Compromise is a dirty word when it comes to purchasing a new car – balancing what you want with what you can afford is all too familiar for many customers. It’s no less of a tricky job for manufacturers to offer the customer what they want and attach a price tag which will allow them to make money, yet still attract said customers with good value.
The outgoing Yaris won praise for its roomy interior, durability and versatility, the efficiency of its engines and its easy-to-drive character around town. Toyota planned for the new Yaris to consolidate these strengths and go even further to offer dramatic, contemporary styling within a more efficient package as well as greater agility and sportiness.
The question is, of course, has Toyota achieved this blend of requirements with the new model? Well to start they’ve dramatically updated the appearance, leaving a considerably smarter, more contemporary looking vehicle. In fact, it is the first vehicle to feature the distinctive new face of the Toyota family – the party piece of which is the protruding nose and unusual headlamp eyebrows.
Inside there have been numerous changes too. Building on the previous model’s roominess, the new Yaris grows by 85mm and gets a 50mm longer wheelbase – meaning more legroom for passengers. Most noticeable however is the fact that Toyota has done away with the central instrument panel arrangement, as well as digital readouts, and replaced it with a more conventional layout which looks markedly better. The downside is the disappointing quality of materials used for interior surfaces, which consist of hard, cheap plastics whose shiny finish does the textured surface treatment no favours.
My test model, the top spec ‘Xr’ three door derivative was packed with kit. Distinguishing features include front foglamps, tinted windows, climate control, a touch-screen audio system including Bluetooth, leather-clad gear lever and steering wheel and rear power windows. Rain sensors, auto headlamps, electrochromatic rear view mirror, smoked headlamps, rear spoiler, chromed fog lamp surrounds, sports steering wheel and gearshift lever, an eight-speaker sound system and lastly a panoramic glass roof. And of course a five star EuroNCAP safety rating.
The 1.3 litre powerplant develops 73kW and peak torque of 125Nm when mated to the six-speed manual transmission which is standard on all the 1.3 litre variants. According to the official stats this results in an 11.7 second sprint from 0 to 100km/h, emission figures of 131g/km and fuel consumption of 5.6 litres/100km. On the road the 1.3 feels sufficient but not quick; it’s clearly been tuned for fuel economy and CO2 emissions, rather than outright performance. To be honest the constant gear shifting became tedious and somewhat annoying.
Aside from the lacklustre performance, this new Yaris rides more quietly over bumps, feels more solid and steers with greater delicacy that the outgoing model. The electric power steering is light and responsive, leading to an eager, nimble demeanour – even if lacking in the raw feel you might get from something like a Ford Fiesta.
Bearing a price tag of R209 900 the Yaris is competitively priced against its more reputable rivals. While I’m perplexed by the need for a three door model (due to limited practicality), there is of course a five door for around R3 000 less.
If you’re after an established brand and can live with an interior feeling short changed in terms of quality of materials, the new Yaris will no doubt treat you well. However if it is true value you’re after, you may be better rewarded by the Koreans.
Price: R 209,900
Engine: 1329cc 16-valve DOHC, with Dual VVTi
Power: 73 kW
Torque: 125 Nm
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 11.7
Top speed (km/h): 175
Fuel consumption (l/100km): 5.6 (claimed)
First published in Autodealer KZN on 1 June 2012