Yaris all nip-and-tuck as model gets a makeover

Toyota must be the most envied brand among manufacturers in South Africa‚ at least from a sales perspective.

And it still enjoys a loyal following. But for how long?

FACING UP TO CHANGE: The new Toyota Yaris has received a quirky new front end that will no doubt divide opinion.
FACING UP TO CHANGE: The new Toyota Yaris has received a quirky new front end that will no doubt divide opinion.

Our industry is one of unrelenting change. These days you can have a B-segment car that offers charisma‚ sharp dynamics‚ gadgetry aplenty and unwavering reliability.

So it was refreshing to see some brazenness at the launch of the new Yaris recently. It is absolutely un-Toyota-like in design and will no doubt divide opinion.

With the 2014 model the mandate was to address the shortcomings of its predecessor‚ which arrived locally in 2011. One of these‚ according to Toyota representatives‚ was a lack of cool factor.

The handling received attention too. In fact‚ the revitalised city-slicker gained more than 1000 new parts.

The results of this holistic improvement plan were noticeable over my 200km test period that spanned the varying roads of the scenic Western Cape. Most assuringly, the interior has been improved. Soft-touch materials have been employed in favour of the coarse and cheap-feeling surfaces of old. Over tarnished road surfaces there was not a rattle or squeak to be heard in the cabin.

Under the hood things remain the same and buyers still have a trio of petrol engines to pick from. Marking the entry-point is a 1l (51kW and 95Nm)‚ followed by a 1.3l (73kW and 125Nm) and headlined by a 1.5l hybrid derivative (74kW and 156Nm).

The least-endowed model was not available to sample at launch‚ which is a pity since it was the recipient of a number of revisions. Over elevations and twisty bits‚ the 1.3 proved to be fizzy and willing. It is eager to rev and in sixth gear‚ on the open road‚ settles quite happily at 120km/h. This model is also available with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

The hybrid model is still a bone of contention. Still‚ the two-pedal hybrid is leisurely to pilot in traffic and also affords one the novelty of creeping around silently in full-electric mode. Floor the accelerator and it gets up to speed briskly‚ but the momentum is accompanied by a painfully monotonous drone.

Standard kit is plentiful. Even the starter model gets a touchscreen interface‚ six-speaker sound system‚ Bluetooth‚ as well as audio and telephone controls on the steering wheel. And there’s air-conditioning‚ airbags‚ antilock brakes and electric windows all round. And for R167900 this model is exceptional value.

The 1.3 goes for R194300 and R206500 for the CVT version‚ which sits squarely in the realm of players such as the Kia Rio 1.4 (R193995); Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost Trend (R204500) and Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TSI Trendline (R191600).

You would have to be really hell- bent on hybrid ownership to opt for the HSD‚ which has a steep asking price of R276900. — BDLive


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