Thursday, September 1, 2011

Toyota Yaris (2011) review

This is the third Toyota Yaris to have been launched since 1999, and by some way the most conventional. Toyota's reason for toning down some of the design elements - the previously wide-eyed front styling, for example - isn't, as you might think, to avoid scaring off older buyers. On the contrary, they love the Yaris to bits. The new policy, strange as it may seem, is to attract younger ones.
 
The only case of Toyota becoming more radical, rather than less, in the new Yaris is the reduction in the number of windscreen wipers. Nowadays there's just one - a large item which, thanks to a shimmy shake halfway through its travel, clears about as much of the screen as two smaller wipers did in the past. But even this has been done for soberly calculated reasons of reduced wind noise and increased aerodynamic efficiency, not to add extra funkiness.

Something similar has been going on inside. The instrument panel for the new Yaris is right in front of the driver, where most people put it, and not perched in the centre of the dashboard as it was on the earlier models.

For me, this makes the dials easier to read, but there are other things to be concerned about. Although I imagine the interior design probably looked good on a computer screen, it's badly spoiled in real life by wide gaps between panels and the use of very cheap and clunky plastics.

Whatever the opposite of a jewel in the crown is, it can be found by going to the back of the car and opening the tailgate. Having done this, you will find one of the most wretchedly low-rent parcel shelves offered by any manufacturer. I suppose it's nice to know that someone has found a use for empty cereal packets, but this is not the sort of thing you would expect to find on any car costing more than, say, £7000.

Yet the cheapest model costs £11,170 (vastly more than the entry-level Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio or Vauxhall Corsa), and if you go for the top model you'll be asked to pay over £15,000. At the very least, for that money I'd be wanting a parcel shelf that didn't feel as if it would split in half if I so much as sneezed at it.
Not everything about the Yaris makes it seem overpriced. The major controls are all firm, without being overly heavy, and they all require similar effort to use. The ride and handling are very good as long as you're driving on a well-surfaced road (not so much if the road is bumpy - this may be a Japanese car, but its suspension set-up is as German as a Wagner overture). And it's quite spacious.

How spacious, exactly? Well, with the rear seats in place there's 286 litres under that ghastly excuse for a parcel shelf, and that's good going considering that the Fiesta, Clio and Corsa (which are all longer than the Yaris) are all in the 285-295 litres range. And, as with many Japanese cars, there's still a remarkable amount of room left over for tall rear-seat passengers.

Every third-generation Yaris which has so far been made available for the media to drive on UK roads has used the 1.33-litre petrol engine. No others are in the country yet, but that's okay because the 1.33 - which feels very well-suited to the car - is expected to be the best-seller in this country by a long way. For the record, the other options are a one-litre petrol engine and a 1.4 turbo diesel.


The diesel Yaris is the fastest-accelerating in the range, despite having a maximum power output of only 89bhp compared with the 1.33's 98bhp. It's also the most economical on the official EU test cycle and emits the least CO2, but it adds £1500 to the price, and not many supermini owners are going to drive far enough for the reduced petrol costs and tax payments to claw that back.

The trim level most likely to appeal to UK buyers is called TR, which is the only one available with all three engines and a choice of three- of five-door body styles. TRs don't have electric windows in the rear (a bit niggardly considering the most expensive one costs £14,760, wouldn't you say?), but the specification does include air-conditioning, see-me-home headlights, traction control, leather trim for the steering wheel and gearknob and the Toyota Touch system, which is basically just a full colour touchscreen controlling the audio, phone and Bluetooth controls.

Touch can be upgraded to Touch and Go, which adds various online services (for which you'll need a compatible phone, among other details which your local dealer will explain to you) plus satellite navigation. The satnav was plain wrong about many of the speed limits in the area of the media launch, and the voice directions were occasionally garbled, but the display itself - though small as these things go - is usefully clear.
Below TR there's T2, which probably isn't going to sell well because it's available with only the one-litre petrol engine. Further up the range, there's SR, which is meant to be sportier (though the larger wheels, low-profile tyres and "sports" suspension just make it slightly less comfortable), and T Spirit, which is the luxury model.

T Spirits are the only versions with dual-zone climate control air-conditioning and a panoramic glass sunroof. The sunroof has two blinds, so that the front passengers, or the rear passengers, or both, or neither can be sit in the shade as they wish. It's an extremely simple idea, extremely simply executed, but it may also be the single cleverest thing about the Yaris.

Source: http://www.carkeys.co.uk by David Finlay (30 August 2011)

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