January 22, 2014 00:00 By Kingsley Wijayasinha
Get behind the wheel of this Toyota to experience an attractive, spacious interior and a delightful drive
Toyota is the fifth and last automaker to hit the road with an eco-car, and it has made damned sure that its new model has the oomph to become the market leader.
Accompanying the Vios sedan, the Yaris had been previously sold in Thailand as a subcompact hatchback with a 109hp 1.5-litre engine. But even with its zippy performance, it was no match for the more practical Honda Jazz, which is one of Honda’s best-selling vehicles here. The Yaris, meanwhile, was priced higher than the Vios and did not attract as many customers.
But this time around, the Yaris is poised to become a highly-sought-after model in Toyota’s line-up. Enjoying eco-car tax privileges, the Yaris now costs less than the Vios, and could even outsell it with monthly sales of about 5,000.
Still, the Yaris is priced from Bt469,000 to 599,000, which is higher than the competition. But there are many reasons for this. Despite being labelled an eco-car, the Yaris is actually a subcompact if you consider its body size. Its wheelbase is 2,550mm and the car weighs 1.01-1.04 tonnes. The trick behind the Yaris is its engine – a 4-cylinder DOHC 16-valve 3NR-FE that has a displacement of 1,197cc. Pumping out 86hp and 108Nm, the 1.2-litre also comes with Dual VVT-I, just like other Toyota models. A CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) is used across the range, which is superior to normal automatic transmissions in terms of efficiency and responsiveness.
Before I got in behind the wheel of the new Yaris, I didn’t really expect to get great performance from the 1.2-litre engine, but I was proven wrong during a test drive in Krabi last month. The engine and gearbox teamed up to offer zippy performance. On the highway, I was able to smoothly – and calmly – overtake other vehicles, what with the adequate engine power, and that gave me a good dose of confidence. And to make it an even better drive, the steering was surprisingly lively, offering quick, precise response to even the slightest steering input.
This car’s suspension has a soft setting that’s commonly Toyota but, believe me, the long wheelbase and wide track make it the most stable eco-car on the road. While some eco-cars lack the capability to travel faster than 100km/h under stable conditions due to their small sizes and tiny tyres, you’ll find this problem doesn’t exist with the Yaris. You can drive pretty fast with it and not feel nervous. Driving visibility is also excellent. And depending on which of the four Yaris models you choose, you’ll get either the 175/65 R14 or the 185/60 R15 tyres.
Apart from the extremely satisfying performance, the Yaris has another important attraction – the interior. As I mentioned earlier, the Yaris is the most stable eco-car on the road, but I must add that it is also the largest. Yes, it’s even larger than the old Yaris and for that matter other B-segment subcompacts. The vehicle’s long wheelbase has allowed designers to stretch its cabin further, and the space inside is nothing short of amazing. Headroom, legroom, shoulder room, you name it, the Yaris has got it all.
The interior looks attractive with a sporty instrument panel and steering wheel, which is multi-function for the upper models, along with automatic climate control. The audio system accepts both USB and AUX inputs, but too bad for Bluetooth – you’ll have to order the upgraded DVD player in the accessories list.
There are electric windows on the top three models, but for the J Eco model you’ll need to wind them down manually the old-fashioned way. This left me a little surprised – I was under the impression that this manual system was extinct by now. Actually, most of the common market features aren’t offered in the entry-level model, such as electric mirrors, height adjustment for the driver’s seat, a central locking system, an immobiliser key and more. So this is stronger reason to pick a model in the higher price range.
Well, with its Yaris eco-car, Toyota has proved that the last one to arrive makes the loudest market clamour. This B-segment eco-car is not only spacious but also offers respectable performance and driving enjoyment.
Toyota Yaris G specifications
Engine: 4-cylinder DOHC 16-valve with Dual VVT-i
Bore and stroke: 72.5x72.5mm
Compression ratio: 11.5:1
Max power: 86ps/6,000rpm
Max torque: 108Nm/4,000rpm
Suspension (f/r): McPherson strut, stabiliser/torsion beam, coil springs, stabilizer