Spruced up to outsmart the country cousins and rivals from beyond the borders, the 2018 model looks happy, peppy and more youthful. Alvin Thomas hangs out with the darling of the masses
It’s hard to imagine a car that has achieved as much as the Toyota Yaris has since its inception back in 1999 (although, it was initially called the Echo). That’s nearly 15 years of stronghold in the Middle East’s much-acclaimed and coveted budget sedan segment.
Initially launched as a 2015 model-year for its third generation, the sedan has now been given a facelift to keep it in check with all upcoming rivals from Japan and South Korea. To find out if the plot had worked, we took the latest variant out for a spin.
The first thing that will come to you when you see the Yaris in person is how much larger it looks when compared with its previous iterations. Also, Toyota now keeps the car in line with its larger siblings – the Corolla and the Camry and so on.
Despite that, it’s obvious that the boffins are now targeting the youth too, as the design language is far from conformist. The character lines and chisels on the fascia are peppy and sprightly.
Meanwhile, the intake grille is gaping but not obnoxiously so, and the fog lamps are placed in a wedge-shaped cutout adjacent to the grille.
The side profile is fairly low, even with the 15-inch alloy wheels, but the posterior complements the sporty look. The tail lamps are long and sharp, while the exhaust is hidden under the sculpted bumper.
Overall, it’s still light years ahead of its rivals in this segment. However, where it really takes the cake is in interior comfort and features. The dashboard, for instance, is sleek and posh-looking, thanks to the gloss black elements.
My tester came with Toyota’s standard six-speaker entertainment system with an LED screen. It also supports AM, FM, CD, AUX and USB. The speakers are crisp and clear, and provide adequate oomph – even for songs with sharp notes and heavy bass.
The seats were covered in soft fabric which, despite its looks, provides comfort while also offering excellent lumbar support. Courtesy the 2,550mm wheelbase, there’s plenty of leg room for passengers (even in the rear). Even those who are six feet and above can find themselves sitting comfortably in the rear.
The 476-litre boot space is great to store two large suitcases or four to six small ones with ease.
Come to think of it, the Yaris boasts almost as much (and in some cases, more) boot space as a midsize sedan.
Standard safety features include front driver and passenger airbags, ABS, brake assist and Electronic Brake-Force Distribution (EBD).
Underneath the hood lies Toyota’s flagship in-line four cylinder 1.5-litre engine pumping out a respectable 105hp and 141Nms of torque. The motor is further mated to a seven-step continuously variable transmission (CVT).
While this doesn’t necessarily translate to an eye-popping 0-100kph timing – which is about 11 seconds, for all you keen speed-freaks – the Yaris impressed me in fuel economy. Fuel economy was pegged at about 6.1-litre per 100km, and I could achieve figures close to the same during
highway driving. Of course, that also depends on how you treat the throttle.
Overtaking on highways isn’t a hassle thanks to the quick response CVT, but there’s no getting over the fact that the car sits comfortable at speeds of about 120kph – after which there’s not much steam left. Also, pushing the pedal to the floor can result in a bit of engine drone, which is characteristic of cars with CVTs.
The CVT is tuned for maximum efficiency, and you can see it fight to keep the engine revolutions to the minimum while still offering you the thrust required. It’s a battle which can often result in vain in the city though.
The chassis and suspension setup on the Yaris is inclined towards maximum comfort – and it shows: The car can take even the roughest of roads without much of the harshness or tyre noise translating into the cabin. The latter does make its way into the cabin after you break past the 110kph mark – but it’s still better than, say, most of its South Korean competitors.
Albeit, this does etch its mark on the handling. For instance, the soft suspension means a bit of body roll does creep in when you push the car into corners at high speeds. But understeer is kept in check thanks to the intrusive ESP system, and traction does take power over any form of wheel spin when you power away from the traffic at a signal.
I did, however, find the electric power-steering to be quite quick to respond – and with a great deal of sharpness. This allows the car to be nimble on its feet during city drive. Also, aiding to the driving feel is the light steering setup which makes manoeuvring through tight traffic easy.
The brakes are strong enough to cope with the 1060kg kerb weight of the car, and it also progresses linearly when you put your foot on the pedal. Ironically, it provides copious amounts of feedback when you’re decelerating; it’s a trait that has gone missing from modern cars.
Toyota’s Yaris may come to you with a new – and sportier – face today, but there’s no denying that the overall recipe remains the same. It’s still the simple car that would ferry you from home to work or take your family out to parks on weekends without even the slightest of hesitation. In other words, the Yaris is undoubtedly the same car that you probably spent your days in while time ticked on. And just like you have, it has now grown up too.
• Engine: 1.5-litre in-line four-cylinder
• Transmission: Seven-step continuously variable transmission (CVT)
• Horsepower: 105hp
• Torque: 141Nm
• Top speed: 175kph
• Front-wheel drive
• Audio system with USB/AUX/Bluetooth support
• 15-inch alloy wheels
• Leather steering wheel
• ABS, ESC, BA and EBD
• Push-button start
• Rear parking sensors
• Steering wheel-mounted audio controls
• Cruise control