The Toyota Yaris has gone upmarket with good handling and equipment
Small hatch, big features The latest Yaris mini has sharp styling with a front end that bears the new Toyota family look and sportily blacked out rear pillars

THE last time a new Toyota Yaris was offered here, it was a 1.5-litre hatchback assembled in Thailand that looked cute and cuddly but not much else. This time, however, authorised distributor Borneo Motors Singapore is hoping the new 1.3-litre version will be more popular.

The latest Yaris mini has sharp styling with a front end that bears the new Toyota family look and sportily blacked out rear pillars. As a modern city car, it looks good in an androgynous sort of way with styling that is neither masculine or feminine.

This new five-door hatch is made in France and therefore has a strong European flavour. Inside, the old centrally located instrument binnacle is gone, replaced by a more conventional and appealing set-up. The clean-looking dashboard is uncluttered by buttons and features a centre touchscreen with a dual zone climate control aircon.

Everything seems sturdy and well-made and even with its large expanse of hard surfaces, it does not look or feel plasticky.

But the best part of being made in Europe is that it handles like a Continental car and not a Japanese model. The flat-bottomed steering wheel allows you to trace an accurate arc around a fast corner as the Yaris's nose sticks gamely to the asphalt. It is stable and so much more fun to drive than the average small Toyota. The compact size of this 3.9-metre-long hatch makes it nimble with a good turning circle.

Under the steeply raked bonnet is a four-cylinder 1.3-litre engine driving the front wheels through a seven-step continuously variable transmission or CVT. The CVT can be manually changed using a pair of steering wheel-mounted shift paddles and it stands out for being extremely responsive. The Yaris may be zipping along and the CVT will still change down when required to. Only occasionally will it protest with an electronic beep when it deems the engine speed to be too high.

Equally impressive is that the engine does not become boomy under hard acceleration - a testimony to this little car's refinement.

For more oomph, there is a Sport button that can be pressed to ensure the CVT doesn't change up. Like the Sport button, the engine start/stop button is also "buried" in the lower centre console between the two front seats.

Another criticism is that the driver's seat may not go low enough for those who are taller. Surprisingly, however, the driving position is still very comfortable with a good amount of space in the rear despite the 2,510 mm wheelbase.

With its lightweight body - it tips the scales at a mere 1,035 kg - the Yaris claims an amazing fuel consumption figure of 5.0 litres per 100 km under the combined cycle, or 20 km per litre.

The only real downside is the car's relatively high list price because of its equipment, like auto headlamps, rain sensors, smart entry and infotainment system. While most prospective buyers are pleasantly surprised that it is no longer an entry-level hatchback, they are not sufficiently impressed to buy it. Yet.

Because when the new rules for COE Category A kick in next February, the little Toyota might just become a very attractive proposition.


 

CAR INFORMATION

Toyota Yaris 1.33 (A)

Price

:$113,888

Engine Type

:

4-cylinders in-line DOHC Dual VVT-i

Engine Cap

:

1,329 cc

Horsepower

:

99 bhp / 6,000 rpm

Torque

:

125 Nm / 4,000 rpm

Transmission

:

CVT (A)

Acceleration

:

12.6 sec (0-100 km/h)

Top Speed

:

175 km/h