– Cheap to buy and run
– Good cabin space
– Decent ride and handling
– Cheap interior bits
– Expectedly slow
– Few basic features missing
It’s never easy writing about low-budget cars, precisely because there isn’t much to write about them. They barely move, they lack features and they’re generally undesirable. However, the all-new 2014 Toyota Yaris may well be the first Japanese-branded car in its price bracket that we actually liked.
For one, the styling is a lot more flamboyant this time around, even shocking some of its conservative target market, as we’ve come to hear from dissenting readers. Sure, we’ll become oblivious to it six months from now once there are thousands of white fleet-spec critters running around, but we liked our top-spec 15-inch alloy-wheeled version, complete with an orange paintjob.
Inside, it’s a straight-up fitting of the Yaris sedan’s dashboard, right down to the fake “stitched leather” moulded into the hard plastic. Even the armrests and door panels are hard-plastic, while the flimsy cargo cover and the felt-like headliner round out the cheap cabin finish. But, as long as you don’t touch anything aside from the seats, wheel, shifter and control buttons, you’ll enjoy the visually-premium ambience, with little gems like the fire-orange gauges and the “floating” stereo console.
The cabin is very spacious, both front and back. The seats are mildly bolstered and made for comfort, but there’s no central armrest. The boot is decently sized for its class, with a split-folding rear seat. And there’s nice pop-out cup-holders in the dash, with one more in the back, with bottle-holders in the door pockets, aside from some deep cubbies.
There’s a respectable amount of features in the top-spec version, such as keyless entry, power windows and mirrors, two airbags, above-average manual a/c and an acceptable CD/MP3 stereo with USB/AUX ports. Still, there’s no stand-out features like, say, the Nissan Sunny’s rear a/c vents or the Honda City’s touchscreen. There isn’t even Bluetooth or parking sensors, unless you go for dealer-installed aftermarket options.
The only Yarises we’d driven before were lethargic 1.3-litre models, which is why we didn’t think much of them. However, we appreciated the extra oomph of the larger 1.5-litre four-banger, making 107 hp at 6000 rpm and 141 Nm of torque at 4200 rpm. We managed a 0-100 kph time of 12.4 seconds, still slow, but we were satisfied with its mid-range response in city driving. The standard 4-speed automatic is basic, but fairly responsive, unsurprisingly keeping the motor on the boil all the time, doing 3000 rpm at 120 kph.
It’s a competent little daily-driver, economical as per our 7.8 litres/100 km as-tested fuel consumption, with light steering, a reasonably-smooth ride on most road surfaces, and a size small enough to squeeze through gaps in traffic. There’s no floatiness on the highway, and the wind-road-engine trifecta of noise remain at moderate levels doing 100 kph, beyond which they increase exponentially. With good visibility all-round, it’s easy to park too, even without rear sensors.
It can even be a bit of fun, once you overcome the slight throttle delay at low speeds. The steering is weightless, but is fairly direct and offers decent feedback. There’s some easily-controlled body roll and the ABS-assisted brakes are adequate. The car runs out of grip pretty quickly however, and at that point it cleanly understeers. It’s miles away from being a Mini rival, but more than safe and perky on unruly street corners at sane speeds.
Are we adding the new Yaris hatch to our recommended list? Well, the lack of even the slightest bit of cabin padding keeps it off our list, aside from missing a few key options. But would we still recommend the new Yaris hatch to newbie car buyers or even just office commuters who think Bluetooth is a dental issue? In a heartbeat. It’s a very nice car at its price, and even has a bit of character now. We imagine a 1.5-litre manual-gearbox version in orange and alloys might even be our cup of tea as a fun grocery-getter, if such a specification existed.
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