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Car reviews - Toyota - Yaris - YRS sedan

Our Opinion

We like
Interior space, cavernous boot, build quality, exterior styling, interior ergonomics, standard equipment, safety features, ride/handling, performance, value
Room for improvement
"Electronic flywheel effect", single driver's seat height adjuster, four-speaker sound system only, central intruments take getting used to

10 Mar 2006

AUTOMOTIVE design has come a long way in the past decade, and the advances made in terms of technology, refinement, performance and practicality are no better illustrated than in the smallest car class, known as the light car category.

Back in November we lauded the all-new Yaris hatch’s ability to set new benchmarks for a Toyota micro when it comes to space, steering, braking, handling and ride quality.

For the money, nothing else combines the best attributes of all its rivals in the saturated light car field, including the roomy Mazda2 and Honda Jazz, the sporty Ford Fiesta and Suzuki Swift, the cheaper Hyundai Getz and Holden Barina or the high-quality Peugeot 206 and VW Polo.

Enter the booted version of Toyota’s redesigned tiddler, and the notchbacked Yaris easily tops the charts again – and not only because it’s up against just two competitors in the fledgling light sedan class: the South Korean-built Kia Rio sedan and Holden Barina sedan.

Yaris sedan improves on its hatch sibling’s abilities even further by riding on a longer wheelbase that liberates as much interior space as many of today’s small cars.

That’s right, effectively jumping a whole class in size, Yaris sedan is as big as Toyota’s own Corolla sedan, and offers a boot that’s significantly bigger than that of its most direct rival, the Barina, bigger than that of the Echo sedan it replaces and bigger than even a Holden Commodore’s.

And all this extra space without detracting from the Yaris hatch’s modern, Euro styling – despite the fact it was designed in Japan and shares no body panels with its French-designed donor vehicle.

But the Japanese-built Yaris sedan isn’t just as big as a small car: it feels like one to drive as well.

The stretched Yaris rides almost as well as the class-leading Euro tiddlers, steers almost as well as the accomplished Fiesta and Swift (despite its new electric power-assisted tiller) and leaves its two light sedan rivals for dead in terms of interior and exterior styling, build quality, materials quality and general refinement.

Yes, the single-specification Yaris YRS sedan’s 1.5-litre four suffers from the same "electronic flywheel effect" as the hatch (meaning revs hang up after the accelerator pedal is lifted, making smooth progress difficult around town – especially in the manual).

But the Barina sedan is even worse in this regard. We’re told it’s a factor of ever-increasing emissions laws, and the Euro4-compliant Yaris engine (which is a cleaner version of the Echo's engine) will improve over time.

When it comes to power, the 80kW Toyota betters the 1.6-litre Barina (76kW) but falls slightly short of the Rio (82kW). In terms of torque, both Barina and Rio (145Nm) narrowly better the Yaris (141Nm).

The Yaris sedan certainly doesn’t feel slow – not as slow as the entry-level 1.3-litre Yaris YR hatch, anyway – and with an official average fuel consumption figure of 6.1L/100km, it betters both the Rio (6.5L/100km) and Barina (6.7L/100km) in terms of efficiency.

As expected, equipment levels within the well designed, high quality cabin are also extensive for a light car. Matching its rivals is standard air-conditioning, remote central locking and power windows/mirrors, plus the convenience of a 60/40-split folding rear seat and a full-size spare.

While the Kia and Holden offer two more speakers and the Rio also provides fore and aft driver’s seat height adjustment (Barina and Yaris get a single seat adjuster, while Yaris offers only four speakers), the Yaris redeems itself with a height and reach-adjustable steering wheel, twin lidded vanity mirrors and the option of front side and side curtain airbags (as a $750 option).

Speaking of safety, while all three light sedans offer twin front airbags, five three-point seatbelts and four head restraints, both the Kia and Holden charge extra for ABS brakes. In the Kia it’s an $850 option, while Holden mates it to 15-inch alloy wheels in an $1190 package.

Both the $14,990 Barina and $15,990 (driveaway) Rio also charge $2000 for the four-speed auto version, which is a $1500 option in the Yaris sedan.

Given Yaris sedan offers ABS (as well as electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist) as standard, its $17,650 (manual) pricetag is still within $1000 of an ABS-kitted Rio sedan, and within $2000 of an ABS-equipped Barina sedan.

Unlike Rio and Barina, you have to look hard for cost-cutting measures in the Yaris, which has a flimsy boot floor cover and whose bootlid hinges protrude into the load space. But panel fit and strength are worlds away from the Koreans.

For interior space, ride/handling, refinement, build quality and style, the Yaris hatch is in its own league. Throw in Toyota’s proven reliability and resale value, and Yaris sedan also makes a compelling value proposition.

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