Toyota Ist 2008 Review

Toyota Ist 2008 Review

The Toyota Ist is based on the Yaris, but feels roomier. It’s a subcompact that comes with a 1.3 or 1.5-litre VVTi engine producing 65 and 81bhp respectively that drives the wheels through a 4-speed automatic.

But if you’re buying the Ist, you probably won’t care much about power specifications because the market is targeted squarely at urban mums, younger women wanting a practical small car and the older generation, and therefore this review is not going to mention handling or acceleration.

The Ist was never imported new into New Zealand, but you can purchase one via Toyota’s Signature Class range, or as an import. The Signature Class vehicle we tested had almost 15,000km on the clock, but felt like a new car.

We did an extensive city and country road test taking it from Auckland out to Cambridge, over to Te Muro, across to Hamilton then back to Auckland. For a short wheelbase car, the ride was very compliant and not at all choppy on the bumpy back roads. As a motorway cruiser it felt fairly stable even in a bit of a crosswind – something that small cars are often bad at.

Visibility, for the most part is good – just be aware of the thicker rear quarter when setting up your mirrors. Seat fatigue set in eventually, which is to be expected in a car of this class which will primarily be used for short trips.
The driving position was excellent, despite not being able to adjust the steering wheel telescopically (it does adjust up and down), Getting in and out was easy, too. The Ist has 5 doors.

In a subcompact the boot is never huge, but the Ist has some tricks. The split rear seats slide forwards and backwards, as well as fold forwards to produce a flat cargo area for larger loads. The boot blind needs a flexible skirt to make it totally effective, but the tinted windows help in concealing anything in the back. Underneath the boot tray there is a molded section (see photos) where you can hide smaller valuables. Underneath that is a space saver spare wheel.

There are a number of small cubby holes in the front, including a good sized double glove box. There is room for three water bottles and two cups in the front, and a water bottle holder is included in each of the rear doors. There’s no central binnacle, as is the norm in a car this size.

Air conditioning controls are easy to access. We didn’t use the stereo as it had no band expander fitted, but there is an audio input for an MP3 player or other auxiliary device.

What looked like an aftermarket parking sensor system was fitted and verbally assaulted us in Japanese if we got any of the four corners too close to another vehicle when parking. Parking itself was reasonably easy as the Ist is short and fits into tight spaces. The thick rear quarter made using the mirrors more important.

The keyless entry system works flawlessly. Keep the key fob in your pocket and as soon as you put your hand behind the handle the Ist unlocks and you can gain entry easily. It’s a push button start, and when you want to leave the car, rather than pressing a button on the keyfob, you press it on the driver’s door handle. It’s a very convenient system.

The dashboard layout could be better. The speedo is oriented to make it difficult to see 50kph without keeping on glancing down. The rev counter has a silver sticker to blank out the needle mechanism, and this looks a bit naff. A trip computer is included which gives you kilometers to empty, average fuel economy, instant fuel economy, two independent trip counters and the outside temperature.

Fuel economy was OK. An Eco light appears when you’re cruising or using barely any throttle. It wasn’t a stellar fuel economy performance compared to the modern diesels, but for a car in this class it was adequate.

Overall the Ist performed well. The seats aren’t comfortable enough for road warriors, but that’s not the market. If your requirements are a moderately frugal, easy-to-park, practical city car then the Ist will deliver competently.


  • Competent city car
  • Flexible luggage options are excellent, and give plenty of room for rear
  • Comfortable ride for a smaller car
  • Excellent keyless entry system


  • It’s personal taste, but we don’t like the looks that much
  • Speedo orientation makes it difficult to see 50kph around town

Price: depends on year, grade and kilometers driven

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

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