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Toyota's boldly revised Yaris driven

By: Jason Woosey

Dusseldorf, Germany - Heading to Germany to try out a new Toyota Yaris might seem a bit like jetting off to Mexico to sample a new Sushi dish, except that Toyota’s newly upgraded hatch is actually a lot more European than you might imagine.

In fact, this new Yaris was jointly concocted by Toyota’s R&D division in Brussels and its design centre in France, with the aim of infusing some heart and soul into what has always been a rather rational recipe.

MORE THAN A FACELIFT

It’s actually quite a bit more than a regular facelift, with Toyota having made numerous changes to its structure, chassis and engines, but it’s the new face that really stands out here, with its cross-shaped structure that joins the upper and lower grilles at the badge. The man in charge of the new design, Elvio D’Aprile, explained that his team set out to “avoid the B-segment stereotypes” and “to dare to be different from competition”.

The back end gains subtler enhancements in the form of a redesigned bumper, with an integrated diffuser, and new taillight clusters with LED light graphics.

Designers expended a fair amount of effort adding zest to the cabin design, resulting in a restyled instrument binnacle, a new upper dash surface, a soft-touch PVC central panel, satin chrome trim additions and new seat fabrics, among other garnishes. Functional changes abound too, like a raised centre console that reduces the gear lever’s length by 30mm for a more involving feel, and a larger touch-screen for the standard Toyota Touch 2 entertainment system.

As for those noises you don’t want to hear, significant sound insulation measures were implemented to keep road, wind and mechanical noise out of the cabin. This was done along with far more chassis and structure improvements than you’d ever expect for a “facelift”, including 36 new spot welds, a new rear torsion beam, modified suspension parts and a new steering-control logic, all providing a more refined drive.

On the admittedly smooth roads surrounding Dusseldorf, the Yaris dished up a comfy enough experience and impressed with its solid-feeling driving controls and general easy-to-drive nature.

REWORKED ENGINE

On the engine front, the 1-litre three-cylinder petrol has undergone a major revamp in the name of efficiency. Toyota’s engine gurus improved its thermal efficiency, increased the compression ratio to 11.5 and reworked the variable valve timing system to allow the engine to run on the Atkinson cycle at low engine speeds. Toyota claims a combined fuel consumption of 4.3 litres per 100km for this little three-cylinder motor, which develops 51kW and 95Nm.

As before, a 73kW/125Nm 1.3-litre version sits in the middle of the range and the flagship is a 74kW 1.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid, for which Toyota claims a ‘thirst’ of just 3.3l/100km. This mildly revised drivetrain now boasts a CO2 figure of just 75g/km.

On the launch route that snaked its way through a variety of country roads, it was the 1-litre three-cylinder engine that surprised the most. Not only is the off-beat soundtrack enticing, but delivers its power smoothly and feels more willing than its output would suggest. On that note, it is still likely to struggle at Reef altitudes, though, and for that reason the 1.3-litre is certain to remain the most popular choice in South Africa.

The new Yaris goes on sale in South Africa this September, with each engine variant offering a single specification level, which is rather generous in all cases.

Pricing has yet to be set in stone but according to Toyota’s estimates you can expect to part with around R170 000 for the 1.0, R194 000 for the 1.3 and in the region of R276 000 for the 1.5 Hybrid.

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