Toyota: 2014 Yaris ZR and GX hatches review

Toyota: 2014 Yaris ZR and GX hatches review

This pair of Yaris – maybe that’s Yarii – are set to wage war on the urban landscape, giving potential punters a budget option or a ‘fries-with-that’ option in the small car segment. As far as price goes, there’s $5000 between them: the GX starts at a wallet-caressing $24,990, while the ZR with the optional sat nav and SUNA package adds garnish and spices for $29,990. If you’re happy with a manual then you can get the GX for $22,990.

Toyota Yaris ZR 2014 frontHow do they stack up, though, in the crowded small car segment? Having had a couple of small cars recently (Fiat Punto and Holden Barina RS), I’ve experienced the highs and lows of what small cars can offer…and not in that order. There’s also strong competition from the Ford Fiesta, Honda Jazz and VW Polo to consider.

The Yaris has a reputation for dependency but currently suffers brand issues with its previous models looking very dated and seemingly favoured by the elderly. The new model comes with a much more contemporary silhouette and the X-shape front-end showing strong lines that meet at the nose. The side profile is the best look with Toyota Yaris ZR 2014 front seatsparallel lines formed by the window line, a crease just below that and a lower door crease that dips slightly to rendezvous with the side skirt at the wheel arch. The window line segues nicely into the bonnet and headlights at the front, while the rear lights are accentuated by the second line. The design is modern without being cutting edge, and consistent without being bland – good job Toyota.

On the ZR the wheel arches are filled with 17-inch alloys with 195/45R17 tyres whereas the GX gets 15-inch steelies and hubcaps with 175/65R15 tyres. The wheel choice makes a small amount of difference in that the GX feels slightly softer, most likely because of the taller sidewalls on the tyres.

At the front, the X-face is very bold – some people won’t like it. Our two test cars in vivid yellow and cool soda illustrated the X strongly; Toyota Yaris GX 2014 front quartermore muted colours such as ink and graphite provide a more subtle face. Look closely and you’ll see the centre chrome accent in the grille is followed into the light cluster, which then bends around forming the beginning of the shoulder line of the Yaris ZR – clever design. The GX’s halogen headlights have a slightly different design over the ZR’s LED low beams and halogen high beams.

This new model has 100mm of extra length and that means slightly more legroom. In the rear the passengers have plenty of room – a quick trip with three passengers to Piha and back from central Auckland didn’t elicit any complaints. The seats are comfortable both front and back. The dual glovebox provides ample storage and makes Toyota Yaris GX 2014 front interiorup for the fact that there’s no central binnacle. In the boot there is a removable shelf that can be used to hide valuables under, as well as a cargo tray.

In the front the design is clear and uncluttered. The majority of the space in both models is given to the 6.1-inch touchscreen of Toyota’s Touch 2 infotainment system. This comes with Bluetooth hands-free phone compatibility and audio streaming, USB input, radio and CD. The ZR had the optional satellite navigation package with traffic avoidance and voice recognition. Voice recognition was particularly bad – both my passenger and I gave up trying to get it to anything at all.

The air conditioning is manual in the GX and climate control in the ZR.

Toyota Yaris GX 2014 gloveboxSmaller budget cars represent a compromise and there are some with the Yaris. While it’s an exceptional city car and fairly good on the motorway it struggles on our regional roads. I drove the length of SH16 from Westgate to Wellsford in the ZR and by the end of it I was slightly weary of its tendency to not quite follow the line that I thought I’d steered. The steering itself is perfectly light around the city – great for manoeuvring – but on the open road you want more weight and feedback whereas it felt as responsive as a teenager in the mood.

There’s also very little power for overtaking. The GX gets a 1.3-litre 4-cylinder engine with 63kW/121Nm while the ZR gets 80kW/141Nm. Both cars come with a 4-speed automatic and this hampers performance because there’s either nothing there or it chops down a Toyota Yaris GX 2014 rear quartergear and all manner of banshees crank up the noise under the bonnet.

But if you don’t need to overtake and you can cruise, the Yaris is reasonably quiet and will return respectable fuel economy. The ZR and the GX both quote 6.3l/100km, or 5.7l/100km for the manual gearbox. Both models get cruise control.

The Yaris has a 5-star ANCAP safety rating and comes with 7 airbags (including driver’s knee), and an immobiliser. Both models come with a reversing camera.

I feel that the Yaris is a solid car, but it’s by no means a stellar car. If you were only ever going to drive the Yaris around town, there’s really very little to fault, but the open road handling is uncommunicative and it’s really lacking power. In the face of stiff competition from the likes of the Honda Jazz, VW Polo and Holden’s (surprisingly) excellent Barina RS (which is $2000 cheaper than the ZR but with similar features and better performance), Toyota will be trading on its brand reliability, potential resale value and modernised design rather than driving dynamics.

Price: $22,990 (manual GX), $24,990 (automatic GX, as tested), $28,990 (ZR without optional sat nav), $29,990 (ZR with optional sat nav, as tested)

Pros

  • Excellent colour range (not necessarily the yellow, though)
  • Compact design, but plenty of room
  • Excellent around the city

Cons

  • Not so excellent on bumpy high-speed roads
  • Vague steering; moves easily offline mid corner
  • Automatic lights didn’t work in ZR
  • 4-speed automatic seems like it’s from the mid-2000s and doesn’t help with overtaking performance


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