Say Toyota and the Yaris isn't exactly the first car that pops in your head. Perhaps its the sheer number of Vioses on the road or perhaps, the Philippines is still a sedan-centric market. A shame really because Toyota's B-segment hatch is a stylish little car.
That said, does it actually offer anything different when compared to the Vios? Skeptics will simply say that the Yaris is a Vios without the trunk. After all, they sit on the same platform, share the same engines and even have the same equipment levels.
What we have here is the 1.3 E CVT variant which sits in the middle of the range. As far as updates go, Toyota didn't do anything to the exterior. Like the Vios, trying to spot the differences between the 2014 model and this current one is like playing a game of sport the difference which you're guaranteed to lose. That said, I do applaud Toyota for significantly differentiating the the Yaris and the Vios, giving the latter a more youthful look.
There are, however, subtle details that marks this as the 1.3 E model. For starters, the silver trim on the front grill and bumpers are unpainted plastic. Also, the 1.3 E uses drums at the back instead of the 1.5 G's discs. Other than that, it still comes with the same wheels and color choices.
No surprises as to guessing what the Yaris' interior looks like. It's a carbon copy of the Vios' layout, right down to the plastic molded 'stitching' on the dash and door panels. Now, it's not a bad interior but I do wish Toyota made the same effort they pulled for the exterior for the cabin. At least they made two minor changes just so it's not a complete carryover from the Vios. The differences? You get orange constast stitching on the seats and a different pattern on the instrument cluster.
This being the 1.3 E, it doesn't come with steering wheel mounted audio controls. It does come with Toyota's new infotainment screen which also packs Bluetooth, negating the need of fumbling over your smartphone should you need to make (or take) a call. While we're on the topic, the touchscreen locks out the dial function when you're on the move. A neat safety feature I say. Oddly enough, you have to switch screens just to adjust the volume. All in all however, equipment levels are pretty competitive for an entry-level automatic (well, CVT) hatchback.
Pop the hood of theYaris and you're greeted by the new 1NR-FE engine. The 1.3-liter engine packs Dual VVT-i tech which gives it an output of 99 PS and 123 Nm of torque. Also new is the transmission, now a seven-speed continuously variable transmission (CVT). Up by 13 PS, I had pretty high expectations with the new mill.
So how does the extra output feel on the road? To be honest, it only feels like a slight improvement, rather than a dramatic difference. Granted, it picks up the pace slightly better than the old engine. I reckon the CVT saps a bit of the power away from the small engine. That said, performance is adequate but it won't be making waves in its segment. As a city commuter, the 1.3-liter mill will be just right. Take it out on the highway and overtaking requires that bit more planning.
The Yaris does make up for it by offering good fuel economy. During its stay with me, I encountered pretty horrible traffic with average speeds reaching as low as 5 km/h. Despite that, the Yaris still did a commendable 8.8 kilometers per liter with an average speed of just 13 km/h. Highway mileage meanwhile indicated 15.3 kilometers per liter at an average speed of 91 km/h. This is a significant improvement over the 2014 model which did 12.5 kilometers per liter.
As for ride, it's surprisingly comfortable for a B-segment hatch. Of course, it's no Camry but it's not harsh at all. Suspension tuning is on the soft side which is perfectly fine for its purpose. It takes on city potholes pretty well and, on the highway, it becomes a serene experience. I do have to give a special mention to the seats. Despite not having adjustments for lumbar support, the seats still cushion your lower back. With the daily grind being more tedious each passing day, the Yaris is comfortable enough to lower the blood pressure.
There are, however, some points for improvement for the Yaris. As mentioned, the CVT saps a fair bit of power. At the same time, throttle response isn't the best and can be best described as 'hesitant' as it is aimed towards efficiency. If Toyota could strike that balance of response and economy, it would elevate the driving experience of the Yaris to a more fun and engaging steer. Speaking of steering, I wish it had a telescopic function to let you adjust your driving position to a more comfortable setting and perhaps a little more feel would help too. Also, despite the much improved efficiency, the Yaris needs a bigger fuel tank to make the most of its fill-ups. Lastly, there's the noise isolation which is a bit thin for this car.
To be honest, the skeptics were right in saying that the Yaris is, in essence, a Vios hatchback. But when you think about it, there's nothing wrong with that since the Vios is an inheretly competent car. At Php 795,000, it's priced in the middle of 1200cc and 1500cc cars and it's also more affordable than the similarly equipped Vios.
Looking at our buyer's guide, there's not a lot of 1.3-liter hatchbacks left in the market. Bigger-engined contemporaries also don't have this level of equipment at the sub Php 800,000 price point. So, the Yaris may not be that much different from the Vios in terms of feel but it does offer a unique proposition in the segment. That alone could be a reason to consider it.