Sri Lankan car buyers are generally extremely conservative, particularly so if you consider the mid range market. Oh sure, those on an extremely tight budget are willing to take the Indian route while Euro sophistication is the order of the day for the money is no object set, but the vast majority of buyers who want something comfortable, reliable and economical to get from A to B day in and day out, will look to the land of the rising sun for their wheels. And even then, if they can manage it, their first preference is for a Toyota. Since the early 80s Toyota has basically been the standard brand recommended to anyone who wants solid and dependable transportation and a quick look at the average city street is enough to confirm this; Toyota products outnumber pretty much any other brand. So a completely new model from Toyota (or at least one that looks new) is always something of an event to the general public; something that was proven during this test drive as random commuters continually stopped us to ask questions about the car, something that has never happened before during all the time I’ve been working at Motor. And what is the car that generated so much interest? It’s the new Toyota Yaris.
This car has a pretty convoluted background as the same basic car in sedan and hatchback form has been badged Yaris, Vios and Belta depending on the country it was sold in and we happen to see examples of each on our roads thanks to reconditioned imports. Untangling the various versions is headache inducing so let’s not go down that road; what you need to know is that the car you see here is the third generation of the Yaris/Vios, it is built in Thailand and is a substantially new model with significant changes over the previous generation that has become a familiar sight on our roads. So how does the new model compare to its predecessor?
First Impressions/Styling ****
Toyota have been making statements lately that they need to make their products more exciting and interesting visually and that’s no understatement; their bread and butter models tended to be more than a little bland. The previous Yaris is a good example. With the new one they’ve certainly decided to turn up the visual interest factor and the result is a car that is considerably more striking to look at. The front end makes an impact immediately with slimmer and longer lights, a bold chrome grille with a massive Toyota badge and a massive air intake/bumper combination underneath that looks quite aggressive. The side profile too has changed significantly with a more square edged roofline, sharper contours and some creases and character lines to stop it looking slab sided. Even the rear end is completely different to the old car and now incorporates several cues from the Camry. The design works quite well, making the car stand out from the crowd and helping it to look more upmarket than before; exactly what buyers want in other words. (Although the visual impact will decrease when there are six on every street and parking lot!). The Yaris has gotten bigger too, it’s longer and taller than the old car, though width and wheelbase remain the same, all in the interests of maximizing space, says Toyota.
External build quality is very good, panel gaps are small and even, the paint has a deep sheen, all trim is fitted solidly and the whole car gives the sense of being put together to last a very long time. The Toyota way has now been firmly established at the Thai manufacturing facility as well, clearly.
Interior/Driving environment ***
The interior has been just as thoroughly revised as outside and is unrecognizable from the previous generation. The first thing you notice is that the instruments have been moved away from the middle of the dashboard back to where they belong, right in front of the driver. The second notable change is more subtle but just as significant; The interior materials are no longer a uniform shade of grey or beige, Toyota have finally realized the benefits to be gained from contrasting colours and textures! The top half of the dashboard is now finished in black while the lower halves were a contrasting beige in our test car with aluminium effect trim dotted around as well. The basic design themes of the interior are based on the current themes used by Lexus, Toyota’s luxury brand in an effort to give the Yaris a more premium feel.
While the design is a welcome upgrade the detailing is not entirely successful. Toyota appear to be deeply infatuated with the appearance and premium feel of interior materials with visible stitching because they’ve attempted to incorporate that into the Yaris as well. This approach works on the seats to some extent but how do you give the impression of stitched leather when you need to make your interior out of plastic? Apparently the answer is to actually mould stitches into the plastic! You’ve got to give them marks for trying and in pictures the top of the dash and the centre of the door panels could even pass for leatherette, but obviously the moment you sit in the car you will notice that it actually is the same old hard plastic. Personally I don’t see the point to be honest, but I’m sure the average Yaris buyer will be quite excited by the new “premium” interior, after all, it “looks like a Lexus”.
Build quality is rock solid, everything is fitted perfectly, there are no rattles or squeaks and it looks to be built to last a long time, nothing less than you’d expect from a Toyota. The driving position is good, helped by a seat with a wide adjustment range, while all the controls are logically arranged and within easy reach once you are belted in. The instruments are clear and legible at a glance and even manage to look a bit sporty with their deep cowls while the fat rimmed three spoke steering wheel is good to hold and feels remarkably similar to the one fitted to the GT86.
Driving impressions ***
Mechanically the Yaris is mostly unchanged, utilizing the same well proven underpinnings as its predecessor. Power is provided by the well proven 2NZ-FE 4 cylinder engine which has a capacity of 1298cc and VVTi to help it put out 85BHP at 6000RPM and 121 NM of Torque at a reasonably low 4400RPM. Power is transmitted to the front wheels through a 4 speed Automatic, no CVT boxes or other complicated things to be found here! The drivetrain is obviously no ball of fire but the Yaris hasn’t gained any significant weight in the transition so it still weighs in at just over a ton which is pretty svelte in this day and age. So the little 1.3 has enough grunt to move the car along with reasonable vigour. Mid range acceleration is fairly strong and there is enough in reserve to deal with full loads, hill country overtakes and any other general driving situation that you are likely to encounter. The good old 4 speed auto may seem out of date in this day and age where 8 and 9 speeds are being introduced but it is a perfect match to the little engine, helping to make the most of the available power, shifting smoothly and generally doing what it has to do competently and efficiently.
In the corners too the Yaris manages to get along with competence and a minimum of fuss, the 15 inch wheels and 185/60 section tyres have a decent level of grip and the steering is light and responsive, helping you to point the car in your desired direction with confidence. Body control is also quite good, although a large amount of roll is noticeable. Overall, this is a safe, competent handler that can be trusted to keep you on the road even when you press on a bit, but of course it’s not the sort of car that you would hop into and take a long drive just for the sheer fun of it.
While it is competent on the open road, city commuting is really where this car excels. Despite the growth it remains a very compact car with good visibility so threading through rush hour traffic is no hassle, allowing you to make the most of any gaps that present themselves. Road and wind noise are much better suppressed than before and the ride is extremely good; compliant, well damped and seemingly perfectly suited to Sri Lankan roads. The ride and refinement really are a major improvement over the old car, immediately making the Yaris feel like a car a size or two larger.
Living with it ****
Practicality is one of the key criteria buyers in this segment focus on so you can be sure that Toyota has paid attention to maximizing it. Space inside is good considering for the size of car and although the dimensions of the cabin have not altered very much it is slightly more spacious than before thanks to revised design. The front seat backs have been redesigned to enhance rear seat legroom while the cushion of the rear seat has also been resculpted to optimize space and comfort. During the test I found that if the driver’s seat is set to my usual driving position (which is quite laid back), I could sit in the rear and get comfortable. If the front seats are slid all the way to the end of their tracks rear legroom becomes a problem but unless the front occupants are 7 footers this is not really necessary. Storage space in the cabin is plentiful, with large door pockets, centre console slots and several random cubbies dotted about for odds and ends. The boot is large enough for suitcases and is sensibly shaped while the rear seats can be folded down for larger loads.
Fuel consumption is claimed by Toyota as 12-13Km/l in the city and over 15km/l outside.
Reliability is obviously a given, this is a Toyota after all and there is a reason they are the standard by which everybody else is judged. Adding to your peace of mind is the fact that all the mechanicals are tried and tested and have shown to be extremely durable even in our conditions
The Yaris is offered by Toyota Lanka who naturally have all the required parts and knowledge to keep it ticking along reliably for several hundred thousand KM and a thoroughly state of the art workshop to help with this. In addition you can rest assured that parts and repair knowledge can be found at basically any corner of the island. The warranty offered is Two Years or 50,000 Kilometres, whichever comes first.
The Yaris is offered to permit holders at a landed price of 3.8 million rupees at the moment, which puts it in a fairly competitive price category. Its capabilities are well rounded enough to make it a solid choice even against the competition and the all important Toyota badge in front will increase its appeal to buyers. Equipment too is good with electric windows, mirrors and locks, a sound system with auxiliary input and even keyless go (amusingly known as “push start” in the local market, as you need to press a button to start!).
Safety is not something the average Sri Lankan car buyer seems to focus on much and since our genius government considers essential safety kit like airbags and electronic stability control to be luxury options which are taxed accordingly most brand new cars here have less safety kit than they would in other markets. The Yaris is the same with only Dual front airbags on the passive safety front and ABS and EBD on the active side. You can’t really blame the agents or Toyota since adding side/curtain airbags and ESP etc would drive the price even higher but it’s certainly about time the government is encouraged to change this short-sighted and rather ridiculous viewpoint. It will only make our roads safer and road safety is supposedly something the government cares about.
The new Yaris is a worthy replacement for its very popular predecessor, improving upon it significantly and bringing a welcome dose of visual interest as well. Judging by the reaction we saw on test, Toyota understands their customers very well indeed. It may not appeal to petrolheads, but I have a feeling that doesn’t bother Toyota all that much.
Pros – Styling, Ride, Economy,
Cons –Bland drive, Interior materials could be better
Type – Inline 4 cylinder, DOHC, 16 Valve, VVT-i
Displacement –1298 CC
Max Power - 63Kw (85BHP) @ 6000RPM
Max Torque - 121NM @ 4400 RPM
Driven Wheels - Front
Transmission – 4 Speed Electronically controlled Automatic
Brakes - Front Vented Disc, Rear Drum with ABS and EBD
Steering - Rack and Pinion, Electric Power Assistance
Suspension - Front McPherson struts /Rear Torsion beam
Wheels – 15 inch Alloy with 185/60 R15 Tyres
Weight - 1065Kg
Dimensions – Length 4410mm X Width 1700 mm X Height 1496 mm
Wheelbase – 2550 mm
Top Speed – NA
0–100 KM/H – NA
Fuel Consumption – 12-13 KM/L City, 15+ KM/L outstation (Manufacturer Figures)