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Car reviews - Toyota - Yaris - YRS hatch

The Car

13 Jan 2012

TOYOTA’S Yaris hatchback has been completely redesigned with more space, safety, strength, refinement and standard features, as well as a dose of Australian chassis engineering for improved ride and handling, but with no changes in price bar one model variant.

Though pipped to the light-car sales leadership position over the past two years by the now-discontinued Hyundai Getz, and currently outsold by the Mazda2, the Yaris has cumulatively been the best-selling light car in Australia since 2006.

And Toyota, which has now put the setbacks stemming from the devastating Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March behind it, is determined to place Yaris back on top with the new-generation 130-series launched Down Under this week.

Starting off from the same $14,990 (plus on-road costs) as a reflection of how fiercely competitive the light-car segment has become, even the most basic three-door hatch now includes seven airbags, electronic stability control, and traction control for the first time, for an anticipated five-star ANCAP crash-test rating.

As part of what Toyota calls a value increase of $1400, the entry-level and volume-selling YR also scores a trip computer, steering wheel-mounted controls for the improved audio system, Bluetooth phone connectivity, anti-whiplash front head restraints, 14-inch wheels and the option of cruise control ($650).

A rear reversing camera is also now available as an option across the range.

Choosing the five-door body style on the YR adds $700, while specifying the carryover four-speed automatic transmission – in an age where rival models, including the Holden Barina, now offer six speeds – is another $1600.

The mid-level YRS three-door hatch is the only model that rises in price. Kicking off from $16,890, it is now $500 more expensive – although $850 better value by Toyota’s reckoning – or $17,390 for two extra side doors.

Meanwhile, to take on popular competitors such as Ford’s Fiesta Zetec, a new ZR three-door manual-only model has materialised, which is a more youth-orientated sibling to the YRX flagship.

Priced from $18,990, the ZR features unique styling – including different bumpers and headlights – as well as a bodykit, rear spoiler, sports seats, racier trim, a rear diffuser and standard satellite-navigation – still a rarity in the light-car class, particularly with Suna traffic management, a touch-screen interface and DivX player compatibility.

The latter, along with 15-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights and climate-control air-conditioning, can also be found in the YRX, which continues as a five-door auto-only proposition from $21,390, but boasts a claimed $2450 of improved value.

A new-generation Yaris sedan will not be forthcoming, meaning the existing (2006-era) Yaris sedan continues. However, as we have reported, Toyota Australia is investigating a three-box four-door Yaris replacement in the form of a number of models, including the Etios sedan currently built in India.

Built in Japan, the 130 series’ hatch body is fresh out of the box, measuring 100mm longer than its predecessor at 3885mm (ZR: 3930mm), but 20mm lower at 1510mm.

The wheelbase has been stretched 50mm, to 2510mm, markedly increasing rear legroom and luggage space (bugbears of the outgoing 90-series model), with the latter’s length extending 145mm to 710mm, for a 12-litre overall gain in cargo volume, to 286 litres.

And while the 1695mm overall width remains the same, the overhauled cabin now comes with 30mm more room at the sides, as well as better quality materials to up the Yaris’ ambience over the previous edition.

The move from a central instrumentation binnacle to the more conventional position ahead of the driver is also meant to underline the light-car combatant’s more ‘grown up’ look and feel, as does new and improved seating adjustment and a more vertical steering wheel location.

Access to the three-door’s rear seat has improved with a new front-seat slide mechanism with a shoulder-height release lever.

Said to introduce Toyota’s new corporate face, the latest Yaris is a slightly less boxy reinterpretation of the previous hatch from 2005, which itself was an evolution of its groundbreaking Echo predecessor of 1999. The aim was to create a sleeker and sportier look.

Along with more pronounced crease lines, the fresh Toyota tot introduces a single-arm windscreen wiper design, larger front quarter glass and non-divided rear-door windows for improved visibility.

Japanese-based chief designer Takeshi Go was also involved in creating the 1998 and 2001-generation Corolla small cars, as well as the Toyota iQ and Lexus LS.

Toyota Australia has picked up the European suspension chassis tune developed in Belgium for the latest Yaris, but honed it at the Toyota Technical Centre in Melbourne for local conditions and driver expectations.

Among the changes are a retuned assistance curve for the electric rack and pinion steering system for smaller inputs while retaining a tight turning circle (9.4 metres), a less sensitive throttle response, and 18 and 26 per cent increases in the front and rear spring rates respectively.

As before, the front suspension consists of MacPherson struts, while the rear uses the class-standard torsion beam set-up. Compared to the earlier Yaris, the springs, shock absorbers and bushes have been modified to improve handling, refinement and ride quality. Front and rear tracks are slightly wider now at 1485mm and 1470mm respectively.

Despite the use of a stronger and more rigid body, the 130 series has shed 20kg – 5kg from the body, 6kg from the chassis, 5kg from using lighter and thinner seats, and the remaining 4kg from various other sources. Kerb weight varies from 990kg (YR three-door manual) to 1055kg (YRX five-door auto).

Weight was also saved with the deployment of a hollowed-out 24.2mm diameter anti-roll bar, a plastic front strut bearing, aluminium inner rings for the torsion-beam bush, and high-tensile steel coil springs.

Driving the front wheels is a choice of two modified variations of the previous generation’s 1.3 and 1.5-litre twin-cam 16-valve Euro 4-compliant four-cylinder petrol engines.

The YR uses a 1299cc ‘2NZ-FE’ unit producing 63kW of power at 6000rpm and 121Nm of torque at 4400rpm. Combined-cycle fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions figures for the standard five-speed manual are 5.7 litres per 100km (auto: 6.3) and 134 grams per kilometre (auto: 137) respectively.

Stepping up from the YR gives you a 1497cc ‘1NZ-FE’ engine. Outputs jump to 80kW at 6000rpm and 141Nm at 4200rpm, fuel consumption edges up to 5.8L/100km and CO2 emissions rise to 137g/km – although interestingly the 1.5-litre auto’s figures mirror those of its 1.3-litre auto counterpart.

Braking is by ventilated discs up front and drums in the rear, and is aided by ABS brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution.

A space-saver spare wheel is housed underneath a new dual-level cargo floor.

With the Mazda2, Ford Fiesta, Holden Barina, Peugeot 207, and soon the VW Polo all losing their three-door body styles over recent times in Australia’s sub-$25,000 light-car class, the Yaris three-door hatch (and the new Rio from early next year) joins the Hyundai i20 as the exceptions.

The 130 series is the second-generation Toyota to wear the Yaris nameplate in Australia, the third to have been designed specifically with European tastes in mind following the 1999 Echo, and the fourth light car the brand has brought Down Under since the Starlet debuted 15 years ago.

Toyota figures show that some 40 per cent of Yaris volume is conquest sales from other brands.

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