More than two years have passed since Toyota revived the Yaris nameplate. This generation is now bigger, sleeker and more spacious than Toyota's first attempt in the small hatchback market, the Echo. The Yaris directly competes against the likes of the Honda Jazz, Hyundai Accent Hatch, Ford Fiesta and Mazda2 Hatchback.
For 2016, Toyota decided to give the B-segment hatch a slight model update courtesy of a new powertrain. With it, Toyota aims to improve the car's performance and fuel economy. We'll find out soon enough, but first, let's start things off with the exterior.
Don't try to adjust your screens or squint your eyes, the updated Yaris still looks like the 2014 model. It still has the familiar projector headlights, sharp taillights, sleek roofline, 15-inch alloy wheels and the chromed front grill. While the design is already more than two years old, the Yaris still looks fresh and contemp. The Orange Mica Metallic was also a nice touch as it brings out the hatchback's lines.
The interior also largely remains the same apart from some subtle changes. It gets new black-orange fabric seats, dark silver trim on the infotainment system and a new metal trim piece on the center console. The unique shape of the steering wheel was something I really liked, as well as the design on the fabric seats and the sporty three-pod gauges.
What I found peculiar inside the Yaris however was the faux stitching found throughout the cabin. Seen on the door cards, dashboard and steering wheel, it gave the Yaris a slightly more upscale feel though I also found them unnecessary. For me, nothing will replace real contrast stitching.
A new touchscreen audio system also makes its way in the hatchback. It now supports several external audio sources like Aux, USB, Bluetooth and even comes with a programmable voice control system. Now you can turn on the radio or answer calls with your favorite catchphrase. Sound quality was also good and can be adjusted via the system's equalizer.
As mentioned, the 2016 Yaris has a new heart. Out goes the old 1NZ-FE and in its stead is the new 2NR-FE inline-four. It gains 1 horsepower more but slightly less torque compared to the previous engine, resulting in an output of 108 PS at 6000 rpm along with 140 Nm of torque at 4200 rpm. However, the new motor does benefit from Dual VVT-i and is now married to a continuosuly variable transmission (CVT).
Around the city, I noticed that the 2016 Yaris ran smoother compared to the pre-facelift model. With the new CVT, it was able to keep the revs low but still provide enough torque. Out on the highway, while cruising at 80 km/h, the engine was practically idling which greatly improved fuel consumption.
The new CVT may have made the powertrain slightly less responsive but the new engine was quite revvy. Drive the Yaris with gusto and the motor will happily oblige. And since it's a hatchback, the Yaris was more fun to tackle tight bends compared to the trunked Vios. The CVT also has a manual mode with seven 'simulated' gear ratios to play with, a real treat in my opinion.
Ride quality on the 2016 Yaris was equally good too. It was able to absorb most of Metro Manila's potholes and rutted streets admirably. Better Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH) deadening could be applied though, especially on the windows, doors and engine bay. Mind you, I was still able to hear the radiator fan even with the aircon and radio both on.
If the previous model had less than favorable fuel consumption, the Dual VVT-i and CVT upgrades were able to mend that. Cruising at a steady 90 km/h along SLEX, the Yaris was able to average around 17 km/l, a great improvement over the previous 12 – 12.5 km/l average back then. Around town roads and city streets, it was able to return about 10.2 km/l while heavy traffic will net the Yaris an acceptable 8.0 km/l.
The new-generation Yaris always had the looks, the ergonomics and the simplicity of its sedan counterpart, but has been tailored for those that want a bit of sportiness. Priced at PhP 883,000, the hatchback has slightly gone up in price but not so much. In fact, the 2014 model that we previously tested had a retail price of PhP 845,000. Side by side, the upgraded 2016 Yaris has only gone up by PhP 38,000.
Sure the car still looks the same, but there was nothing wrong with the car's overall design to begin with. What it really needed was a more frugal powertrain, to which Toyota was able to deliver. Now if only they can fit the car with a bigger fuel tank, then there would be even less trips to the pumps.
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