PRETTY AVERAGE AT POINTY END
TOYOTA has culled and updated its Yaris line-up, ditching the three-door version and reducing the number of grades from four to three.
It has also made some sheetmetal changes to the hatch, grafting Corolla’s pointy nose to the front in a bid to make the car funkier and more appealing.
With a stiffer body and retuned suspension, the company claims it's now more enjoyable to drive too; but power remains the same and there have been no other mechanical changes.
Yaris is currently the number three car in its segment behind the Hyundai i20 and Mazda2 in that order, with the Suzuki Swift bringing up the rear.
That doesn’t factor in the Kia Rio, which is a better buy with a six-speed auto and more powerful direct-injection engine; not to mention the brand new Mazda2.
Yaris is still priced from $15,690 for the entry-level Ascent, with the midrange SX at $17,790 and the top-of-therange ZR at $22,690.
The first two come with steel wheels and wheel covers, while the ZR scores 15inch alloys.
Ascent has been upgraded from 14 to 15-inch wheels, with a reversing camera, cruise control and 6.1-inch touch screen, and represents $2000 in increased value.
For $400 more, SX gets about $1000 worth of new features including fog lights, rear and side privacy glass plus new wheel covers.
For $1300 more, ZR adds new auto-levelling LED lights, rear spoiler and diffuser, side skirts and Toyota Link-connected mobility.
There’s some bright new colours and the cabin has been upgraded to make it feel roomier and more stylish.
A grain finish on the dash and around the instrument panel combined with brighter ornamentation for the air vents and door switches promote a more upmarket look.
The glovebox cover has been redesigned for a more integrated appearance with the rest of the dashboard, while making better use of the available space.
The steering wheel is now reach adjustable, the hazard lights flash automatically during emergency braking, phone controls have been added to the wheel and the audio system now boasts six speakers instead of four.
Cruise control is now also standard.
ZR audio adds voice recognition in addition to Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, with satellite navigation, climate air, sports front seats, premium three-spoke steering wheel and newly designed seat covers.
There are two engines in the mix, a 1.3 and a 1.5; both of them four-cylinder petrol engines.
The 1.3 which powers the Ascent produces 63kW and 121Nm, while the 1.5litre unit in the SX and ZR delivers 80kW and 142Nm.
There’s a five-speed manual or fourspeed automatic from which to choose, while the ZR includes the price of the auto and is not available with a manual.
Fuel economy for the 1.3 is 5.7, the 1.5 auto 6.3 litres/100km.
It gets five stars for safety, with seven airbags including a driver’s knee bag, plus traction and stability control, along with anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution.
A rear-view camera is now standard across the range too.
The specifications are a bit of a worry. A four-speed auto? With multi-point injection? It doesn’t even get one-touch blinkers? Cars were equipped this way 20 years ago. When is Toyota going to realise the modern consumer is more savvy than this.
The powertrain is off the pace and it shows in both the car’s performance and economy.
Our test vehicle was the top-of- theline 1.5-litre ZR auto.
It certainly looks smart and sassy, but didn’t sweep us off our feet.
The paint job is impeccable, fit and finish is first-rate and it is reasonably comfortable for a small car, but you’ve got to flog it to extract any sort of performance.
Punch the accelerator, the engine roars and the transmission tries hard, then suddenly it finds third gear and it’s all over.
Regardless, the car does feel nice and tight, sits well on the road and corners flat.
And in a plus, the navigation system includes speed camera warnings.
We were getting 7.0 litres/100km after about 300km, which realistically isn’t that good for a car this size.
Verdict: Looks good. Goes pretty well but the economy is not there and the competition is better value for money. 3 stars
The new Yaris has a new face, but not much else.