View 6 images in this gallery.

Yaris has always been a firm favourite with Irish buyers - we test the new version.

Yaris has always been a firm favourite with Irish buyers – we test the new version.

The Toyota Starlet replacement was a big leap forward when it was launched back in 1999. At the time, Starlet was the smallest Toyota you could buy, and it was truly an institution. Adored by more mature owners – or to quote the stereotype 'The Blue-Rinse Brigade' - you'd be guaranteed to see Starlets parked outside bingo halls and churches.

Yaris was an all-new take on the supermini - it even had a digital speedometer! Sadly for some, the digital speedometer is now gone in the latest 'third generation' Yaris on test.

Outside, Yaris is now lower and longer (+100mm) and has been given a more conventional look that will deliver a broader appeal. The front end is particularly well-designed and makes the car look more purposeful and squat on the road. To describe it as a Toyota Auris that has shrunk does Yaris a disservice. The exterior has quite a few design details that will please buyers.

Inside, there is more passenger space thanks to a slightly longer wheelbase. Shoulder room up front is excellent and there is a big car feel to the cabin space. As for party tricks, the latest Toyota touchscreen stereo with Bluetooth is fitted (on Luna and Sol grades). The unit sits in the middle of a dashboard that is not angled towards the driver. If you have your lights on in daylight you need to set the display to the 'Day' setting in order to see the controls at a glance.

The interior is best described as functional and by this I mean the interior space is maximised so there are a lot of right angles i.e. doors to dashboard trim. It is far from class leading in terms of perceived quality, but it works. Inside is very roomy for a supermini.

Under the bonnet there are three (tax band 'A') engine options: one diesel 1.4-litre D4D and two petrol units with either a 1-litre or 1.33-litre capacity. My Luna test car uses the entry engine namely the three-cylinder 1-litre. It pushes out 68bhp through a five-speed gearbox. This unit is fun to drive plus the suspension and steering have been set up for Europe. Steering is light, and Yaris can turn very tightly when needed. In my Luna trimmed car I even have a reversing camera!

Like all three-cylinder engines, it is very keen to rev and from a standing start you'll easily get into that parking space at the bingo hall ahead of the crowd. It's nippy and frugal too, with 59mpg possible in the 1-litre. Yaris even manages motorway work pretty well for a supermini and while you'd expect to hear the engine buzzing loudly at 120kph you don't; but you will hear road noise above it.

Yaris is safe, too, having scored a maximum 5 Stars at Euro NCAP crash tests. Vehicle stability control (VSC) is standard as are seven airbags including a first-in-class knee bag. A hybrid version is on the way.

Toyota is one of Ireland's favourite carmakers – unlike the rest of Europe where it has to date failed to make such an impression. Toyota will, for the foreseeable future, continue to be number one or two in the Irish market. You cannot ignore excellent rivals like VW Polo, Kia Rio, Ford Fiesta etc., but in Ireland particularly, Yaris is clearly a sound investment. Prices start at €14,995.

Michael Sheridan