January 6, 2011
Spiralling petrol prices mostly fuelled the demand for affordable, well-built small cars that were economical and practical, and Toyota responded with the Yaris.
The Yaris took over from the Echo as the starter model in the Toyota range, but it represented a huge step forward in the small car class.
While the Echo was popular and offered the usual Toyota qualities of build quality and reliability it was still a bare bones small car built for people who couldn't afford anything bigger.
The Yaris was bigger than the Echo and brought with it a new level of refinement for those who chose to drive small.
There was also plenty of choice in the Yaris range, with a selection of three-door and five-door hatch body styles, and a four-door sedan, and three levels of equipment.
With a curvy, sculptured shape the Yaris presented a fresh, vibrant face to the small car world when it was launched in 2005, and it has remained so six years later.
Despite its small size the Yaris offered a surprising amount of room and comfort thanks to some clever packaging and efficient use of space.
A high, upright seating position created a roomy cabin with generous headroom and ample knee room, even in the rear.
Not only was the cabin roomy for four - it was a squeeze for five - but it was also quite practical with the rear seat able to slide and fold to liberate a decent amount of space to carry bulkier items in the rear.
Storage throughout the cabin was also generous with 25 storage compartments to swallow all manner of smaller items.
The range starter YR was powered by a 1.3-litre double overhead camshaft four-cylinder engine that gave 63 kW at 6000 revs and 121 Nm at 4400 revs, the other models had a 1.5-litre double overhead cam engine that delivered 80 kW at 6000 revs and 141 Nm at 4200 revs.
There was also a choice of a five-speed manual gearbox and a four- speed auto, and drive was through the front wheels.
On the road the 1.3-litre engine, while adequate for the task, lost some of its edge when connected to the auto.
With more punch the 1.5-litre got the job done more comfortably with either gearbox and was more pleasant to drive as a result.
Equipment levels were quite good with even the base model having air, remote central locking, CD sound, and power windows, mirrors and steering.
IN THE SHOP
There has been little complaint from Yaris owners suggesting they are content with their lot.
With little to be concerned about potential buyers should focus on the service side and check to make sure their potential buy has seen the inside of a service shop every 10,000 km or six months as Toyota recommends.
Once that's established start looking closely at the body for signs of crash damage that hasn't been repaired well. Mismatching colours, overspray, oddly coloured window tinting that doesn't match the other windows, doors, bonnets and hatches that don't open and close smoothly are some of the giveaways to look for.
Listen for clunks and rattles inside and out when driving, and make sure the transmissions shift readily without hesitation.
IN A CRASH
All models had the safety basics of dual front airbags and antilock brakes, but there was also an optional Enhanced Safety Pack that added front side and curtain airbags along with a knee airbag for the driver for comprehensive crash coverage.
ANCAP gave the small Toyota a creditable four stars in its base form, but five stars when equipped with the safety pack.
AT THE PUMP
It's came as no surprise that the Yaris was an economical little car, after all that was one of Toyota's design objectives.
Toyota claimed the 1.5-litre models would do an average of 6.1 L/100 km with the manual gearbox and 6.7 L/100 km with the auto.
Having to haul the same body as the larger engine the 1.3-litre models were only marginally more economical at 6.0 L/100 km in manual form and 6.5 L/100 km in auto guise.
Road testers recorded figures slightly higher than that, the 1.5- litre models typically giving around 7.0-7.2 L/100 km.
LOOK FOR .
THE BOTTOM LINE
A step up in class, drives smoothly, is quiet, roomy and comfortable. 80/100