First Cars: Toyota Yaris vs Volkswagen Golf

When it comes to buying or leasing a first car, newly-qualified drivers of all ages typically tend to focus on models that are reasonably compact with proven reliability, and engines with just the right amount of power. The Toyota Yaris and Volkswagen Golf are two renowned names that stand out, so how do they compare?

Sassy vs serious

The five-door Toyota Yaris is the smaller of the two hatchbacks and radiates a youthful, fun-loving image thanks to the ‘catamaran’ shape front, edgy lines, swept-back headlights, flowing side profile and contemporary rear light clusters. Looking dynamic and emotive, the 3.94m x 1.69m Yaris’ exterior can be personalised with various styling enhancements and is available in some awesome Bi-Tone colours including Nebula Blue and Yellow Burst.
Volkswagen’s highly respected Golf, which is available in 3-door and 5-door guises, has been around for decades and is synonymous with rock-solid build quality, efficiency, innovation and style. With a footprint of 4.25m x 1.79m and a more linear design, the German radiates understated class and looks the part wherever it goes. From entry-level ‘S’ trim all the way to R-Line and other sporty variants, the Golf’s chiselled lines, modern lights and planted aura make it more desirable than ever.
Conclusion: if carrying passengers isn’t a key requirement, pick the Yaris

Lovable or luxurious

With a happy-go-lucky interior showing off plenty of curves, the fun Yaris is a pleasant and comfortable car with a simultaneously strong emphasis on safety, a real plus for first-time drivers. The Toyota Safety Sense suite comes with automatic high beam, lane departure alert and other features, while automated wipers, electric front windows, heated wing mirrors and Bluetooth take the strain out of driving. Climb the trim tree and variants from Design and Bi-Tone to Excel feature more kit, such as partial leather seats, a 4.2-inch colour touchscreen and dual-zone air conditioning. The 5-seat Yaris’ rear seats fold down easily to expand its practical 286-litre boot to 786 litres in total.

Echoing its exterior, straight lines again dominate inside the Golf which oozes premium sophistication by the bucket-load. The standard cloth seats are superbly comfortable and supportive while various leather upgrades are available. An 8” colour touchscreen, DAB radio and multifunction computer are fitted to all Golf trims. SE upwards benefits from the added safety of adaptive cruise control and the practicality of parking sensors to assist first-time drivers, while the SE Navigation model’s sat nav system takes the pressure out of route-finding. Its boot is unsurprisingly larger than the Yaris’ at 380 litres, expanding to 1,270 litres with the seats down.
Conclusion: for remarkable quality and gadgets, the Golf wins

Engines playing to different strengths

Toyota doesn’t offer diesel for the Yaris but its petrol units are great for first-car drivers.
Choose between a 69hp 1.0-litre or 111hp 1.5-litre, with combined fuel economy from the latter ranging from 56.49mpg with the 6-speed manual gearbox to 58.85mpg with the automatic transmission. The smaller petrol variant averages up to 65.69mpg. Keeping things sensible for first-time drivers, 0-62mph acceleration times span 11 seconds to 15.3 seconds. 
Toyota is one of the world’s leading hybrid manufacturers and also offers a hybrid edition of its Yaris, in the form of a 1.5 petrol hybrid automatic that produces 100hp and offers economy of up to 78.46mpg combined.

A wider range of engines is available for the Volkswagen Golf. 
Petrol units start with the 1.0-litre TSI with either 85PS or 110PS, before stepping up to the 1.4-litre TSI (125PS), 1.5-litre TSI (130PS or 150PS) and 2.0-litre TSI available in 230PS, 245PS and 310PS guises, perhaps less suited to first-car buyers. 
If fuel efficiency matters to someone buying a car for the first time, the VW Golf’s 1.6-litre TDI 115PS is a great place to start, offering up to 72.4mpg with an ‘automatic’ DSG gearbox. 
Volkswagen’s popular 2.0-litre TDI is also offered in power outputs ranging from 150PS to 184PS. 
The hybrid Golf GTE is also available, with emissions from just 38g/km CO2, although plugging it in to recharge the batteries may not be ideal for people choosing their first car.
Conclusion: for a first car the VW Golf 1.4 TSI 125PS will impress most drivers

In numbers…


Toyota Yaris

Volkswagen Golf





Power (HP)





Fuel (comb MPG)




72.4 /

Emissions (CO2, g/km)





Top Speed (mph)





0 – 60mph in…. (seconds)










Both the Toyota Yaris and Volkswagen Golf have their individual strengths when it comes to choosing a first car, the Japanese model focussed on fun, accessibility and compactness, while the German offers increased space, a premium cabin and wider engine choice. Your nearest Inchcape Toyota and Inchcape Volkswagen showrooms will be happy to help you decide.