Cape Town – The Toyota Yaris 'Pulse' has just gone on sale in South Africa and you can think of it as a resuscitated Yaris, sporting fresh front and rear styling, a new 1.5-litre engine in most models and a few minor spec adjustments.

This is the second time that the current Yaris hatch, introduced in 2011, has been given a makeover of sorts and unlike most facelifts, this one sees the most notable styling alterations taking place at the back end, where new horizontal taillights replace the previous vertical units and join a restyled tailgate and bumper in replicating the ‘catamaran’ design theme that we see up front. Although frontal changes are less radical, the Yaris does still get new headlight innards that flow into a redesigned bumper, while the new Plus model gains projector headlights with a Y-shaped garnish that resembles the SA flag.

Most Yaris Pulse derivatives also receive a performance boost complements of a brand new 1.5-litre normally aspirated petrol engine. While the base 1-litre continues at the bottom of the range with 51kW and 95Nm and the 74kW petrol-electric hybrid holds fort at the top of the line-up, the new 1.5 VVT-iE fleshes out the middle ground.

Replacing the previous 1.3-litre unit, the 1.5 produces 82kW and 136Nm, up from 73kW and 125Nm, and Toyota claims it's 12 percent more fuel efficient than its predecessor. To achieve this, the new motor has plenty of tricks up its sleeve, including a rather high compression ratio (13.5:1) and an electronic control mechanism that optimises the phase shift of the intake camshaft. Also impressive is its thermal efficiency value of 38.5.

The 1.5 is mated to either a six-speed manual or continuously variable (CVT) transmission. I drove both versions at the Western Cape-based launch and though I can’t tell you how they perform at altitude, the engine felt particularly sprightly at the coast. It’s quite a revvy little thing, and works best when mated to the slick-shifting manual ‘box. I found the CVT to be rather droney on throttle-stamping occasions such as overtaking or climbing hills and ultimately it really only feels at peace with the world under lighter loads.

No radical alterations take place in the cabin of the Yaris Pulse, although there are a few new colours and trim details as well as a revised three-spoke steering wheel with piano black inserts.

Toyota’s Display Audio touch-screen sound system with six speakers and Bluetooth connectivity is standard across the range, along with air conditioning, remote central locking, electric windows, and a leather-covered multi-function steering wheel. 15-inch alloy wheels are fitted across the line-up too, and safety comes in the form of front and side airbags, plus stability control. You have to upgrade to the Pulse Plus, however, to get curtain and driver’s knee airbags.

Over and above what the standard models offer, the Pulse Plus gains cruise control, in addition to the aforementioned projector headlights and a different grille pattern that has a more ‘3D’ effect. The range-topping Hybrid adds dual zone climate control to the mix, as well as a start button and LED daytime running lights and taillamps.

All Yaris models come with a three-year/100 000km warranty and a three-year/45 000km service plan. Six colour choices are on offer, comprising three single-tone options (including the new Cosmic Blue) and three dual-tone colour schemes, all giving you a black roof.

YARIS PULSE PRICES

1.0 PulseR199 000
1.5 PulseR228 700
1.5 Pulse CVTR241 400
1.5 Pulse Plus CVTR249 600
1.5 HybridR307 200