Anton Andres / Anton Andres | May 21, 2018 12:36
Underneath a new suit is a familiar old friend
The Toyota Yaris is a charming little hatchback that's gained quite a few fans here in Autoindustriya.com. From its distinctive styling to the decent equipment package, Toyota's B-segment hatchback will always have a special place for us. Nevermind the fact that it was, to be brutally honest, quite ordinary to drive and didn't really have anything new to offer among its peers.
Now, there's a new Yaris in town and it aims to capture the hearts of its longtime fans, along with the checkbooks of those looking for a neat little hatchback that won't break the bank. Notice that I didn't say all-new since, despite the significant sheetmetal changes, it's merely a facelift of the car we've been seeing on the roads since 2013. With that in mind, it's quite the facelift, isn't it?
From nose to tail, almost every panel of the Yaris appears brand spanking new. The front fascia alone would give you the impression that this is an all-new car. Slim, upswept headlights, along with a small grill, apes that of its larger Corolla Altis stablemate. The front bumper is more rounded than the old car and, for me at least, suits the charismatic nature of the car.
Even the doors are new in the 2018 Yaris, which sees a pair of character lines running through the panels. I was particularly fond of its rear, now more rounded and grown up than before. The slim tail lights make it look larger than it really is while the bumper makes it look more chic. For me, it's eye-catching and European in execution from the back. I'll also give props to Toyota Motor Philippines for offering the car in this vibrant shade of yellow-green which they call Citrus Mica Metallic. However, a few colleagues of mine, and even my mother, pointed out that the color reminds them of a certain bank.
Changes to the interior are just as extensive as the exterior. For starters, the dashboard is no longer copy-pasted straight from the Vios. It's a plus for me as it helps the car have its own personality over the car it's based on. The dash fascia employs a sweeping, organic-looking design while the center stack has been rearranged for a more stylish (but still functional) layout. Silver-colored trimmings liven up the cabin and the instrument cluster is much improved over the graphics overlay of the previous version. Also, the door panels, which now has a wraparound design, makes the cabin look more spacious.
New red/orange seat patterns also make the interior look more funky, along with the red stitching on the doors and seat edges. That said, I'm still no fan of the simulated stitching surrounding the center stack. Perhaps Toyota wanted to make it look more upmarket but I say, the interior could do without it. It's nice to know the the seats come with height adjusters although I wish the steering wheel came with reach adjustment.
As for space, it's good, if not class leading. Leg and toe room is liveable although the swoopier exterior does cut into headroom. If you're over 5'8”, you might have to slouch a bit in the back seat. Cargo space on the other hand should satisfy most. Making the rear seats fold flat would make the trunk even more useable.
Inside-out, the Yaris looks all-new but pop the hood any you're greeted by a familiar sight. As this is the S variant, power comes courtesy of a 1.5-liter, Dual VVT-i engine seen in last year's Yaris. Output is rated at 107 PS and musters 140 Nm of torque. It then drives though a continuously variable transmission with seven simulated speeds, which then sends power to the front wheels.
If you're coming from the pre-facelift Yaris, you might notice that this new one is a bit quieter upon startup. Perhaps Toyota added more sound deadening material for the 2018 model. Drive it around and noise levels feel significantly reduced, as is vibration and harshness levels. The result is a small car that feels a size class larger, in terms of refinement that is.
Ride is still typical of a small car meaning it is a bit on the firm side although it won't give you backache. You can credit that to the seats which offer a fair amount of support and, more importantly, it doesn't sag when you spend hours at a time in gridlock traffic. We had high praises for the seats a couple of years back and it's nice to know Toyota kept these perches comfortable.
As a drive it's improved a little, but it still won't make you pick up the keys and go out for a spirited drive. The electronic power steering has a little more weight and feedback but it won't engage you. The Yaris does handle well enough and isn't intimidating or leery when cornering. Then again, it is engineered to be a commuter car so perhaps 'thrilling' wasn't part of the chassis tuning brief. Like its dynamics, performance won't thrill you but it will get you through the daily grind with as little fuss as possible.
But you might be saying, 'I don't mind the middle of the road dynamics and performance, I care more about fuel economy'. On that subject, the Yaris 1.5 S scores decently, if not outstandingly. Heavy traffic (14 km/h) yielded 8.4 km/l which is not bad in essentially standstill conditions. Should traffic be a little bit lighter (24 km/h), the trip computer claims 12.2 km/l. Take it out on the highway and it ranges from 14 to 16 km/l, about on par with its class. However, the small fuel tank does cut into range meaning you might reach the reserve level in about 350 kilometers.
However, I do have an issue with its driving position. I had mentioned that it doesn't come with steering wheel reach adjustment and that does make finding the ideal position a little difficult. As a short adult (I stand at a 'towering' 5'4”), I was either too far from the steering wheel or too close to the pedals. Needless to say, I had a bit of a cramp in stop and go traffic. I wish Toyota would give the Yaris more adjustments for the steering wheel since it would greatly improve comfort levels.
While we're on the subject of things that need improvement, the infotainment screen software could be faster. The interface is nice but connecting to Bluetooth can be occasionally fussy and touch inputs take a while to respond. I also wish it came with reverse sensors at the very least as it doesn't get a reverse camera even on this top-spec model. On the flipside, it comes with a host of airbags and, more importantly, stability control. It's worth applauding Toyota for making this accident-avoiding feature standard on their B-segment hatch.
With a sharper-looking exterior (subject for debate) and interior, along with enhanced qualities from the pre-facelift model, this significantly revised Yaris holds a lot of promise. However, the price might be a bitter pill to swallow for the car buyer. Perhaps its the excise tax but Php 1,040,000 for a small hatch may be difficult to fathom for some, especially as it's not the most generously equipped choice out there. Yes, I had to knock it down for lacking steering wheel adjustments, the lack of sensors and a camera but it claws a bit of value points in the safety front.
If the price doesn't bother you, then by all means, go for the Yaris. It's a competent city runabout that will probably won't give you a lot of headaches. However, if the price does appear too steep for your liking, the B-segment is awash with good choices to make you feel good about shelling out your hard-earned savings.