Once upon a time, the Yaris was a small inconspicuous hatchback which provided an entry level Toyota experience to the masses of Sri Lanka. Now almost 20 years have passed, and the Yaris has grown into a family of its own, present in hatchback form and also as the model tested here, the Yaris Ativ sedan. This particular model is the range topping S grade version, which is currently being built in Thailand. Interesting fact on the origins of the word Yaris, it has been derived from the word "Charis", the singular form of Charites, the Greek goddesses of charm and beauty.
As they say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so whilst the latest Toyota face, grille and fluid styling is definitely striking, which has a given it a definite up-market presence in the segment.
The relaxed taxation now on the small capacity engines mean that there are wider variety of sedans available in the 1000 to 1200cc category, with even European brands now offering sedans and hatchbacks at price points similar to Japanese and other Eastern counterparts, so that Yaris needs to really live up to its name and more, to create an impact in this ‘B sedan’ segment. The test vehicle has been brought down by N. M. Blendz Pvt Ltd.
Whilst previous iterations of the Yaris sedans were able to slip past without much hoopla, the latest generation is more in your face, partly due to the new Toyota corporate front end which carries a massive intake in its bottom half. Visually it is very similar to the new Corolla and you would be hard pressed to find a difference in a hurry. Overall, it’s a very aggressive design in comparison to the past, but very up to date in terms of the latest design trends, particularly with the sculpted body lines and in the S grade, the well placed red colored accents inside and outside the body. Something notable in the design evolution are the chrome accents, which used to surround for example the rear lights, are now integrated inside the lights themselves, which is far more pleasing to the eye. These subtle changes reflect the attention to detail that was made for the Yaris to be unique in this class.
Mech & Tech
Given the myriad combinations of vehicles Toyota maintains for different markets, it’s a trip down a very branchy family tree to find out the actual underpinnings of the Ativ. The platform is the XP150 chassis on which the current Toyota Vios and Yaris hatchback are all based on. This Yaris Ativ variant seems to be available only in the 1.2-liter flavor, coupled with a CVT gearbox. In fact, this car is exactly the same dimensions as the Vios, the only differentiator being that the design and the Vios being available with a 1.5-liter engine. No exotic configurations are to be found in the engine bay, with a well suited 3NR-FE 4-cylinder 16 valve engine with dual overhead cams and variable valve technology branded as Dual VVT-I found across many Toyota models. The engine pumps out a claimed 86hp.
One of the main takeaways is that Toyota hasn’t messed around with mechanical and engine configuration that has been probably refined, tested and proven over the last 10 years since the introduction of its VVTi technology, so the legendary Toyota reliability and economy will be shining through in the Yaris Ativ. The ride management is handled by McPherson struts with stabilizer on the front and the rear is with the torsion beam with coil springs. The braking system is still the traditional yet tried and tested discs in the front with drums in the rear but work perfectly fine with this setup.
The engine feels strong and refined throughout the RPM band, and can comfortably handle highway speeds without strain, given the size and equipment level of the vehicle. However, the acceleration is somewhat hampered by the CVT gearbox, giving quite an elastic band feeling when accelerating out of low speeds. The staggered PRND pattern in CVT boxes is something that you need to get used to, compared to the convenient straight pattern on most automatic boxes. However low speed manageability of the vehicle is excellent and it would be very comforting to know that you will be getting all the economic benefits of the smaller capacity engine without compromising on performance in a mid-size sedan.
The drivetrain is not the most lively you can encounter given the specification, however the steering is fairly direct and gives a fair amount of security and the ability to “chuck it” into corners without much worry.
The ride is comfortable and supple on our roads whilst providing good feedback and stability whilst cornering. However, at low speed the ride can be a bit hard with bumps and ruts on the road coming through the body a little bit harsher than expected, however the suspension harmonic tuning syncs in as the speed increases and all is well again.
Braking is more than enough for the course and you will not have any issue bringing the Ativ to a stop in a hurry if need be.
Living with the Ativ
During the entire test drive, the most notable aspect of the Ativ was its practicality. Given its large front bumper with the front splitter/air intake combination you would think it’s a horror at clearing speed bumps and the not so occasional pothole you come across in our roads, but it has exceptionally good ground clearance that is well suited for Sri Lankan roads, urban or rural. Also, the Ativ is a very well sized vehicle, with adequate seating for 4 large adults, or 2 large ones and 3 children! The front seats can accommodate a 5’11’ frame perfectly, and the driving position is quite high up without compromising on headspace, providing excellent visibility without feeling cramped.
Lot of thought as been spent on the interior design, and it carries on with the theme of the exterior rather than being an afterthought. The S grade carries all the nice upgrades such as the red stitching on the well sculpted seats, steering wheel and doors to match the red exterior trimming. Also, the S grade has a large touch screen media unit that supports all the latest mobile connectivity and media types with six speakers, and a trip computer/display integrated to the instrument binnacle, showing real time statistics of your economy and driving details. All grades carry the multifunction steering wheel that can control the media unit and hands free mobile calling.
There is excellent space in the boot for luggage, and well thought out compartments for items located throughout the interior.
In the ASEAN NCAP safety tests, the Ativ has scored an excellent 5 star result, scoring well across the board in adult occupancy, child occupancy and safety assists. This is provided by front and side airbags, also curtain and drivers knee shield, combined with ABS with traction control. There is also a feature named Electronic Brake Force distribution, aiding the ABS system. All other safety features such as whiplash reduction headrests are standard equipment.
Fuel Economy and Price
The 1.2-liter engine provides good fuel economy with a claimed combined range of 20km per liter, however during our short test drive the trip computer did show around 14kmpl around city driving which is quite adequate given the size and equipment level of the vehicle.
Something most budget conscious Sri Lankan buyers in this segment would be attracted to will be the price of the Ativ. Prices start from Rs 6.4 million for the base model and the S grade would be in the region of Rs 7 million, which is competitively priced with the competition and in comparison, the Ativ offers fairly good value with a good mix of practicality and style. It’s a Toyota of course, so reliability will be bulletproof and you will enjoy great second-hand value for those so inclined.
Toyota has got the B segment sedan developed to point where the Ativ has the right mixture of urban and ultra-urban needs met in one single package without compromising practicality or style. Highlights of the Ativ are its impressive level of practicality and combination of style and features, and for those factors alone it is very good value as well. So if you are interested, head down to N. M. Blendz down Station First Lane, Udahamulla, Nugegoda and have a look at the Yaris Ativ.
1,197cc. 4 cylinder
86bhp @ 6,000rpm
108Nm @ 4,000rpm
Front wheel drive
Rear – Torsion Beam
Kerb Weight: 1,050kg
Fuel Tank: 42L
Boot Space: 476L