FIRST DRIVE

Toy­ota’s new Yaris is on the way to con­test the hard-fought city seg­ment. By Peter Lyon, in Ja­pan, and Paul Gover

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Inside -

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.

VALUE

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.

TECH­NOL­OGY

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.

DE­SIGN

‘‘ 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.

2

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.

WE­DON’T LIKE

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

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