS) being provided as standard. It was also the first model to be known globally as Yaris.
A return to the “big-small” concept created an even more dynamic appearance, shorter, wider and lower than the previous model, with powerful exterior design expressing the agility and compactness required to negotiate city driving and parking, while retaining interior space and comfort.
A key element to achieving greater ambitions for the fourth generation was the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) GA-B platform. Yaris became the first compact car to be built on this modular platform which enhanced dynamic performance and improved ride and handling, via a low centre of gravity and high-rigidity body.
The GA-B platform also contributed to an eye-catching design, styled on the stance of a sprinter in the starting blocks. A wider, lower and more compact appearance, and lower seating position for the driver, created a “condensed and agile” look from an energetic, dynamic car always ready to go.
Overall drivetrain efficiency was increased by 22% at no cost to performance, which benefited from a 16% improvement, to a total system output of 116 DIN hp. A more engaging drive came via sharper throttle response which contributed to a 15% reduction in 0-100 km/h time, now standing at a brisk 9.7 seconds.
The latest generation of hybrid technology was optimised for weight, performance and efficiency, which transformed Yaris’ EV driving capabilities. The serenity of an all-electric drive could be enjoyed at speeds up to 130 km/h while enhanced hybrid power delivered improved acceleration at low speeds and on the highway, with more linear acceleration creating a stronger fun-to-drive sensation.
The fourth generation Yaris was again Toyota’s most popular model in Europe and became the best-selling model in the region for the first time, thanks to its modern combination of compact, well-equipped urban chic and the lowest fuel consumption in class.
Just over two decades since the Yaris won the first Car of the Year for Toyota, the fourth generation Yaris was voted 2021 Car of the Year by the jury of 59 European automotive journalists. The jury praised Yaris’ hybrid technology for its smooth driving, low emissions and accessible price point – illustrating why more than 80% of Yaris buyers choose the hybrid powertrain. The Yaris was also recognised for its design, dynamic performance, and class-leading safety.
In 2022, the new Yaris GR SPORT, based on the fourth generation Yaris, went on sale in Europe with the exclusive, new Dynamic Grey exterior colour and bi-tone black accenting. New bespoke 18-inch wheels with machined red accent line segments reinforce the GAZOO Racing lineage and the front grille receives a brand new mesh design which features a distinct “G” motif pattern. The Yaris GR SPORT also features suspension tuning and enhanced body rigidity for a more responsive, comfortable and engaging experience.
GR Yaris – Award-Winning Sportscar
Following in the wheel tracks of the successful Yaris GRMN and first Yaris GR SPORT came the first original GAZOO Racing pure performance sports car, the GR Yaris, in 2020.
This road-going sports car was inspired by success with the Yaris World Rally Car, which earned the Toyota GAZOO Racing World Rally Team one manufacturers’ title and two drivers’ and co-drivers’ titles at the time of the model’s release. It maintained the nameplate’s role as a pathfinder for innovative technologies and received unprecedented acclaim, becoming an instant modern classic.
The GR Yaris was developed directly from Toyota’s rally experience on a unique platform, combining the new GA-B and a rear section adapted from the GA-C platform. It incorporates lightweight aluminium body panels and a forged carbon composite roof alongside weight-saving in parts throughout the car.
At its heart is the world’s most powerful three-cylinder engine, also the smallest and lightest 1.6-litre turbo. Producing 261 DIN hp and 360 Nm of torque, it launches the GR Yaris from rest to 100 km/h in just 5.5 seconds, and on to an electronically limited top speed of 230 km/h.
A kerb weight of just 1,280 kg gives the GR Yaris an excellent weight-to-power ratio of 4.9 kg per 1 DIN hp distributed via the permanent, electronically controlled all-wheel drive GR-FOUR system. That potent combination ensured the limited production of 25,000 units were rapidly sold out to eager enthusiasts keen to experience the most extreme Yaris ever created.
The GR Yaris is also at the vanguard of Toyota’s quest for a carbon neutral future, for production cars and motorsport. Illustrating the company’s ongoing commitment to investing in new and varied powertrain technology, a development GR Yaris H2, featuring a hydrogen-powered combustion engine with almost zero tailpipe emissions, made its European debut in August 2021. Toyota Motor Corporation President Akio Toyoda, co-driven by rally legend Juha Kankkunen, completed exhibition runs at the Ypres Rally in Belgium.
With the change in regulations in the World Rally Championship, Toyota GAZOO Racing introduced the GR Yaris Rally1, based on the road going model, for the 2022 season.
To date, Toyota GAZOO Racing World Rally Team has achieved an impressive three manufacturers’ and four drivers’ and co-drivers’ titles, bringing Toyota’s total tally in the World Rally Championship to six manufactures’ titles.
Yaris Cross – An Authentic SUV
Launched in 2021, the Yaris Cross brought together Toyota’s rich experience and know-how in small cars with its heritage of innovative SUV design and engineering to create an all-new model, perfectly suited to daily use but offering adventure and a fun-to-drive spirit.
Powerful styling expresses robustness and agility in a body that’s compact, giving easy manoeuvrability suitable for urban life, while allowing for an interior with plenty of comfort and generous load capacity, following the established Yaris “big-small” philosophy.
Yaris Cross delivers genuine SUV performance with Toyota’s proven Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system that deploys an additional, independent electric motor on the rear axle to provide extra grip and stability when pulling away and cornering, and more confidence on slippery surfaces.
The compact and lightweight AWD-i system design minimises the impact on fuel and emissions efficiency. Class-leading performance for a B-segment SUV with AWD helped it become one of Toyota’s best sellers in Europe.
Shortly after launch, the Yaris Cross cemented its pedigree in the multiple award-winning Yaris family when it was named the 2022 World Urban Car by organisers of the World Car Awards, selected by a 102-member strong jury of international journalists representing 33 countries.
Designed in Europe
From the very first generation, the European design team has left its mark on the Yaris, initially via EPOC in Brussels and, later at ED2 after its relocation to larger premises on the French Riviera, close to Nice, where it has operated since 2000.
That was a clear statement which further strengthened Toyota’s European design development capabilities, after it set out ambitious production and sales plans for the region. As part of the Global Toyota design network, ED2 keeps its finger on the pulse of European taste, customs, values and trends, and the Yaris has been inspired by these insights throughout its rich history.
ED2 shares design responsibilities with design centres in Japan, depending on the generation and model. As with the first generation, the exterior of the second generation Yaris in 2006 originated from ED2, whilst the centre had a hand in the two facelifts of the third generation. For the fourth generation Yaris, ED2 was tasked with the Colour, Material & Finishing (CMF) while the Yaris Cross gave designers expanded responsibilities to cover not only CMF, but the exterior design too, with production design being managed in Japan.
Built in Europe
Anticipating the popularity of the first generation Yaris, in October 1998 Toyota broke ground on a new high-tech manufacturing facility in Valenciennes, France to supplement Yaris production from the Takaoka Plant. From the outset, TMMF has been designed to be a ‘green, clean and lean factory of the 21st Century’. Its size is 30% more compact versus a typical automotive plant of that time, giving it a head start to dramatically cut energy and emissions. In some workshops, the storage areas are as much as 10 times more compact compared to automotive industry standards for plants with similar production output.
TMMF went live in January 2001 with an initial annual production capacity of 150,000 units. By 2022, annual production figures had grown to reach 255,584 units, making the plant the largest automotive production site in France by volume. The same year, the Yaris Cross became the most produced single model amongst all brands in France for the first time with 161,508 units produced, dethroning its sibling Yaris which had topped the list seven times in the past 10 years.
The plant now employs 5,000 people and has made a total cumulative investment of 1.5 billion euros. This includes the required capital investments for each new generation and model as well as significant resources committed to continuously improving the company’s environmental performance. Only a few years into its existence, part of the roof had been covered with photovoltaic panels and a 400m² solar wall had been installed.
Since 2019, the site uses 100% renewable electricity and, since 2012, two on-site basins, with a combined volume of 16,000m³, mean it can now be fully autonomous in industrial water. The majority comes from rainwater collected from those basins whilst the remaining amount is recycled from the plant’s waste water which is pre-treated to meet the required standards before use in the production process.
Over the past 20 years, TMMF has successfully reduced the energy required to produce a Yaris by 59%, which has earned it internal recognition as a global leader within Toyota. Adding to these achievements is the recent installation of a new paint line in the Plastics shop, a Toyota global first, that is expected to deliver annual savings of 1,000 tonnes of CO2. TMMF has set itself the goal to be carbon neutral as of 2030 and be zero emissions by 2040.
The milestone 10 millionth car–a Yaris GR SPORT in Dynamic Grey–rolled off the production lines in TMMF on March 30 like so many Yaris before it and has been delivered to a French customer from the Paris region.