In the 1959 edition of The Observer’s Book of Automobiles, Stirling Moss, O.B.E wrote in the foreward, “In this compact little volume, the editor has contrived to present the more prominent and interesting of the world’s cars in a non-technical manner understandable to even the youngest enthusiast. It is interesting to be able to compare the cars of this country with those of the USA, France, Germany, the USSR and even Japan…”
Even Japan! Oh Stirling, how your words seem to naïve fifty years later. The Japanese entrants in the book were the Prince Alsild De Luxe Saloon and Toyota’s Toyopet Corona ST10, Crown De Luxe RS21 and Crown RS20 Sedan – all small cars by today’s standards; not that much bigger than the Yaris we’re testing today.
But today’s Yaris would no doubt baffle drivers of 1959’s Japanese cars, even though the Yaris itself isn’t packed with technological spec like if you’d bought a Toyota Aurion. Bluetooth phone connectivity and iPod integration would be totally alien.
But enough of the intra-century comparisons as we should be comparing the Yaris with its running mates like the Suzuki Swift, Holden Barina, Honda Jazz, etc.
There’s one thing you can always say about a Toyota: they ride well. They feel solid on the road, the suspension is usually sorted perfectly for the vehicle’s application, the handling is tight, and they’ve got a wealth of safety features like ABS, traction control, brake assistance, seatbelt pretensioners, airbags and vehicle stability control.
The other thing that you can (usually) say is that they’re rarely designed to polarize opinion. Whereas Ssangyongs and Citroens push the boundaries, Toyotas are squarely aimed at the middle of the road, and as such they retain a good demand across a broad swathe of the car-buying market place. The Yaris utilises a rising shoulder line to give it a more purposeful stance, and it certainly makes the Suzuki Swift look a bit like a toy.
Our Yaris YRS sports a four-cylinder, 16-valve 1.5-litre engine with VVT-i to help give you more power without drinking too much gas. The engine produces 80kW which is perky enough in city driving, but needs to be worked harder on the open road. The automatic gearbox is 4-speed and copes well – it doesn’t seem like there’s a need for a fifth gear in there.
The interior storage has been improved over the last model. The boot has a convenient false floor which serves a few purposes. It allows for hidden storage, e.g. to hide a laptop out of sight. Or you can keep things like a first aid kit and jumper cables there permanently without them mixing with the other things you take in and out of your boot more frequently such as shopping bags. And it has the effect of raising the boot floor so it’s flush with the bottom of the door aperture, which makes it much easier to get bags in and our of the boot. The boot itself is a reasonable size for a car in this class.
The glovebox is a reasonable size and there are a number of cubby holes to put stuff, including spaces in the door for drink bottles, and a sunglasses-sized receptacle in front of the gear lever. There’s small lip above the glovebox for temporarily resting something, but it can be dislodged with mildly vigorous driving…is any Yaris driver going to be ‘mildly vigorous’, though?
Cabin plastics are predictably fairly hard. There are light grey textured panels which match the seat inserts. The lighter colour of these gives the cabin a spacious feel.
You are aware you’re driving Toyota’s entry level model as you’re getting the necessities, but not the fripperies. There’s air condition, but it’s not digital. There are no reversing sensors, but you don’t really need them on a car this short with a wheel at each corner. It’s simple, but it’s effective.
In a car designed to appeal to the masses, is there anything bad you can say about it? I can only think of two things: it’s perhaps a little pricey compared to some of the other offerings, and when cruising on the motorway it’s sometimes difficult to find an accelerator position that’s neither speeding up nor slowing down.
Of course, there’s the ever-popular Suzuki Swift to factor into the equation, and now Holden has brought out a Barina which, while not feeling quite as solid on the road, has an excellent level of kit for considerably less money. Still, a Toyota is a Toyota. You know this Yaris unlikely to depreciate like you’ve driven it off a cliff. You can be fairly sure its going to be reliable, too, based on previous models.
Should you buy one, then? Competition in this segment is white hot. There’s a reason the Swift sells so well and that’s because it’s extremely good. But the Yaris is practical, feels sturdy and it has an edge with its new looks. Many (perhaps most) people buy a car not only because it serves their required purposes, but because they like the look of it, so we can see this new Yaris being popular.
- Rides well
- Looks good
- Good boot configuration
- Lacks spec against some of its competitors at this price point.
- Accelerator response when cruising
Price: from $27490
Technical specifications (supplied by Toyota)
Vehicle Fuel Economy Information*
|Land Transport New Zealand’s official fuel economy rating for this vehicle.||
|* This data is provided by NZTA for comparative purposes. Your actual fuel consumption will vary from that shown, depending on factors such as vehicle condition and any vehicle modifications, driving style, traffic conditions, distance travelled and fuel price variations. Visit www.fuelsaver.govt.nz for more information.|
Safety and Security
|Yaris has been built with safety features with the driver, passengers and pedestrians in mind.||Braking:
|Yaris is ready for all of life’s twists and turns. Yaris has an improved driving position ensuring your journey is comfortable and thrifty.||
|Yaris makes no compromise on style. It’s contemporary and distinctive looks pair with a clever interior make the best combination of design and value in a city-sized package.||
|Yaris makes no compromise on style. It’s contemporary and distinctive looks pair with a clever interior to fit your lifestyle. The car interior is surprisingly spacious, thanks to its long wheel base, wide track, and cleverly designed seating arrangement.||
|Yaris was designed to reduce environmental impact both by reducing emissions and fuel economy, and by minimising environmental harm during the production process.||
Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions will vary depending on driving conditions/style, vehicle condition and options/accessories fitted
Words and photos: Darren Cottingham