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.