Toyota has launched a bigger, better Yaris and invited us to drive it through the rolling hills of KwaZulu-Natal.
The little hatch is powered by a 1.5 litre four-cylinder petrol engine which produces 79kW and 140 Nm. The VVT-i DOHC 16-valve unit revs pretty freely and drives a choice of either a 5-speed manual gearbox or Toyota ‘Multidrive’ Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).
This choice is then augmented by four grade offerings. The Xi is the entry model, which is followed by the mid-grade Xs, Cross and Sport variants.
The CVT offering is available only in the Xs grade. The CVT I imagine will in any event appeal only to a very particular buyer, one who absolutely insists on an automatic transmission.
I am no fan of CVTs and this one is no exception.
Admittedly trying to move briskly through hilly terrain is the last thing a CVT was intended for, but the car revved up and down excessively as it tried to find equilibrium. Having said that, it was a pleasure in traffic, where it moved along as smoothly as any automatic.
The manual was a different vehicle entirely and it turned the hills and curves into an entirely enjoyable experience.
The engine provides enough torque to pull the Yaris along without much need for downshifting if a leisurely ride is all that’s wanted.
However if something more exciting is required, the free revving engine allows you to use the gears as much as you like. The front suspension is by way of a McPherson strut and the rear features a torsion beam.
These provide for a ride that is comfortable and handling that is predictable.
Depending on the model, the ‘rolling-stock’ consists of either 15 or 16-inch wheels. Models equipped with 16” rubber feature directional-design alloy wheels (with machined face treatment) and 195/50/R16 tyres.
The entry-level Xi models feature keyless entry and push-button start, four-speaker audio system with USB and Bluetooth functionality, multi-information display, electrically-adjustable exterior mirrors, front power windows, electric power steering and manual air-conditioning.
Xs models add automatic lights, 16” alloy wheels, retractable exterior mirrors, rear power windows, leather steering wheel and gear knob, steering switches as well as LED daytime running lights.
The Cross variant is based on the Xs grade and inherits roof rails, black side moulding, brushed metal apron treatment Serving as the flagship to the range is the Sport model, which as the name suggests features a host of sporty enhancements, such as a redstitched leather steering wheel and gear knob, a rear boot spoiler, side skirts and front and rear spoilers.
These are rounded off by a signature red accent stripe. Geared for the needs of millenials the Xs, Cross and Sport models have a new touchscreen infotainment system.
In addition to the standard AM/FM, USB and Bluetooth functionality, the new audio system features full Smartphone integration and support via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto + protocols. Whilst CarPlay uses standardised Apple applications with Siri integration, Android users are able to fully customise which ‘apps’ they would like to ‘mirror’ on the audio screen.
As with a smartphone, users are able to customise the home screen layout via a ‘drag and drop’ technique. Additional apps can be added via Wi-Fi connectivity. Satellite navigation is also included.
Importantly the increase in exterior size has translated into more interior space both for passengers and luggage. Active and passive safety are well attended with Xi, Xs and Cross models equipped with driver and passenger Airbags, Isofix points, ABS with Brake Assist (BA), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), seat belt pretensioner and force limiters as well as Hill Assist Control (HAC).
Sport derivatives are additionally outfitted with side, curtain and driver knee Airbags. All Yaris models come with a 3-year/45 000 kilometre service plan and 3-year/100 000 kilometre warranty.
- 1.5 Xi MT R 230 800
- 1.5 Xs MT R 253 400
- 1.5 Xs CVT R 268 500
- 1.5 Cross R 268 500
- 1.5 Sport R 286 000