New nose, more doors

Toy­ota’s city car gets a facelift but no heart trans­plant


TOY­OTA will drop the three­door ver­sion of its Yaris hatch­back when the facelifted model goes on sale in Septem­ber be­cause nine out of 10 cus­tomers pre­fer five-doors.

The dar­ing new look of the city car, re­vealed this week, and sim­pli­fied model range are de­signed to re­verse the Yaris’s two-year sales slide.

The for­mer king of the tiny­tots is ranked third in its class this year, hav­ing been out­sold by the out­go­ing Mazda2 and Hyundai i20. The last time the Yaris topped the sales charts was in 2012.

The cur­rent model Yaris, re­leased in Oc­to­ber 2011, was crit­i­cised as a step back­wards com­pared with the model it re­placed. Even now, in con­trast to the in­creas­ingly so­phis­ti­cated driv­e­trains of its ri­vals, the Yaris runs carry over 1.3- or 1.5-litre nat­u­rally as­pi­rated en­gines. The au­to­matic choice re­mains an old-world four-speeder.

It was de­vel­oped dur­ing the peak of the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis. When it in­tro­duced the 2011 model, Toy­ota deleted the pre­vi­ous model’s dig­i­tal speedome­ter, slid­ing rear seat, full-size spare tyre and the dozen or more stor­age cub­bies.

Toy­ota has not ad­dressed those con­cerns and is hop­ing the sharp new nose alone will ap­peal to a broader range of buy­ers. But the new Yaris will face strong com­pe­ti­tion from the next-gen­er­a­tion Mazda2 — the cur­rent top-seller in the cat­e­gory de­spite its ob­so­les­cence — due on sale at the end of this year, and the up­dated Volk­swa­gen Polo due in lo­cal show­rooms within a few months.

Volk­swa­gen is un­der­stood to be plan­ning a price at­tack with the new Polo now that the com­pany has dropped its cut-price Up city car from the lo­cal line-up.

“Cus­tomers are telling our deal­ers they (want) the flex­i­bil­ity of hav­ing two ex­tra doors,” says Toy­ota Aus­tralia ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor sales and mar­ket­ing Tony Cramb.

“Eas­ier ac­cess to the back seat … of­fers greater con­ve­nience for young sin­gles, cou­ples and empty nesters.”

Toy­ota says the change in buyer tastes has led to three­door sales in the seg­ment fall­ing from about one-quar­ter of to­tal de­mand in 2008 to less than 10 per cent so far this year.

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