Toyota Yaris hatchback 2011 review
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An all-new, bigger and better Toyota Yaris has just been unwrapped in Japan. It promises a much tougher rival in Australia to cars such as the Ford Fiesta and Mazda2, but there are still plenty of questions through the countdown to its planning arrival in September.
They include doubts over production at Toyota's Miyagi assembly plant, which is still offline following the Japanese earthquake. Various sources point to a production shutdown until sometime in May because of the difficulty in re-connecting essential services - including natural gas - to the factory.
Toyota Australia also says there will be tweaking to the Yaris before it comes here, most notably the replacement of the CVT transmission popular in Japan with a regular four-speed automatic gearbox. The company is also promising a full five-star NCAP ranking for the basic Yaris three-door hatch.
Toyota has targeted top-line European rivals including the Volkswagen Polo - the reigning Carsguide Car of the Year - but it is still built to a price and some people will find marginalised features.
The price of the Yaris currently starts at $14,990, or $16,590 as an automatic, and Toyota will be aiming to hold the line with the new model. It plans also to continue with its current strategy of using three and five-door hatchback bodies with either 1.3 or 1.5-litre engines. There will be three equipment grades.
The most impressive thing about the new Yaris is the 1.3-litre engine's Smart-Stop Package. Taking just 0.35 seconds to restart after seamlessly cutting the engine at idle, the smart-stop works to improve fuel economy to an excellent 4.59 litres/100km.
But, surprisingly, the start-stop is only offered on the 1.3 litre due to its hefty $750 pricetag. And, more strikingly, VSC and TRC traction controls, which are standard on the 1.3 litre, are not even offered as options on other models, although this will not be the situation in Australia with stability control now compulsory on all cars sold here.
"We need to stand out more. That is one reason why the new Yaris has grown in size and taken on an edgier look compared to it's predecessor," says deputy chief engineer Yoshinari Toyomura.
Checking out the new Yaris on Tokyo streets, we immediately see what he means. The new B-segment bigwig is 85mm longer with a wheelbase that gains 50mm. The car does feel bigger, but the company's efforts to minimize costs while improving packaging have met with mixed results
Toyota already gets a five-star NCAP rating with the five-door Yaris including the safety pack - with front-side-head airbags - and four stars for the three-door with frontal airbags.
It promises better for the new model and Australian buyers can also expect the usual ABS brakes and ESP stability control to satisfy local regulations and consumers.
Tuned for optimum fuel economy and CO2 emissions, the 1.3-litre Yaris is adequate but not quick. Mated to a revised CVT transmission, it pulls sufficiently from around 2000 revs and stays strong enough through the mid-ranges, we think, because this car did not have a tachometer.
Aussie cars will get a five-speed manual, and a tacho. To keep up with rivals, the Yaris has stiffened body rigidity, a more compliant ride and better weighted, more responsive steering. Local specifications will be crucial, really, to the potential success of the car in an incredibly tough sector of the market.
The new Yaris is more spacious, does handle better than the old model and looks considerably smarter, but it feels like it's been short-changed on a few interior elements and performance is middling rather than genuinely impressive. It'll need those missing toys if it's to stand out from the crowd when it arrives here later this year.
Built to satisfy the bottom dollar, the new Yaris generates good first impressions, but leaves question marks with its packaging and potential impact in Australia.
Range and Specs
|YR||1.3L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO||$3,700 – 6,050||2011 Toyota Yaris 2011 YR Pricing and Specs|
|YRS||1.5L, ULP, 5 SP MAN||$3,900 – 6,270||2011 Toyota Yaris 2011 YRS Pricing and Specs|
|YRX||1.5L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO||$5,000 – 7,810||2011 Toyota Yaris 2011 YRX Pricing and Specs|
|ZR||1.5L, ULP, 5 SP MAN||$4,300 – 6,930||2011 Toyota Yaris 2011 ZR Pricing and Specs|