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Entry-level Yaris is well-specced

A Rolls one week, Aston Martin the week after, then the McLaren, and then, well, down to earth with a bump. As much as I love driving fancy cars, occasionally I need to mingle with the masses in a more common-or-garden vehicle.

Toyotas, mostly, are 'the people's cars', and with relatively few exceptions, are not known for their beautiful styling, but more for their reliability, quality build and finish, and their perceived aura of trouble-free motoring.

Obviously the quicker 1.3 suited her needs better.

They generally lack the 'babe magnet' appeal of their continental peers but, on the other hand, you're unlikely to experience temperamental behaviour from them or mercurial, unpredictable mood swings. They're nothing if not dependable.

Interestingly, I got to drive both the baby Yaris and its bigger sister in one week, recently.

And the pair reinforced everything Toyota stands for: efficient, dependable and peace-of-mind motoring.

I hadn't piloted a Yaris in a while, and must confess that the upgraded and tweaked models are prettier than the originals.

Whereas both the 1000cc and the 1300cc were well made, sturdily designed cars, as you'd expect from this maker, the sound levels were quite different. The baby's engine was far noisier, whereas the 1300 was more muted, more refined.

The 1.0Xi five door was highly specced for what's essentially an entry-level car, including antilock braking with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, as well as driver and passenger front and side airbags and remote central locking.

And let's not forget the follow-me-home lights and USB port, among others. For R139 900, you're getting a cute, comfortable, reliable little car.

If you're got a bit more dosh to spend (R167 900, in fact) the 1.3Xi, which is also a five-door, comes with the bigger, punchier engine as well as colour-coded bumpers, halogen headlights and high mount LED stoplights.

Handling was excellent on both, but obviously the quicker 1.3 suited my needs better.

Nevertheless, if you floor the one-litre Yaris you'll surprise yourself, and other drivers, with its enthusiastic and unexpected speed. The bigger model is even better, and I passed, with a grin on my face, several bigger and fancier cars on my way up Field's Hill, with no effort.

The one-litre engine delivers 51kW at 6000rpm (and 93Nm at 3600rpm) while the 1300 pushes out 73kW at 6000rpm, and peak torque of 125Nm. The 1.3 also has a six-speed manual 'box while the one-litre has to make do with five.

Each has power steering, an impact-sensing fuel cut system, and seat belt warning buzzer and light, as well as the ISO-Fix child-restraint mounting points.

It's not surprising, really, that Toyota continues to dominate the entry-level market. Or that rental companies are such huge fans of the brand.

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