ONLY just the other day I learnt that for the first time since 2005, a non-US band had won Chicago music critic Pitchfork Media's best track of the year award. French group M83 won it for their dreamy Midnight City single and though you probably don't give a rat's, what is interesting is that a lot of middle-aged to older music lovers actually know, and like, this song.
What these oldies are doing in territory supposedly occupied only by teenagers is unusual at best, creepy at worst. But oldies are widening their tastes into zones that grandma and grandpa would never dare to enter. They're wearing Vans, taking up extreme sports and buying girl-size city cars at such a rate that the average age of light-car buyers is just over 40 with an average household income of more than $100,000. And you youngsters thought you had it all to yourselves.
On a buck for benefits ratio, the 2011 Toyota Yaris is better than before. It sits in a very tough market segment so to keep interest afloat, Toyota has expanded the feature list, changed the look, boosted cabin space and kept its reliable drivetrain. No doubt it's a good package. The YRX automatic tested is the most expensive Yaris you can buy. At $21,390 it is $400 more expensive than a manual Corolla Ascent hatch but I'd argue the former is a far better buy. Top gear includes a touch screen sat-nav with a USB/iPod compatible audio, seven airbags and alloy wheels.
It follows its predecessor's stubby-wedge theme but is chunkier and the design focus has been deliberately pushed slightly towards the male buyer. I like the look but one of my daughters disagrees. She's wrong. The Yaris is purposeful and has Tardis inclinations, with its boxy dimensions and wheel-at-each-corner frame indicative of the excellent cabin space. The central instrument panel is long gone and so is the budget dash. Though hard plastic, the two-tone dash looks good and works well. The single windscreen wiper is so clever - and very European - that I had it on just to enjoy its sway.
Not a lot has changed over the p redecessor when it comes to the drivetrain. Really, nothing had to. I'd argue that a six-speed auto - like its rival Ford Fiesta - would improve driveability and economy but acknowledge that the car's price would jump. So the four-speed auto remains. The YRX engine is a 80kW/141Nm 1.5-litre, while base models get a 63kW/121Nm 1.3-litre unit. Yaris is now 100mm longer but a weight-reduction program has shaved 20kg from its mass. Together with a retuned engine and friction-reducing technology, the lighter body allows the engine to drink less. Toyota claims the 1.5 auto now gets 6.3 L/100km.
Toyota expects the Yaris to get a five-star rating based on crash testing overseas. All models come standard with seven airbags, electronic stability and traction control, ABS brakes (though drums on the rear), brake assist and features such as front seats that are designed to lessen whiplash injury.
What a surprise. Thoughts that the engine would be gaspy down low and screaming up hi gh because of the four-speed auto were all wrong. The car is a delight to drive thanks to a 1.5 with a broad spread of power. But even better is the solid feel of the Yaris on the road. It hustles through corners - but tends t understeer and the height enhances body roll - and does it all with high passenger comfort and minimal noise. The driving position is better than before with more side support for the body and full adjustment for the steering wheel. It will seat four adults - and has a dec ent luggage area - but performance is dulled by the extra weight.
Most of the 25-plus cars in the light-car category are value but the Yaris is one of the top-five stand-outs. Basically, you can't go wrong with this car.
TOYOTA YARIS YRX
Warranty: 3 years, 100,000km
Service interval: 15,000km or 12 months
Economy: 6.3 l/100km; 147g/km CO2
Safety equipment: seven airbags, ESC, ABS, EBD, EBA, TC
Crash rating: 5 star
Engine: 80kW/141Nm 1.5-litre 4-cyl petrol
Transmission: Four-speed auto
Body: 5-door, 5 seats
Dimensions: 3885 (L); 1695mm (W); 1510mm (H); 2510mm (WB)
Tyre size: 175/65R15, space-saver spare.