Toyota Yaris RS 2009 Review

March 20th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham


New Zealand summers leave little reason for complaint, with the exception of the variety of insects that enter homes around the country. Flies terrorise potato salads, mosquitoes cause sleepless nights and the infamous weta solicits squeals from unlikely sources.  Even though we take these insects out with jandals and rolled up magazines it’s still hard not to be a little impressed at how something so small can at times affect us so dramatically. Insects aren’t the only tiny things that can impress us; cars can too. The new Yaris is the smallest member of the Toyota family and fits firmly into the subcompact bracket. Many models in the subcompact class are criticized for being gutless, featureless and only suitable for use by those happy to trundle along at a snail’s pace. The 2009 Yaris RS is out to prove it’s a creature all its own, and one with a sting in its tail.

Walking around the test specimen quickly reveals a vehicle that has been force-fed large doses of character and it’s worked a treat. The Yaris’ stumpy front end is aggressively styled with massive bug-eye headlights pushing back nearly as far as the raked windscreen. An ascending belt-line runs along the sides stopping at a thick rear pillar, giving the Yaris a look of height at the back and subsequently a pouncing stance. The RS variant has received sports upgrades with a chiseled and chunky body kit, fog lights, tinted rear glass, colour coding on the mirrors and door handles, and a matching front grille. The look is polished off with stylish 17-inch rims wrapped in 205/45 Yokohama tyres. Overall, the Yaris’ styling is modern, overtly aggressive and fun, the RS additions work well together and offer enough over the standard model to create a unique buzz.

Open up the Yaris and some of the funky exterior styling is carried into the cabin. The dashboard looks like someone has grabbed either side of it and pushed its entire contents together into the centre. The climate controls, stereo and all instruments are neatly stacked above the gearstick. This makes for a tidy and symmetrical dash layout, and frees up space for some useful cubby holes, but it also creates vast areas of plain dark plastics that could benefit from being broken up with contrasting trim. The instruments are large and well illuminated but being mid-mounted aren’t my preference. I don’t mind a mid-mounted speedometer like in the new Minis, but I definitely prefer my tachometer straight in front.. Aesthetics aside, fit and finish is very good in the cabin, the plastics are firm to touch and it has the trademark Toyota level of cockroach toughness.  The interior also benefits from some RS upgrades; a leather-surrounded steering wheel and gear knob, chrome door handles and sports-style seats. The equipment list includes a useful smart keyless entry system and a push button start fires the Yaris up.

Interior space is very good considering the Yaris’ dimensions, with impressive rear headroom and decent width between the two front seats. Understandably this comes at a price with limited luggage room in the hatch. The rear compartment is equipped with a handy false floor for separating valuables, but is very shallow even for a subcompact. With the rear seat pushed down luggage space grows dramatically, but if you have 4 passengers with gear, nesting it all in the hatch would be very challenging.

The Yaris’ oversized front fascia results in a tiny bonnet but shoe-horned beneath is Toyota’s 1.8 Litre, 16-Valve, Variable Valve Timing intelligent (VVT-i) motor. This is a tight-fit but a good-fit for the Yaris, putting out 98kW of power and 173Nm of torque. The power isn’t enough to attract boy-racers or terrify passengers, but it is definitely lively and useful. The Yaris gets up to speed with relative ease but the 4-cylinder snatched from the Corolla isn’t peaky in its power delivery instead opting for smooth acceleration through the range. To extract the best performance from the Yaris the revs need to be kept high and the gears worked thoroughly. Luckily the 6-speed manual transmission worms it’s way through the gears easily and matched up with a suitably manageable clutch makes for a rewarding drive.

When it’s time to hit the open road and escape the hive the RS comes into it’s own. When many small cars are found wanting the Yaris excels and cruises comfortably around the speed limit with genuine overtaking capabilities. Shift on to twisting B-roads and the Yaris is as light as a hornet and as sure-footed as a centipede. Sports tuned suspension helps the RS harness the extra power and the result is very impressive. The Yaris sits flat on turn-in and has an awesome level of grip. Torque-steer isn’t an issue with the front wheels staying glued to the tarmac in most situations. The electronic steering is accurate and well-weighted capping off a package that has the ability to embarrass more powerful vehicles on windy roads.

Ride quality is compromised by the firm suspension, not uncomfortably so but possibly enough to dissuade those looking only for a cheap city run-about. Despite the larger motor and wheels, wind, road and engine noise all remain acceptably mellow.

Keeping the RS contained are safety features far beyond a snail’s shell, including Traction Control (TRC), Stability Control (VSC), ABS braking and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD). The RS is the only Yaris that currently offers Stability Control. There is a swarm of airbags complete with side airbags, front/rear curtains and a driver’s knee airbag. The Yaris also has kid-friendly credentials with sash seat belts for all three backseat passengers and an on/off switch for the passenger airbag.

The Yaris RS was designed and built in Europe and has come to NZ spinning a web of good reasons to consider it in the subcompact segment. If you’re crawling along city streets or flying through open-road corners the Yaris RS is a spirited and fun drive. Its styling upgrades are tasteful but still strong enough to see it stand out from the rest of the Yaris colony. It’s reasonably priced has a long equipment list and class-leading safety features, combined with Toyota’s reputation for reliability and durability make it a very strong new car option.

Click through to the next page for a list of specifications.

Price: from $26,490

What we like:

  • Sporty exterior styling
  • High handling abilities
  • Fun to drive¨Safety features

What we don’t like:

  • Minimal Luggage Space
  • Engine could use a touch more power
  • Dash configuration an acquired taste

Toyota Yaris RS (2009) – Specifications


* In-line, 4 Cylinder, 16 Valve, DOHC with Dual Variable Valve Timing-intelligent (VVT-i)
* 1.8 Litre
* 98kW @ 6000 rpm
* 173Nm @ 4400 rpm
* Fuel consumption is 7.2 L/100km (based on EU durective 70/220/EEC (combined))
* 6 speed manual transmission


* 6.5JJ x 17″ Alloy Wheels
* 205/45 R17 Steel Belted Radial Ply Yokohama Tyres
* Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Brake Assist (BA)
* Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD)
* Traction Control (TRC)
* Vehicle Stability Control (VSC)


* 3800 mm long
* 1695 mm wide
* 1530 mm high
* 42 litre fuel capacity
* Seating capacity for 5
* 272 litres of boot space
* Gross vehicle weight of 1545kg


* Body Coloured Electric Exterior Rear View Mirrors, door handles and front and rear bumpers
* Chrome Exhaust
* Front Fog Lights
* Rear Spoiler
* Side Skirts
* Sports Style Front Grille


* Driver and Passenger Front, Side, Drivers Knee and Front/Rear Curtain Shield Air Bags
* 3 Spoke Sports Style Leather Steering Wheel
* AM/FM Radio and Single Disc In-Dash CD/MP3 Player with Audio Input Jack, 6 Speakers and Security System
* Chrome Plated Inside Door Handles
* Engine Immobiliser
* Leather Gear Shift Lever
* Smart Entry and Start System
* Sports Style Front Seats with Slide and Recline Functions

Words and Photos, Adam Mamo

Toyota to bring back the MR2?

March 20th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Toyota mr2

Toyota recently announced it’s considering bringing the MR2 name back, but for a all new sporty hybrid model. Many die hard fans of the light-weight giant killer will be dissapointed who want to see the MR2 return in a revised form.

There is hope, though. Toyota Executive Vice President Masatami Takimoto said the car should cost around $28,000 USD and boast a 7.5-second 0-100kmh. Not an  exceptional time by anyone’s measure, but the vehicle should be a rear-driver with a modified Prius drivetrain. Wait and see.

Toyota develops world’s first centre rear seat airbag

March 12th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Toyota airbag

Over the last few decades, automakers have made massive leaps forward in addressing safety issues, initially for front seat occupants and more recently for those in the back. Three point seat-belts are now almost universal for backseat passengers, as are head restraints. Curtain airbags are also becoming standard issue in most cars to provide extra protection when the car is impacted from the side. But there were still many injuries from rear seat occupants impacting into eachother in a collision.

Toyota has attempted to solve this by devising a new centre position rear air bag that deploys from a roof mounted console. The new bag deploys from the ceiling during a side impact to minimise injuries that can occur as one occupant is thrown into the other. Presumably the bag does not deploy if someone is actually occupying the centre position in the rear, because that could go all bad.

Toyota reports that this new bag will debut this year on a domestic market Toyota vehicle.

Mazda takes third in NZ new vehicle sales

March 10th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Mazda3 MPS fq

Mazda New Zealand has moved above Holden to capture third place in the new vehicle sales market for the first time with its best ever February on record and a market share of 9.2% and 464 units sold. While the industry overall was down 38.5% compared to February 2008, Mazda’s market share for the month was up 1.5% on February 2008. Year to date market share stands at 8.4%.

Andrew Clearwater, managing director Mazda New Zealand, said to gain third spot was fantastic. “Considering the current economic climate and the overall downturn in the new car market we are delighted with the result and it clearly highlights the benefits of having a strong model lineup which is bringing strong favour with Kiwi buyers.”

“We are looking forward to launch of the all-new Mazda3 in May which will give sales a further boost. We’ve had some brilliant feedback from the New Zealand press who have seen the car and we expect it to be even more popular than its predecessor which has consistently been a top seller in its segment since it launched in 2003,” said Clearwater.

Toyota continues to lead the market in both passenger car and commercials with a combined market share of 16.5% (832) registrations for the month of February, Ford came in second place with 12.2% (620) registrations and Mazda got into third place with its 464 registrations just squeezing out Holden with 463. The Toyota Corolla remains as the top selling car followed by the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon.

Top Gear given the hard word about fake Ferraris

March 9th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Apparently, word got out to Ferrari that Top Gear Live was not using real Prancing Horses for its stunt driving routine here in NZ a few weeks back, (read news item) and the Italian automaker is far from happy about it. But before any three-piece-suited men carrying violin cases were sent around, Ferrari asked Top Gear to cut it out.  A spokesperson for Ferrari said, “We asked them to change it… for the Hong Kong [Top Gear Live] show (the last stop on the world tour). We said please use real Ferraris.”

The Ferrari spokesperson also said that Top Gear Live had admitted to using replica Ferraris. BBC’s head of communications, Philip Fleming, says that he’s been in contact with Ferrari but stops short of admitting that the show’s Italian machinery was fake. Whatever the case, the Top Gear Live show in Hong Kong didn’t use Ferraris at all, real or fake. Instead, the sequence in the show was changed to incorporate unspecified drift cars that Top Gear believed are more in keeping with the the interests of the local audience. A suitably slippery answer to the problem.

Top Gear given the hard word about fake Ferraris

March 9th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Apparently, word got out to Ferrari that Top Gear Live was not using real Prancing Horses for its stunt driving routine here in NZ a few weeks back, (read news item) and the Italian automaker is far from happy about it. But before any three-piece-suited men carrying violin cases were sent around, Ferrari asked Top Gear to cut it out.  A spokesperson for Ferrari said, “We asked them to change it… for the Hong Kong [Top Gear Live] show (the last stop on the world tour). We said please use real Ferraris.”

The Ferrari spokesperson also said that Top Gear Live had admitted to using replica Ferraris. BBC’s head of communications, Philip Fleming, says that he’s been in contact with Ferrari but stops short of admitting that the show’s Italian machinery was fake. Whatever the case, the Top Gear Live show in Hong Kong didn’t use Ferraris at all, real or fake. Instead, the sequence in the show was changed to incorporate unspecified drift cars that Top Gear believed are more in keeping with the the interests of the local audience. A suitably slippery answer to the problem.

Toyota RAV4 Diesel 2009 Review

March 5th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham


In 1994 the first generation RAV4 (Recreational Activity Vehicle 4WD) was released and rapidly swept into the consciousness of New Zealand’s female population. The RAV4 possessed an uncanny ability to change a women’s perception of a car as just something to go from A to B, to seeing it as a lifestyle accessory. Carrying Toyota’s reputation for reliability and its obvious exterior durability was enough to gain husbands, boyfriends and fathers ticks of approval, and that’s why so many Kiwi men have wives, girlfriends and daughters who at some stage have owned a RAV4. Through the late 90s the RAV4 was rivaled only by the Suzuki Vitara for Kiwi women’s 4WD affections. Where the Vitara had a more traditional 4WD 2-box shape, the RAV4 had more colourful styling with a rounded shape and large-windows for being seen.  Now, the third generation RAV4 has sauntered into the NZ marketplace, but are its moves smooth enough to make it a real hit with the ladies, or has its sex appeal been sacrificed for modern practicalities?

Good looks count and while the RAV4 has kept its curved charm, dimensions have noticeably swelled. Extra length and width have resulted in a vehicle that sits now firmly in the small-medium 4WD segment, and with only a 4-door version on offer those seeking a cute micro 4WD will have to look toward Suzuki or Daihatsu. That said, the RAV4 is well proportioned and sleek carrying a low 0.33 coefficient drag – impressive for an SUV-styled contour. Well-rounded front and back, the RAV4 achieves a sporty look thanks to a raked-back windscreen and large headlights that are reclined into the front guards. The generous windows still feature but are tapered off at the back leaving a wide rear pillar. Ruby-jeweled headlights flank a usefully large tailgate. While the black/grey bumpers were part of the older model’s charm, now colour-coded exterior moldings and spare wheel casing give the RAV4 more formal attire. Exclusive 17-inch alloys finish off the new look. Overall, there is no argument the RAV4 has gained in size but the accompanying makeover is effectively disguising, and the lower, wider stance looks sharp and adds greater stability than its predecessors.

With its clean-cut passable looks, the RAV4 will inspire many to find out what’s on the inside. The larger exterior dimensions pay dividends with a light and spacious cabin, which can seat three adults comfortably in the back.  The rear seat can be slid back and forward to adjust available boot space, and the seat can be folded flat with a quick-pull leaver giving an impressive 1469-litre capacity (586 litres with seats up). The interior quality is markedly improved over that of former RAVs with many soft touch materials used and firm movement to everything that opens and closes. Brushed aluminum look trim mixes with dark plastics on a two-tier dashboard that creates a sense of functional flair. There is an overall feeling of strength to the cabin’s appointments so the RAV4’s reputation for long-term durability should be maintained. The seats are supportive and although the driving position allows for excellent visibility it is very upright and perched making it difficult for taller drivers to get comfortable.

The RAV4’s equipment list is impressive with a 6-disc CD changer, cruise control, trip computer, climate control, fog lamps and a glove box cooler. An on/off switch for the passenger airbag furthers the vehicle’s family appeal.

Once well acquainted with the RAV4 why not check out under the bonnet. A 2.2 litre 4cyl turbo-diesel sits up front, producing 100kW of power at 3600rpm. With common-rail injection and a healthy 310Nm of torque, the RAV4 offers ample mid-range pulling power. It’s no rocket ship off the line but will reach 100kph in a reasonable 9.3 seconds. The motor is a very useful unit around town but on the open road the RAV4’s porky 1585kg kerb weight is more noticeable and will require the driver to work the gears frequently. Fuel economy is very frugal only sipping away 6.6l/100km combined – one of the RAV4’s greatest strengths.

An automatic transmission is not available on the RAV4 yet, something Toyota will be working overtime on. The manual transmission does have a long throw, but finds the gear easily and partnered up with a light clutch pedal is totally user-friendly.

When it comes to ride and handling the RAV4 has favourable on-road manners, and would be hard to match for true car-like feel within the 4WD segment. The suspension doesn’t feel floaty even with the vehicle unladen and absorbs potholes and bumps well. On twisty roads, body roll is evident but the RAV4 never feels out of its depth changing direction at reasonable speeds. While cruising the RAV4 maintains a decent level of refinement, wind and road noise are minimal and the diesel motor, although audible remains generally unobtrusive.

Most RAV4s will only leave the tarmac to get two wheels on the kerb of a narrow city street, but if you must get dirty with your RAV4 it has legitimate off-road capability. An Active Drive System is standard including Active Torque Control (ATC) that automatically transfers torque between the front and rear wheels whenever necessary for optimum traction. Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Electric Power Steering are also ready to get involved. My only gripe with this system is the electric steering that I found to be over-lightened and vague therefore negating driver input.

Safety credentials are all in check with driver and passenger front airbags, side airbags, front and rear curtain shield airbags and a driver’s knee airbag all standard equipment.

So has the RAV4 still got it? Yes it does, it has much more in terms of equipment, refinement and pulling power now than it did in the past but a price has been paid. It’s not the lady-killing lothario it once was because the RAV4 has matured into a sensible 4WD at the cost of the fun attitude that attracted many to the first generation. Without a 2-door variant on offer its official – the RAV4 has grown up. The increased dimensions and practicality show it no longer desires single women and now requires a family to put it to full use. That said, it remains a very good vehicle and will prove popular for the many buyers looking to hit that sweet spot between car-based station wagons and truck-based 4WDs.

Price: from $38,690

What we like:

  • Strong exterior and interior quality
  • Great fuel economy
  • Favourable on-road manners

What we don’t like:

  • Vague lightweight steering
  • Diesel motor lacks power
  • Lost some character

Words and photos: Adam Mamo

Toyota RAV4 Diesel (2009) – Specifications


Model Code 2AD-FTV
Type: In-line, 4 Cylinder, 16 Valve, DOHC Chain Drive
Aspiration: Turbo Charged
Capacity: 2231 cc
Engine Size: 2.2 Litre
Bore: 86.0 mm
Stroke: 96.0 mm
Compression Ratio: 16.9 : 1
Number of Cylinders: 4
Number of Valves: 16
Max. Power: 100 kW
Max. Power: Max. 3600 rpm
Max. Torque: 310 Nm
Max. Torque: Min. 2000 rpm
Max. Torque: Max. 2800 rpm
Fuel System: Induction Type Common Rail Direct Injection
Fuel Type: Diesel
Tank Capacity: 60 Litres
CO2 Emissions – EU directive 70/220/EEC (Combined) 173 g/km
Fuel Consumption – EU directive 70/220/EEC (Combined) 6.6 L/100km


Battery: 12 volts
Alternator: 130 Amps
Starter: 2.0 kW
Ignition Type: Electronic Direct Ignition System (DIS)


Transmission Code: EA64F
Transmission Group: 6MT
Description Active Torque Control 4WD System with 6 Speed Manual Transmission and Lockable Rear Coupling
Drive Type: On-Demand 4WD with Lockable Rear Coupling
Rear Differential: Type Standard with Electronically Controlled Coupling
Clutch Type: Single Dry Plate with Diaphragm Spring


Front: MacPherson struts with hydraulic shock absorbers and stabiliser bar
Rear: Double Wishbone Trailing Arm type with hydraulic shock absorbers, coil springs & stabiliser bar
Steering: Description Engine speed sensitive power-assisted rack and pinion steering
Ratio Max. 14.4
Min. Turning Circle (Tyre): 10.2 m
Turns Lock to Lock 2.8


Brake Type Power assisted with tandem master cylinder & dual diagonal split hydraulic system
Front: Ventilated Disc
Rear: Solid Disc
ABS Standard
Mechanisms Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), Hill-start Assist Control (HAC), and Vehicle Stability Control + (VSC+)
Hand Brake Centre Floor Type Mechanical Parking Brake

Wheels and Tyres

Wheels: 7J x 17″ Alloy Wheels
Tyres: 225/65 R17 Steel Belted Radial Ply Tyres
Spare Tyre: 225/65 R17 Steel Belted Radial Ply Tyres
Tyre Brand: Bridgestone


Overall Length: 4395 mm
Overall Width: 1815 mm
Overall Height: Std. 1685 mm
Wheelbase: 2560 mm
Track – Front 1560 mm
Track – Rear 1560 mm
Overhang – Front 860 mm
Overhang – Rear 975 mm
Min. Ground Clearance: 180 mm
Approach Angle: 28 degrees
Departure Angle: 24 degrees
Interior – Length 1820 mm
Interior – Width 1495 mm
Interior – Height 1240 mm
Loadspace Length: 785 mm
Loadspace Width: 1335 mm
Loadspace Height: 991 mm
Seating Capacity: 5
Luggage Capacity Boot: 450 litres
Gross Vehicle Weight: 2190 kg
Kerb Weight: 1585 kg
Max. Towing Capacity Braked: 2000 kg
Max. Towing Capacity Unbraked: 750 kg

Toyota HC-CV created for the Melboune Motor Show

February 24th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Toyota HC-CV fq

In 2010 Toyota Australia will begin local production of the Camry Hybrid. To celebrate this Toyota Style Australia has created the HC-CV (Hybrid Camry Concept Vehicle) for the 2009 Melbourne Motor Show.

What exactly is it?  Well, it’s essentially the recently-updated 2010 Camry Hybrid, dolled up with a custom white paint color, a modified fascia, some snazzy wheels, blue decals and accents, and leather seats that incorporate the Hybrid Synergy Drive wave logo. The production Hybrid-Camry has already been unveiled, but this new concept looks smart and is an attractive way of gaining attention for the birth of Australia’s hybrid vehicle production capability.

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