Arrival of Toyota's all-new Yaris compact car is set to send a tidal wave across the already turbulent waters of our compact car segment. Boasting remarkable new levels of technology and largely unchanged prices - starting from $14,990 - the third-generation Toyota Yaris matches the best of the segment’s benchmarks.
How important is the new Yaris to Toyota? Important enough to deploy the 2000 people for 38 months in development including extensive chassis tuning at the company's new $60 million test facility in Brussels, Belgium.
2011 Toyota Yaris Overview
Just as we suspected in previewing the all-new Toyota Yaris at the Australian International Motor Show, Toyota is back in the compact car segment in a big way, ready to fight a fair fight against acclaimed rivals from Europe and Korea. Styling and technology get green ticks - cruise control and seven airbags are standard in most models.
New to the lineup is the sporty Toyota Yaris ZR model priced at $18,990 and available only as a 1.5-litre three- door manual. Toyota Yaris ZR mirrors the range-topping YRX for specifications and adds a sports body kit with bumpers, grille, side skirts, a rear roof spoiler, tail-pipe diffuser and dark surround trim for the headlights.
Missing from the lineup is the Toyota Yaris sedan - Toyota's Matthew Callachor saying only that the company's compact car sedan plans are not finalised and in any case sedan volumes in this segment are miniscule.
The full range is:
Automatic transmission (YR, YRS) $1600, Cruise Control (YR) $650
2011 Toyota Yaris Engine
Toyota has stuck with the 1.3-litre and 1.5-litre petrol engines for the all-new Toyota Yaris, driving through five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmissions. Internal changes targeted improved drivability and better fuel consumption.
The 1.3-litre delivers 63kW/121Nm, while the 1.5-litre is good for 80 kW/141Nm - all unchanged from the outgoing models.
However across the range fuel efficiency has improved by up to six per-cent, while exhaust CO2 emissions are down by up to eight per-cent with all 10 grades under 150g/km. Combined cycle fuel consumption is rated as low as 5.7l/100kms for the 1.3-litre manual and 5.8l/100kms for the 1.5-litre manual.
When questioned by Car Showroom about the possibility of the European Yaris Hybrid coming to Australia, Toyota Australia's product planning chief Greg Gardner said the company's plans for a hybrid compact car centred on another model he declined to name.
2011Toyota Yaris The Interior
You will notice massive changes inside the all-new Toyota Yaris. For starters, the previous model’s centrally mounted digital dashboard has been replaced by a great looking conventional gauge layout located in front of the driver.
Also immediately obvious is the extra space knee space is up by 35 mm and interior width has been boosted by 30 mm with no change the external width measurement.
Even more impressive is the huge lift in quality of interior materials. Nicer instruments, nicer seats, nicer door trim materials, nicer carpets and even the interior plastics have adopted graduated graining for a thoroughly richer, more upmarket look.
The driving position is significantly improved thanks to 10 extra length adjustment notches and a 3-degree reduction in the steering column angle for a more vertical wheel position and fitment of an outstanding three spoke steering wheel with a flat bottom for easier access. Not common in a compact car Toyota Yaris’ steering wheel adjusts for both rake and reach.
Toyota Yaris is available with three new audio systems which are model specific - all models have voice control and remote steering wheel switches and come with a CD player, USB / iPod connectivity and Bluetooth compatibility and streaming. From YRS models upwards, you score a touchscreen display and YRX and ZR versions gain satellite navigation with SUNA Traffic Channel - outstanding specifications for a compact car.
All-new Toyota Yaris enjoys an extra 145 mm of length in the luggage compartment which boosts capacity to 286-ltres. Toyota says this surpasses Ford Fiesta and the Volkswagen Polo.
2011Toyota Yaris Exterior & Styling
The all-new Toyota Yaris ramps-up the on-road presence with a much bolder look which Toyota frankly admits is intended to broaden the model’s appeal to the male audience. Size is up with the overall length growing to 3885mm (+50mm of which is in extra wheelbase length - now up to 2510mm) and those extra dimensions deliver the extra interior space and luggage capacity.
Even though it was designed in Japan there is a distinct European flavour about the all-new Toyota Yaris highlighted by the bolder front-end with the new look ‘face’ of the Toyota family and double concave structure with a rounded snout. The slimline horizontal headlights which wrap onto the upper surface of the front guards and deep, lower air intake add a wider, sporty look.
The side glass is larger but maintains the Yaris tradition with its steeply sloping angle. YR models run 14-inch steel wheels, YRS goes to 15-inch steel wheels, while range-topping YRX and ZR versions score 15-inch alloys.
A totally new look at the rear with modern angular taillights, a new bumper and numberplate relocated above to the tailgate. Sporty ZR gains a diffuser look under the rear bumper.
On the options list is a sports body kit including 15-inch alloy wheels.
2011 Toyota Yaris On The Road
To test the Yaris in all conditions Toyota sent us on a comprehensive drive route from inner-city North Melbourne through the congestion of Collingwood and eventually to semirural Templestowe where we tackled the famous Rob Roy Hill Climb circuit accompanied by a rally ace Neal Bates.
Immediately obvious around town was the firmish European ride levels and much improved NVH over the previous Toyota Yaris. As expected the tiny 4.7-metre turning radius and handy gearing of both manual and automatic versions made easy work of the city congestion.
Out on the open road, Toyota Yaris’ MacPherson Strut front/compact Torsion Beam rear suspension, worked with stiffer springs (+18% front, +26% rear) for nice balance and precision even down a slippery dirt road which was included in the route. Steering precision was good (calibration of the electric power steering was undertaken at the Toyota Technical Centre in Mulgrave, Victoria) and the low rolling resistance Bridgestone tyres delivered nice levels of grip and surprisingly low levels of road noise.
Our only points deduction came in freeway driving where, at times, especially the 1.5-litre engine, felt a tad flat in the mid-range. This slight feeling of a lack of torque in some circumstances is often a by-product of engine mapping where optimised fuel consumption is a priority - even some high-priced Germans costing five times a Toyota Yaris have the same trait.
2011 Toyota Yaris Challenges
Volkswagen's Polo stands out in this league with its seven speed sequential automatic transmission and the Ford Fiesta enjoys a six speed sequential automatic. Unfortunately the all-new Toyota Yaris sticks with a four-speeder.
Toyota contends that seventh gear in the Polo and sixth in the Fiesta are used for very high-speed German autobahn cruising and really transmission ratios are all about fuel consumption. With the Yaris 1.3-litre rated as low as 5.7l/100kms and the 1.5-litre as low as 5.8l/100kms, Toyota makes a good point.
2011 Toyota Yaris Verdict
When we saw the all-new Toyota Yaris at the Australian International Motor Show, our overriding thought of the brilliant newcomer was: “The Empire strikes back!” Now with the full story on-board and a day-long drive under our belts, that impression remains the same.
Despite some highly credentialed newcomers to the segment, the all-new Yaris is Toyota at its best. Talk about segment benchmarks, by any measure, the all-new Toyota Yaris is up there with the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo.
But the knockout punch for segment rivals is the outstanding pricing of the new Toyota Yaris - starting at $14,990 and with most models unchanged in the ‘Dollars Department’ from the outgoing models… indeed unchanged since 1999 price points.
2011 Toyota Yaris The Competition
There is no better compact car than Ford’s German-sourced Fiesta. The 1.6-litre petrol out powers Toyota Yaris’ 1.5-litre but the starting price is $2000 North.
Ditto the Volkswagen Polo - all-German quality and the turbo 1.2 L is a beauty (although not quite a match for the Yaris’ 1.5-litre). But you'll need $19,850 for the entry-level Volkswagen Polo 77TSI.
Kia's all-new Rio is a good looker and its 1.6 L GDI petrol engine packs a 103 kW punch. However Rio 1.4 starts at $16,290 and Rio 1.6 starts at $18,990.
Starting price of the Hyundai I20 is only $500 more than Toyota Yaris. The i20 is nicely designed and offers 1.4-litre or 1.6-litre petrol engines.
Mazda2’s 76kW/137Nm 1.5-litre engine doesn't quite match the Yaris and it's just a whisker more expensive. Sure the ‘2’ isn’t now the freshest styling in the segment but its swoopy lines still look good.
At $14,990 Honda’s entry-level 1.3 L Jazz is great value. And we reckon the interior still shows some segment rivals how to do a compact car.