Drive – Toyota Yaris YR Review

16 Jan 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Drive – Toyota Yaris YR Review

Bruce Newton

Make Toyota Family Yaris Series NCP90R Year 2005 Badge Description YR Doors 5 Seats 5 Transmission Manual Engine Configuration Description In-line Gear Num 5 Cylinders 4 Build Country Origin Description JAPAN Car Size Medium Fuel Type Description Petrol – Unleaded ULP Drive Description Front Wheel Drive Warranty KM 100000

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Down at the bottom of the Australian new-car market live what are officially known as light cars. To you and me, they are simply minis. It’s here where the Koreans, Japanese and local manufacturers fight and scrap for buyers based almost entirely on price.

There’s precious little profit and a lot of blood-letting.

It’s Toyota that has been selling the most minis in recent years with the still funky looking Echo, although a battalion of rivals has been edging in, led by Hyundai’s worthy Getz.

But after six years, the Echo has given way to the Yaris. It is an all-new car but there are obvious Echo-tones in the looks, which is no surprise because they were both styled by Toyota’s European design studio.

And in Europe, the Echo was always known as Yaris anyway, so Australia gets the badge as well as the sheetmetal this time around. We pick up a few other things, too, such as extra model grades, which now graduate from YR to YRS and YRX. All three get the choice of three- and five-door hatchback bodies but the YR is the only one with the updated, 1.3-litre, four-cylinder engine from the Echo.

The other two share the updated, 1.5-litre unit.

The 1.3 YR three-door, five-speed manual kicks off pricing at $14,990, while the five-door is $16,190. Add another $1500 for the four-speed auto being tested here.

For your $17,690 you get air-conditioning, dual front airbags, anti-lock braking with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, MP3-compatible CD audio, remote central locking, manual height adjustment of the driver’s seat and a full-sized spare wheel. While up $200 over the outgoing Echo equivalent, the addition of a passenger airbag and ABS more than compensate for that.

Less tangible but pretty obvious once you get on the road is the progress that Toyota has made in technical quality. It’s most apparent in the ride and handling.

The Yaris isn’t particularly sporty but it is capable of ironing out most of the pockmarks and corrugations our roads can throw at it while also keeping bodyroll in corners pretty well contained. Grip would be better if the YR got 15-inch rubber like the YRS and YRX rather than 14-inch, but it is feels quite stable and sure.

The use of fuel-saving electronic power steering is entirely understandable in a car of this type, but it has the unfortunate side effect of reducing feel to almost nothing. There’s no problem with accuracy, though, and with a 9.4-metre turning circle (down from the Echo’s 9.8 m) it is a great city car.

Being a 1.3, the engine isn’t going to be a ball of fire, even if it does have Toyota’s intelligent variable inlet valve timing (VVTi), double overhead cams, 16 valves and a new electronic throttle. In fact, the power and torque figures are lineball with Echo at 63 kW and 121 Nm, but weight is up from just under one tonne to 1045 kg, which must in part explain the climb in fuel consumption from 5.8 to 6.5 L/100 km in auto form. Nevertheless, the engine and transmission work hard together to save fuel, particularly in the mid-range where acceleration is restrained.

The auto resists the urge to drop gears at every subtle throttle input. It will change down to provide engine braking when needed, and the staggered gate provides an entirely acceptable substitute for a semi-manual mode.

The engine gets neither buzzy nor vibrant in the higher ranges, where it also starts to show more life and zest. Noise does become a factor, however, but it’s not as intrusive as tyre roar, suspension bump-thump and the machine-gun rattle of stones under the guards on any loose surfaces. Despite Toyota’s claims of improvements over Echo, quelling noise intrusions is still not a Yaris strongpoint.

Further evidence of a strict budget is found in the cabin, where the expanses of plastic are meant to provide a funky and youthful persona. It misfires because of the brick-hard feel and intermediate consistency of fit. The shapes are interesting, not least the upward swoop of the door armrests.

The undersized seats front and rear are another paean to price control, along with a shoddy cargo blind and industrial-quality boot carpet. The rear bench design is quality, though – it slides, split-folds, rakes and folds flat on command, giving up as much as 737 litres of storage space. It means you can create adequate rear-seat space for adults.

There is a plethora of storage spaces – up to 25.

Of course, the interior talking point – again – is the digital speedo mounted in the centre of the dash. It’s bigger and more legible than the Echo, but whether it’s better than a normal instrument pod in front of the driver is open to debate.

Despite a couple of quality quibbles, the obvious budget restriction and a rise in fuel consumption, the Yaris is going to be a maxi-performing mini for Toyota.

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