Toyota’s new Yaris is on the way to contest the hard-fought city segment. By Peter Lyon, in Japan, and Paul Gover
Suddenly the smallest class of car is considered sexy. The new Yaris, due in September, promises to give the Fiesta and the Mazda something to think about. We have first crack of the new model in Japan.
AN all-new, bigger and better Toyota Yaris has just been unwrapped in Japan.
It promises to be a much tougher rival in Australia to cars such as the Ford Fiesta and Mazda2, but there are still plenty of questions to be answered before its planned arrival in September.
They include doubts over production at Toyota’s Miyagi assembly plant, which is still offline following the Japanese earthquake. Various sources point to a production shutdown until May because of the difficulty in reconnecting essential services – including natural gas – to the factory.
Toyota Australia also says there will be tweaking to the Yaris before it comes here, most notably the replacement of the CVT transmission, popular in Japan, with a regular four-speed automatic gearbox.
The company is also promising a full five-star NCAP ranking for the basic Yaris three-door hatch.
Toyota has targeted top-line European rivals including the Volkswagen Polo – the reigning
Carsguide Car of the Year – but it is still built to a price and some people will find marginalised features.
The price of the Yaris starts at $14,990, or $16,590 as an automatic, and Toyota will be aiming to hold the line with the new model. It plans also to continue with its current strategy of using three and fivedoor hatchback bodies with 1.3 or 1.5-litre engines. There will be three equipment grades.
Most impressive about the new Yaris is the 1.3-litre engine’s Smart-Stop technology.
Taking just 0.35sec to restart after seamlessly cutting the engine at idle, the smart-stop works to improve fuel economy to 4.59L/100km.
But, surprisingly, the startstop is only offered on the 1.3-litre due to its hefty $750 tag. And, more strikingly, VSC and TRC traction controls, which are standard on the 1.3 litre, are not even offered as options on other models, although this will not be the situation in Australia with stability control now compulsory on all cars which are sold here.
‘‘ We need to stand out more. That is one reason why the ne Yaris has grown in size and taken on an edgier look compared to its predecessor,’’ said deputy chief engineer Yoshinari Toyomura.
Checking out the new Yaris on Tokyo streets, we immediately see exactly what Toyomura-San means.
The new B-segment player 85mm longer with a wheelbas that gains 50mm. The car does feel bigger, but the company’s efforts to minimise costs while improving packaging haveme with mixed results.
SAFETY Toyota already gets a five-star NCAP rating with the five-door Yaris including the safety pack – with front-side-head airbags – and four stars for the threedoor with frontal airbags.
It promises better for the new model, and Australian buyers can also expect the usual ABS brakes and ESP stability control to satisfy local regulations and consumers.
DRIVING Tuned for optimum fuel economy and CO emissions, the 1.3-litre Yaris is adequate but not quick.
Mated to a revised CVT transmission, it pulls sufficiently from around 2000 revs and stays strong enough through the mid-ranges. At least we think it did; this car did not have a tachometer.
Aussie cars will get a fivespeed manual and a tacho.
To keep up with rivals, the Yaris has a stiffer body, a more compliant ride and better weighted, more responsive steering.
Local specifications will be crucial, really, to the potential success of the car in an incredibly tough sector of the market sector.
The new Yaris is more spacious, it does handle better than the old model and looks considerably smarter, but it feels like it has been short-changed on a few interior elements and its performance is middling rather than being genuinely impressive. It’ll need those missing toys if it’s to stand out from the crowd when it arrives here later this year.
VERDICT Built to satisfy the bottom dollar, the new Yaris generates good first impressions, but leaves question marks on its packaging and impact here.
WELIKE Larger interior, edgier design, stop-start system.
Downmarket approach. Looking good: The Yaris has grown in size and has an edgier look
Hatchback stays: The Yaris still comes in three and five-door h h l