Toyota Yaris Plus now a head-turner

Image (Olympus E-M1) by Bernard K Hellberg

I have a confession. To me, the Yaris range, in terms of exterior styling, has been as exciting as watching a tree grow. It wasn’t even nominally cute and it carried that aura of having been designed by a committee. No longer ugly, the Yaris Pulse now features a muscular and powerful nose section with a “don’t mess with me” attitude.

After breaking cover at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year, the new Toyota Yaris is now on sale in South Africa in a revised range that offers customers much greater choice and improved equipment specifications across the board.

According to Toyota SA’s Vice President of Marketing, Glenn Crompton, Toyota has adopted new styling that is set to add further impetus to the competitive small hatchback segment. The car's new exterior styling, with significant changes to the front and rear, presents a more active and dynamic look while also communicating a more refined direction.

The Engine

The new 1.5-litre petrol engine, which delivers 12% more power (82 kW) and torque than the previous 1.3-litre engine,  also posts an improvement of up to 12% in fuel economy with the six-speed manual version said to burn fuel at a rate of 5 litres/100 kilometres, while the automatic version is slightly more frugal at 4.8 litres/100 km. 

Design

An all-new front end displays “catamaran” shape architecture, with new headlight units, new grille designs and simplified treatment of the area around the central Toyota emblem. A new tailgate, rear light clusters and bumper add to the upmarket look.

The redesign of the front of the car features a new front bumper with broad sections flowing down from new headlight units, flanking the wide, trapezoidal grille. The result is a more pronounced three-dimensional effect, and the sense of a wider, more planted road stance. A simplified design in the area around the central Toyota emblem adds to the overall dynamic impact.

New Headlights

The new headlamp units further develop the qualities of the frontal design, producing a new lighting signature that expresses confidence and individuality. The most striking detail is around the main lamp, where a distinctive forked pattern is created using slim chrome trim bars within the unit.

The Interior

This is one place where the designers really strutted their stuff, creating a cabin that’s welcoming, seats that are firm and grippy, and controls that make sense at a glance.

Detail changes include new propeller-style air vents, seamless execution of the multimedia screen and controls in the centre console, including new switches that are both neater in appearance and easier to operate.

Performance

The new 1.5-litre petrol engine with VVT-iE, offers more torque and power but higher efficiency and lower emissions than previous 1.3-litre unit

Compared to the 1.3-litre unit, it is 0.8 seconds quicker in acceleration from 0-100km (11 seconds in the 1.5 MT and 11.2 seconds in the CVT) while at overtaking speed in fifth gear the improvement is more than a second.

Luxury and Safety

The specification list is impressive and, depending on model, includes such goodies as stability control, curtain and driver knee airbags, projector headlamps, Bluetooth, cruise control, USB connections, as well as front and rear foglamps. Wheels are attractive 15” alloys, and all models have remote central locking.

Four models are on offer, ranging from the R199,000 1-litre manual, right up to the Pulse Plus with CVT gearbox retailing at R249,600. For the eco-warriors, there’s a hybrid version at R307,200 – quite a hefty price premium for those who have to display their green credentials.

All models have a 3-year/45,000 km service plan and a 3-year/100,000 warranty.

Last Word

The Yaris Pulse 1.5 confidently enters a very competitive market segment where rivals such as VW Polo, Hyundai i20, and Honda Jazz play – but it has what it takes to have a substantial impact in the marketplace.