Toyota Yaris – First Drive Review

For over 3 years, industry experts had been speculating the arrival of a premium mid-size sedan from the Toyota stable. Finally, at the 2018 Delhi Auto Expo, Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM) announced its plans to launch the all-new Yaris sedan in India. The Yaris, which is also known as Vios in other international markets, is no ordinary contender. It is sold in over 120 countries across the globe with sales touching 300K per year. And interestingly it outsells the Honda City in places like Malaysia and Thailand.

While the Innovas, Fortuners, Camrys and Corollas are front runners in their respective segments, TKM didn’t taste much success in the mid-sized sedan space. Though its compact sedan Etios is a favourite among fleet operators who swear by its reliability, it didn’t find many takers in the family car segment. However, all that is now set to change with the launch of the 2018 Toyota Yaris next month. Competition has already started feeling the heat with consumers walking into Toyota showrooms to place their orders.

The Yaris will lock horns with Honda City, Maruti Ciaz and Hyundai Verna. While each of these stalwarts clock close to 4000 units per month, the Yaris is loaded with segment-first features in safety and convenience that will undoubtedly appeal to a host of buyers. We drove the car extensively around Bangalore and came out impressed.

EXTERIOR:
The Yaris is a good looking car from any angle. It has a typical Toyota silhouette but the detailing in the front gives it a sporty look. The car’s fascia looks bold and it does look good. The top-end VX trim that we sampled gets DRLs, halogen projector headlamps and LED tail lamp cluster. The oversized grille throws-in some aggression but other than that it has a very subtle design theme that feels classy. In profile the car looks neat without any unwanted tucks and creases. It’s a smooth flowing design but the 15 inch wheels feel a size smaller and the alloys too look awfully plain for this modern sedan. Moving towards the rear, the split tail-lamp design looks elegant and overall the car has a very pleasing personality. Conservative use of chrome has in-fact worked well for this car.

The Yaris (4425mm) is shorter in length when compared Ciaz (4490mm) and Honda City (4440mm). It also has a shorter wheel-base but is wider than the City and as wide as the Ciaz.

Other important features include,

  • Turn indicators on wing mirrors
  • Chrome plated door handles
  • Fog lamps (front & rear)
  • Shark-fin antenna
  • Boot mounted stop lamp
  • Blacked out door pillars
  • Reversing camera
  • Proximity sensors in the front and rear

INTERIOR:
You will appreciate the cabin quality and design as you step inside the Yaris. Finished in dual tone black-biege, with dashes of brushed silver and piano black inserts at the right places, the cabin feels plush and airy. The dashboard layout is neat and ergonomic and Toyota calls it the ‘Waterfall Design’. Leather seats in the VX trim feel premium and the seats in general are very well cushioned and contoured to offer a cosseting ride to all occupants. The foot wells are accommodating, leg room and shoulder room is satisfactory but head-room at the rear will fall short for taller passengers.

The leather wrapped multi-function steering wheel too is good but the horn pad felt hard to reach during panic situations. The roof mounted blower with ambient lighting will catch the fancy of many buyers. It not only looks cool but also does its job pretty well. That said, the central storage console between the front seats felt out of place as it prods into the rear floor bed which is otherwise completely flat. The console negates the basic idea of moving the blower unit to the roof in order to free-up leg space for rear passengers.

The twin dial instrument cluster with a large 4.2 inch information screen displays some interesting and comprehensive data which could be very useful in day-to-day driving or for monitoring purposes.

Another interesting feature is the use of HSEA, acoustic and vibration control glass which does a fabulous job of cutting out the outside noise. The HSEA (High Solar Energy Absorbing) front windscreen blocks-out harmful ultraviolet and infra-red rays and also helps in keeping the cabin cooler.

Overall the cabin feels plush and luxurious for its segment but what the Yaris misses out in comparison to some of its rivals is a sunroof, android auto and apple car play.

Other important features include,

  • Cooled glove box
  • Push button start/stop
  • 7 inch infotainment unit with navigation
  • Electrically powered driver seat
  • Gesture controlled audio system
  • Cruise control and paddle shifters
  • Optitron Meter with TFT display
  • Mesh sunshade for rear windscreen
  • 3 point seatbelts in the rear for all three passengers
  • Isofix child seat mounts
  • Rear armrest with cup holders
  • Bottle holders in door pockets
  • 12 volt charging sockets for front and rear passengers
  • Segment-first 60:40 split folding rear seats
  • 476 litre boot

ENGINE & PERFORMANCE:
To begin with we wish to point out that the Yaris is available only with a petrol engine. It is the 1.5 litre dual VVTI that produces 107 PS of power and 140Nm of torque. Interestingly, you can choose between 2 gearboxes right from the base variant – a six-speed manual gearbox and a seven-step CVT. We drove the CVT automatic and were impressed with its performance in the city as well as on the highway.

While conventional CVT gearboxes are known for their rubber band effect, Toyota has managed to contain it satisfactorily. Its 7 step CVT ensures that there is adequate power on offer all the time without compromising on fuel efficiency. The engine is smooth and power delivery is linear. At city speeds and in slow moving traffic, the CVT is a boon but quick overtaking may require some planning or you can simply slot the gearbox into manual mode and drop down a gear to zoom ahead in a hurry without any whining from the CVT.

On the highway, the Yaris is a decent cruiser. The engine feels at ease even at triple digit speeds. Toyota has succeeded in keeping the noise level inside the car to its minimum, but past 3500 rpm you will hear the engine noise seeping inside the cabin. And beyond 4000 rpm it is not a pleasant experience. But characteristically the car cruises at 100 kmph @ 1600 rpm, so there is nothing to be worried about on day-to-day basis. Its only when you floor the accelerator pedal mercilessly, that the engine noise will feel bothersome.

The Yaris VX is equipped with all 4 disc brakes. It also comes with ABS/EBD plus Brake Assist as a part of standard package. This ensures the car brakes with confidence without losing composure. At high speeds too the brakes have a sharp bite that bring the car to a halt almost immediately.

While we were impressed with the refinement of the engine and braking of the car, Toyota deserves accolades for a marvellous suspension set-up. The car simply glides over broken tarmac and uneven surfaces without much vertical movement inside the cabin. Ride comfort is absorbent and consistent at all speeds which is a big plus for the Yaris.

A refined engine, excellent suspension and powerful brakes make the Yaris a great highway companion.

SAFETY:
Toyota has gone all out to make the Yaris one of the safest cars in the segment. The car comes equipped with 7 air bags as standard across all 4 variants. It also gets ABS+EBD+BA as a part of the standard safety kit. All these are segment-first features bear testimony to Toyota’s efforts in keeping the safety quotient high for its customers. Also noteworthy is the fact that the Yaris has received a 5-star safety rating in the ASEAN NCAP crash test

Other important safety features include,

  • Tyre Pressure monitoring system
  • Hill start assist control
  • Vehicle stability control
  • Speed sensing door locks
  • Proximity sensors in the front and rear
  • Reverse parking camera
  • Immobiliser

VERDICT:
Toyota has a strong brand loyalty across the globe and it’s no different in India. The brand has been in the forefront when it comes to Quality, Durability & Reliability (QDR); the core values on which every Toyota product is conceptualized.

Sadly, the Yaris is a late entrant to a segment that is already saturated, with stalwarts leading the pack. Interestingly, Toyota has given a new direction to the game with its sharp focus on safety and convenience. Seven airbags as a part of standard safety package along with an automatic across the range was unheard of so far. The Yaris may not be an outright fun car to drive but it is a sensible choice for those who are looking out for a built-to-last family car that is high on performance and low on maintenance. And with the excellent back seat ride and overall comfort that it offers, the Yaris may catch the fancy of bureaucrats and corporate bosses too.

PHOTO GALLERY (Exterior)

(Interior)

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Jeeven is based in Navi-Mumbai and can be reached at jeevcb@yahoo.com