The devil’s in the details and the all-new Toyota Yaris proves it
Having already provided a glimpse of Toyota’s forthcoming rally weapon, Iain Robertson is delighted to reveal the rest of the Yaris line-up, which is the first application of Toyota’s new platform design (TNGA-B) for its future compact models.
Everything about the new Yaris is centred on Toyota’s intentions for it to be the best and safest in class, regardless. We have already gained the TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) experience from cars as diverse as Corolla, CH-R and RAV4, which have served to affirm a policy of devising a sound platform and then building on it.
As I have said before, a fresh breeze of vitality seems to have swept through Toyota’s portals in the past few years. From making eminently worthy but totally character-free cars for more than thirty years, the Japanese carmaker has been taking heed of its customers’ feedback and recognises that they desire space, style, agility, comfort, safety, frugality but, above all else, an eye to the environment. While this may not sound too terribly different to most carmakers’ reported ethics, that Toyota is achieving the impossible by turning around its international juggernaut, is much to its credit. The proof of most puddings lies in their consumption and Toyota has been very tasty of late.
For the new Yaris, that means a reduction in overall length by 5mm, the wheelbase has been increased by 50mm, while height is down by 40mm, without encroaching on occupant space. The car’s width is also increased by 50mm, which gifts it a more hunkered-down and eager stance. The styling details are crisp, with 3D taillamp graphics, the ‘guppy’ front grille and subtle curves.
In the cabin, the emphasis has been placed on sensory quality, with a soft-touch dashboard, allied to various tactile surfaces and textiles. Yet, driving without distraction has also become a central pillar, with a 10.0-inch colour head-up display dominating but not obscuring the driver’s view. All controls and switchgear are designed to be intuitive to locate and operate.
Of course, dynamic prowess is essential and creating a lower centre of gravity is the route to enhanced handling and the sheer chuckability of the new model. The new platform allows a better driving position to be created, which, combined with a more balanced weight distribution, not just front to rear but also side to side, also allows the company’s engineers to develop a car with less body roll and minimal pitch, notably under braking, which aid both stability and brake performance. Greater structural rigidity ensures that the handling balance and agility are enhanced to new peaks. It is intriguing, because friction has been reduced in the suspension struts and softer springs have also been fitted, even though roll resistance has been increased significantly.
The hybrid model has been immensely successful for Toyota, with independent city tests revealing that the previous generation car was capable of running for up to 80% of the time as a zero emissions vehicle. The new car is powered by a more compact 1.5-litre, 114bhp (combined petrol/electric), three-cylinder engine that is literally three-quarters of the company’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit. It boasts the world’s fastest warm-up, which is good for reducing fuel consumption by more than 20%, despite an increase in power of 15%. A 27% lighter and faster-charging lithium-ion battery replaces the former Nickel Metal-hydride type.
The power unit drives through an e-CVT transmission, with carefully delineated step-off points that create more of a manual gearbox feel. The new hybrid model has been given a top speed of 109mph and the ability to accelerate from 0-60mph in just 10.2s. Its WLTP fuel economy figure is stated as 76.3mpg, with CO2 emissions of 86g/km. The final UK specification is still to be decided but may also include a 1.0-litre ‘triple’ entry-level alternative.
Advanced driver assistance systems include full speed-range, intelligent adaptive cruise control and lane trace assist, as featured in the recently launched new Toyota Corolla. Fitted as standard on every new Yaris, the car has been developed to provide the best possible occupant protection, in line with stricter testing standards being applied in 2020. For example, to provide protection in the event of a side impact, Yaris will be the first car in its segment to be fitted with a centre airbag.
Driving the pre-launch hybrid model, its confident on-road feedback proved to be its most satisfying aspect. Many of the desirable traits arise from the new Yaris’s platform and, while the power steering is lightweight, it does not suffer from the ‘disconnected’ feel of some hybrids. Direct and accurate, not even mid-corner road surface imperfections disrupt the chosen line and the brakes provide linear and jolt-free stopping. The softer springs have the effect of riding out the worse conditions and there is enough balanced rebound to ensure that the wheels remain on the ground and do not skip. Grip levels are exceptional and the new Yaris handles stably and willingly.
Although we have more than 14 years before Boris’s EV plans come into force (should they even pass scrutiny), the accompanying note that also places hybrid motorcars in the banned list is sure to have a negative impact on Yaris hybrid sales. If you fall into that category of potential buyer and are put off by the prospect of not being able to flog it afterwards, just remember that a used car scene will remain vibrant for several years thereafter.
A decently frugal Yaris that, thanks to the way Toyota engineers its battery-electric pack, can promise a surprisingly broad but not sole EV range, retains solid consumer support. Even hanging onto it for a decade, the Yaris will hold a good residual value.
Conclusion: Set for launch this summer, the new Yaris is unusual in that it is almost entirely brand new. The current Yaris hybrid starts at £18,745 and I would not expect much change from £20,000, when the new version goes ‘live’.