The Yaris has been a huge success for the Toyota Motor Corporation, with global sales topping 3.5 million in over 70 countries. The Yaris has been no less popular with buyers in South Africa, with the second generation having sold around 92 000 units since its launch in 2005. In recent times, however, it’s a car that hasn’t aged particularly well and has plenty of competition at its price point. With this 3rd generation then, it seems Toyota has made a considerable effort to re-establish a class-leading position, having made significant improvements over the outgoing model.
Credit must be issued to Toyota’s styling team for turning the latest Yaris, in 3-door or 5-door bodystyle, into a decent-looking compact hatch, for which the pictures don’t quite do it justice. While it doesn’t break any ground amongst its competitors, it is a contemporary new design that has seen the previous model’s ‘baby fat’ trimmed away and replaced with crisp, clean lines.
Like the exterior design, the interior of the Yaris has been improved too. The funky, centrally mounted speedometer is gone, replaced in favour of a clear, legible gauge cluster, directly in front of the driver. Lines from the asymmetrical dashboard that flow into the door panels and soft-touch inserts, contribute to a much improved interior ambiance. It’s roomy too, with a 49 percent larger boot area holding 286-litres, extending to 710-litres with the 60:40 split rear seats folded flat, but surprisingly the previous car’s ‘Easy Flat’ rear seat system has not been carried over. Load access through the rear hatch should also be slightly easier thanks to it being 20 mm wider than before.
The Yaris comes in three specifications levels, Xi, XS and XR. All models feature colour-coded bumpers, power-assisted steering, a height and reach adjustable steering wheel, multi-function information display that includes an outside temperature indicator, as well as auxiliary and USB connectivity for portable music devices, radio/CD/MP3-player and steering wheel mounted audio controls.
On the safety front, the Yaris has a 5-star rating with driver and front passenger airbags as standard, as well as ABS, EBD and VSC (vehicle stability control). The top of the range 1.3-litre XR model includes a driver’s knee airbag and boasts a number of luxury and convenience features such as a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone climate control, front fog lamps, front and rear spoilers, touch screen radio interface, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers and an auto-dimming rear view mirror.
Having mentioned the 1.3-litre being the top of the range, you may be wondering what the other engine choices are. Buyers may chose from either a three-cylinder, 1.0-litre VVT-i, which produces 51 kW and 93 Nm of torque, or the more powerful four-cylinder 1.3-litre unit that produces 73 kW and 125 Nm of torque. The 1.0-litre engine is mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox and returns a claimed 5.1 L/100km, while the larger 1.3-litre engine is coupled with a 6-speed manual, or CVT transmission in the 5-door derivative, that delivers 5.6 L/100 km or 5.4 L/100km respectively. A 1.5-litre Yaris hybrid will arrive in 2012.
The 1.0-litre, 3-cylinder engine, with its sweet shifting 5-speed manual gearbox, pulls adequately at the coast, but doesn’t offer much more. On the plus side, its off-beat note sounds good and gives the little car character. Helping the 1.0-litre’s cause is the car’s lighter body weight, which, despite overall dimensions having increased, is now 20 kilograms less than before. The 1.3-litre offers more gusto by comparison and produces a fair amount of power for its displacement. On the Toyota’s test track near Eslin, Kwa-Zulu Natal, the gutsier Yaris felt nippy around the tight gymkhana course set out for us, with the engine pulling cleanly to the red-line. The 6-speed manual transmission offers short throws of the lever, with 6th gear being an overdrive ratio that quietens the engine when cruising and lowers overall fuel consumption. The Yaris CVT also performed well in the very brief time we spent with it. Left to its own devices, it makes the car quite noisy under accelertion, like all CVTs, but in manual mode you can keep things quieter by shifting either with the gear stick, or paddles mounted behind the steering wheel, and the CVT executes slick changes between its pre-programmed ratios.
Although our time on the test track reiterated that small cars can offer frivolous fun on occasion, most potential owners will be more interested in the car’s real-world economy rather than its outright performance. To this end, on the gradient-rich roads of KZN, we managed to achieve a consumption figure in the low 7.0 L/100km range for the 1.3-litre model while making determined progress. When spinning at more average road speeds, both engines were also relatively quiet and happily at odds with the usual ‘buzzy’ small car stereotype.
In terms of ride and handling, the Yaris has improved notably. The levels of bodyroll are on par with the rest of the supermini segment and, even with four ‘heavies’ in the car, the Yaris’ suspension never felt wanting over a tight, muddy and bumpy dirt track. The Yaris’ power assisted steering performs its duties without a hitch, adjusting its ratio according to the car’s speed. The Yaris will never engage its driver like the Mazda2 or Ford Fiesta, but neither will the sales chart topping VW Polo.
The revised interior and exterior styling, together with improved materials, fuel efficient engines, as well as ride and handling, mean the new Toyota Yaris has advanced in almost every area over its predecessor, making it a commendable supermini choice.
|Pricing (incl. VAT)|
|Toyota Yaris 1.0 Xi 3-Dr||R124 000|
|Toyota Yaris 1.0 Xi 5-Dr||R130 000|
|Toyota Yaris 1.3 Xi 3-Dr||R157 000|
|Toyota Yaris 1.3 Xi 5-Dr||R163 000|
|Toyota Yaris 1.0 XS 3-Dr||R141 000|
|Toyota Yaris 1.0 XS 5-Dr||R147 400|
|Toyota Yaris 1.3 XS 3-Dr||R171 600|
|Toyota Yaris 1.3 XS 5-Dr||R177 600|
|Toyota Yaris 1.3 XS 5-Dr CVT||R189 000|
|Toyota Yaris 1.0 XR 3-Dr||R151 100|
|Toyota Yaris 1.0 XR 5-Dr||R157 900|
|Toyota Yaris 1.3 XR 3-Dr||R203 700|
|Toyota Yaris 1.3 XR 5-Dr||R200 600|
Pricing includes a 3-year/100 000km maintenance plan and 4-year/60 000 service plan.