It takes just one glance at any sales chart from the past few years to tell that Toyota’s latest-generation Yaris, first launched in 2011, has not been much of a success on local shores and one can't blame the segment - just look at how many Polos and Fiestas are finding homes.

Hoping to finally get a bigger slice of that action, Toyota South Africa will now be playing its B-segment hatch game with a completely different version of the Yaris, imported from Thailand.  

This “new” Yaris, which is making its debut in South Africa this week, is not related to the Yaris that you’ve known until now, and which will continue in its current form in most global markets. 

Essentially a facelifted version of the Asian-market Yaris that was introduced back in 2013, and looking very much like a baby Auris, this Thai-built Yaris is somewhat larger than the global model - with length increasing by 165mm. It’s also lower and wider than the model it replaces, while boot space grows from 286 litres to 310, although it appears bigger than that.

Although it might in some ways appear to be a more budget-oriented model, Toyota SA has in fact positioned it directly against the new-generation Polo, with prices ranging from R230 800 to R286 000.

All versions are powered by a 1.5-litre normally aspirated VVT-i petrol engine that delivers 79kW and 140Nm. It is mated to either a five-speed manual or CVT continuously variable transmission.

Four trim grades are on offer in the form of Xi, Xs, Cross and Sport.

Xi kicks things off with standard air conditioning, a four-speaker sound system with Bluetooth connectivity, electric mirrors and windows (front) as well as dual front airbags, stability control and ABS brakes. The Xi rolls on 15-inch covered steel wheels.

The big drawcard in the Xs (above) is a touchscreen infotainment system featuring navigation, WiFi, customisable home screen as well as Apple CarPlay compatibility. In addition, Xs models gain 16-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, a multifunction leather-covered steering wheel and rear power windows. The Xs is the only model available with the CVT gearbox.

The Cross (above) gets all the aforementioned goodies, but adds an SUV-inspired styling kit featuring roof rails, black side-body and wheel-arch mouldings and brush metal apron treatment front and rear.

The range-topping Sport adds leather seats, automatic climate control, ‘Optitron’ high-definition instruments, two additional speakers and red stitching on the steering wheel and gear knob.

Its name is a stylistic reference only, however, with red accent stripes, side skirts, dark metallic front grille, projector headlights, front foglights, LED taillights and a rear spoiler telling it apart from other models.

The Sport flagship also gains side, curtain and (driver) knee airbags.

All new Yaris models are sold with a three-year/45 000km service plan and three-year/100 000km warranty.

We’re currently attending the launch in the Durban area, so stay tuned for driving impressions.

PRICES

1.5 Xi MT R230 800
1.5 Xs MT R253 400
1.5 Xs CVT R268 500
1.5 Cross R268 500
1.5 Sport R286 000

Drive360