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FIRST DRIVE: Toyota Yaris car review


AFTER two successful generations, Toyota has decided to overhaul its popular Yaris model. An important contributor to the Japanese car maker’s bottom line, this latest Yaris boasts a new premium cabin ambience, some new technology and a new family ‘face’.

A little bigger than before, Toyota has set this Yaris the task of attracting existing supermini buyers plus those seeking to downsize from larger cars but keen to maintain a certain level of convenience and luxury.

As such, this third-gen car has been designed with dark cabin plastics and plush seats. It can also be had with a low cost sat-nav unit which boasts the added feature of Internet connectivity. With Google searches and the ability to download navigation destination information, local weather, car park, petrol station and other such useful data, Toyota is hoping such features will attract younger buyers alongside its traditional mature demographic.

At first glance it’s easy to see where Toyota is going with the new Yaris. Its exterior styling is more dramatic and sporty than before, while its expanded dimensions have been cleverly disguised – it’s a bigger car but you rarely notice it. The car’s grille treatment is obvious, though, and is part of Toyota’s plan to instill its new cars with a bolder, more distinctive character.

There have been big changes inside the Yaris, too. Aside from the noticeable uplift in quality – darker plastics, increased use of chrome trim and the plush-looking seats – the main change has seen the instruments move from the central position back to the traditional location behind the steering wheel. The sweeping fascia design also incorporates a new touchscreen audio interface. A cost upgrade to a sat-nav feature is available, while the usual MP3 and Bluetooth interfaces are also present.

And it’s these convenience features that Toyota hopes will help tempt buyers, as they often remain the preserve of more expensive models. Along with young buyers, downsizers already familiar with such ‘toys’ will no doubt expect the same of their new car regardless of its dimensions.

One thing that does continue to shrink is engine capacity, though. As the race to deliver a more economical ownership experience increases, car makers are offering smaller capacity engines with power outputs rivaling that of something much larger from only a few years ago.

A classic example is Toyota’s 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine. It may produce ‘only’ 68bhp, but its 58.9mpg figure and 111g/km CO2 rating should prove attractive to predominately urban-centric drivers. It’s certainly a willing unit, and one that never feels out of its depth around town.

Step up to the volume-selling 1.33-litre model and its 98bhp offers drivers more flexibility when taking extended journeys outside the city limits. Predictably there’s more power on tap for overtaking and a more relaxed cruising ability, while its 52.3mpg and 123g/km CO2 rating is a happy compromise given its enhanced flexibility.

Until the petrol-electric hybrid variant arrives in 2012, the Yaris range is rounded off by a 1.4-litre diesel unit boasting 89bhp, a good slug of torque and, crucially, 72.4mph and 104g/lm CO2. Regular long distance drivers are likely to find this combination more to their liking, and the standard fit six-speed manual gearbox (the same as in the 1.33 petrol variant) helps deliver a relaxed and frugal high speed cruising experience.

A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is clearly aimed at urban motorists and can help reduce emissions when fitted to the 1.33 petrol motor.

Road manners and refinement are important issues for Toyota buyers and this latest Yaris isn’t short of either. The company’s desire to attract downsizers used to more luxurious cars is one reason, but the motivation also stems from the need to increase the car’s ‘value proposition’ as the executives put it.

As such, the inclusion of a surprisingly well featured sat-nav unit is but one part of the strategy. The car’s seven airbags plus comprehensive electronic stability controls, spacious cabin, generous levels of standard kit across four trim levels, the choice of three or five doors and modest running costs all contribute towards the car’s appeal. Factor in a five-year warranty and it’s easy to see why buyers using their own money would feel confident spending it in a Toyota dealership.

Recent years have seen the supermini sector become a hotbed of competition. While some rival cars will better entertain keen drivers, Toyota has chosen to focus on the tangible benefits of ownership with its latest Yaris. If you value solid construction, generous equipment levels, low running costs, cabin space and the reassurance of a long warranty, the Yaris could be for you.

FACTS AT A GLANCE Model: Toyota Yaris TR 1.33 5dr, from £13,260 on the road. Yaris range from £11,170 to £15,385.

Engine: 1.33-litre petrol unit developing 98bhp.

Transmission: 6-speed manual transmission as standard, driving the front wheels.

Performance: Maximum speed 109mph, 0-62mph 11.7 seconds.

Economy: 52.3mpg.

CO2 Rating: 123g/km.

  • Enginespetrol
  • Power3 (average performance)
  • 0-60 mph
  • Economy3 (average fuel economy)
  • CO2g/km
  • Insurance groups3 (average costs)
  • Airbags
  • Seats5 value verdict:    stars

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