For practically ALL industries, 2020 has been a year of adaptation. Video meetings are almost the norm, online ordering is at record levels and there is a definite move towards a more ‘virtual’, hermit existence. In spite (or maybe that’s to spite) of all this, Toyota New Zealand continues to launch new vehicles, one of which was the new Yaris which we initially viewed virtually, well now, with restrictions eased, I’ve viewed it in reality – three in fact.
On-line meetings and launches are one thing and can fill a hole when it comes to relaying information but when getting a true feel for a new car, you can’t beat sitting behind the wheel and driving and since Toyota NZ gave me the opportunity to drive three different models of the 4th generation Yaris, two of which were hybrids, I gluttonously grabbed all of them.
Virtually, we were told that the new Yaris has ‘more Euro design influence and appeal, with Accentuated lines and curves’ essentially it’s supposed to have more overall character. Well in the flesh it’s even more of a stand out. The shadow play, particularly down the side, is ambitious and the colour schemes on offer, like Atomic Rush, Cherry Blossom and for those that don’t suffer migraines, Electric Green, borders on outrageous. ‘Blending in’ is way off the menu should you so choose.
When it comes to safety, the new compact Yaris is chocca and with this in mind, we handed the hatch over to our resident expert (and baby dad) Setti. He says “the new Yaris became the first car to go through the 2020 Euro NCAP test, including the all new mobile progressive deformable barrier (MPDB) test that assesses what protection the car offers its occupants as well as the risks it poses to the car it has crashed into. Yaris’ 5-stars from the most rigorous safety test of all time makes it the benchmark for small cars today.”
Basically, Toyota’s ‘Safety Sense’ suite of driver aids and occupant protection comes as standard and ensures that Setti and all others that get behind the wheel of the Yaris, have one less thing to worry about.
Unfortunately, Setti was less complimentary in terms of ‘new family’ practicality though, saying “whilst Euro NCAP may have referred to the Yaris as a small family car, I’m not so sure I’d be so generous. I could fit a safety seat in the back by pushing the front seat all the way forward, rendering it useless for any size front passenger and I couldn’t fit a pram into the boot. With the best will and kindness in the world, this car has no cargo space to speak of so it’s not as practical as a small family car as a VW Polo, SEAT Ibiza or a Suzuki Swift, for example.”
Of course, his requirements are not unique but fast forward a few years to when the need for baby seats and prams are gone and it’s a different story. Our small family of three found the compact hatch more than adequate space wise and the 286L of luggage space even absorbed the weekly shop without too much drama.
The cabin layout is better than before with an artistic modernism about it. During the video conference, Toyota NZ made mention that the driver’s seating position had improved significantly and I tend to agree that it feels very natural. The instrument cluster dials are like staring down camera lenses and there’s an extra digital screen that offers up more driving data. The 7-inch infotainment screen is easy to connect to and navigate around offering all the usual apps including Apple and Android compatibility and although it’s a small vehicle, the dash design has an uncluttered, yet racy feel about it.
Underneath it all is the Toyota GA-B platform, now this may not mean much to most of us common folk but the result is a stoic frame that sits well on the road and enjoys cornering. Admittedly, my demands of the Yaris were ‘normal’ but pushing into bends and dapping on and off the highway didn’t seem to phase the Yaris at all, regardless of powertrain.
On the subject of what powers this compact vehicle, as I said before I went for both the petrol only and hybrid models and although both in fact come with a 3-cylinder 1.5L engine that makes a great ‘uneven’ sound under revs, the petrol only version offers an extra 3kW of power (88kW vs 85kW) and an extra 25Nm of torque (145Nm vs 120Nm), so the petrol version is the one to go for right? Well no.
The hybrid Yaris emits CO2’s at just 76g/km (114g/km petrol) and sips fuel at a class-leading rate of just 3.3L/100km, however, that’s not reason enough to justify my preference. The torque in the hybrid comes in a full 1000rpms lower (3,800 vs 4,800) so it feels nippier off the mark and the Electronically-controlled Continuously Variable Transmission in the hybrid option seems more intune with the engine than the Direct-shift Continuously Variable Transmission of the petrol only.
So quicker response, better driving experience, lower emissions and better fuel economy, equals ‘no brainer’.
The ‘reality’ is that the new generation Toyota New Zealand Yaris is funkier looking, better connected, better on the environment and fuel and safer than ever, yes Toyota nailed it on the video release, but driving it is so much better.
Price comparison: Top of the line ZR Yaris petrol (two-tone paint) is $30,490 vs ZR Yaris hybrid (two-tone paint) $33,490.