First drive: Toyota Yaris 2012 in Dubai

First drive: Toyota Yaris 2012 in Dubai

Competition in the sub-compact segment is heating up, with entries such as the Hyundai Accent, the Honda Jazz and the Ford Fiesta pushing the boundaries of what is possible with small cars. And soon after we drove the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic for the first time, we were invited to the UAE launch of the all-new 2012 Toyota Yaris. Thus far, the Yaris has remained the segment leader, but we were eager to find out if it could maintain that lead.

It turns out the new Yaris is longer in length and shorter in height than before, but only by a bit. The exterior looks good, at least until it becomes too common, while the interior is better and worse, depending on how you look at it. It is better because there is now better space, with thinner front seatbacks, excellent rear roominess and a deep luggage boot that can be configured to make a flat load floor with the rear seats folded down. It is worse because the entire cabin now consists of hard plastics, with no cloth inserts on the doors like in the old model, although some padding for the elbows have been retained for front passengers.

The 2012 Yaris, only available in hatchback form for now, is powered by the carried-over 1.3-litre 4-cylinder, good for 87 hp at 6000 rpm and 121 Nm of torque at 4400 rpm, mated to a 4-speed automatic. Most of its competitors now offer bigger engines.

However, the features list is now longer. The UAE dealer has chosen to bring in only two decently-specced models for now, with no stripped-down base model any more. So all models get power windows, electric mirrors, keyless entry, two airbags, ABS and a CD stereo with USB port and even Bluetooth. The higher model adds 15-inch alloy wheels, fog lamps, rear spoiler and a leather steering wheel.

During the launch, the first event consisted of driving the Yaris around a cone-laden course, sometimes backwards, with tennis balls in a basket on the roof, apparently to showcase its agility. What we gathered is the Yaris retains its chuckable nature, with a tight turning circle, good all-round visibility and ultra-light steering.

Later on, we hit the road in convoy for a short drive around Dubai. The short first gear makes the Yaris spritely around town, in crowded junctions and traffic jams. But once we hit the open road, the engine’s strength, or lack of it, made itself obvious. Flooring the throttle to overtake at highway speeds offers up almost no juice, so it is better to just stay in lane. And it’s better not to go too fast, because the brakes don’t do much unless pushed in most of the way.

But on a positive note, while the engine makes a lot of noise, the sound-deadening is fairly decent for a car of this class. We had the unforeseen privilege of driving just as a severe sandstorm hit Dubai, and while we expected the Yaris to fly away in the wind, it behaved itself rather well. Even in strong crosswinds, the little hatchback didn’t move around sideways as much as the old one did. And wind noise was relatively low for a “cheap” car, although our test car did have a whistling leak somewhere. The ride quality was reasonably smooth too, for the most part.

Toyota is banking on the accumulated goodwill built up by the outgoing model to continue driving sales of the new Yaris, and they’d be right. Sub-compact buyers, above all else, just want decent space, fuel economy, acceptable ride comfort, good a/c and resale value. The well-built 2012 Yaris delivers all that and more, and that makes it better than the old one. They even got rid of the centre-mounted gauge cluster. With prices starting at Dhs 51,000 however, it offers less than some Korean-built competitors, but a Toyota Yaris is a Toyota Yaris.

What do you think?



  1. Hmm. They again cheaped out on the specs. A new 1.3L (1NR-FE) which churns out 99 hp at 6000 rpm with 137 Nm of torque was available. Alas! the Gulf markets get stuck to the old crappy 1.3L (2SZ-FE). Other markets get Stop&Start technology ( which I dont even expect here)but I would have clearly expected the new engine which also features Dual VVT-i to come around. They aren’t offering a 5- speed manual nor the CVT, just the clunky automatic. Shame, that they are looking at price, rather than value and it still costs Dhs 51,000.

  2. i knew it, new yaris is here. i had seen one yesterday, i think in shahama,on my way drive from dubai to abu dhabi, around 2:30 pm.

  3. Price is way too expensive for this Yaris hatchback, People wud buy this blindly since this is a Toyota and Yaris.

  4. That interior looks horrendous… O_O

  5. again I read the lines. Toyota Yaris is Toyota yaris and it makes me LOL. Nice report bro.

  6. It sucks….they cannot sell cars just on goodwill…

  7. That must be the cheapest looking interior I’ve ever seen on a 21st century Japanese car.

  8. Mash you Must have made a road test for Suzuki swift and compare it with this crappy yaris really try the new swift you will be amazed

  9. The interior isn’t symmetric! My OCD senses are tingling…

  10. this shit-box should not have more than AED 20K

  11. wat a POS, no wonder its just a yaris hahaha

  12. The previous model looks better. Will probably also drop in price because of the new Yaris.

  13. Saw one today outside Al Tayer (Garhoud). It looked refreshing from the outside. Couldn’t muster myself to look inside O_O

  14. let us wait for the new kia rio & look what it has to offer. yaris is a yaris because it’s toyota. but korean cars are catching up and soon may over take japanese cars.

  15. Yaris is yaris, no more no less..

  16. AED 51K… Go for the Elentra,,,, a greater Car in terms of everything… toyota are dreaming..Ugly!!!

  17. yes yaris is yaris coz japanese cars have good quality instead of korean cars like kia,hyundai.sangyoung

  18. even 1st generation kia picanto is copy of 1st gen yaris
    n new picanto is copy of 2nd gen yaris

  19. nothing compared to kia rio toyota=ugly nowadays… except FJ cruiser

  20. There was a time one could buy a camry xli for 55k…….now all it gets u is yaris

    Sad 🙂

  21. I’ll get an ELANTRA over this YARI with the price of 55000 AED.

    you have to read the Camry 2012 comments to know the voice of a true car enthusiast.

    Perception only runs on the people here in MID EAST, that Japanese is always good. While there are a lot of good cars out there.

  22. Toyota, Was.. A good car..

  23. No doubt Yaris is Yaris but the old one after driving camry , drove Yaris H/B on 140 km and amazed by road grip and stability never expected frankly!!!!!!!!!!!

  24. I agree with Mr. Taimoor. I don’t know how but driving Yaris 140-150KMh is surprisingly very nice experience. Although it was the car with single owner and mileage was at 25k only. but still very nice.

  25. I would suggest you guys test drive the new yaris to know its improvements compared to the older one. The car may not look attractive online, but has some obvious sporty changes to its design when seen in person. The drive experience although not great, is better than old yaris. It has 6 speakers now (good sound system), blue tooth controls on steering, good turn radius, very stable on curves and more spacious. The old yaris is Dhs 50K. I mean for Dhs 1000/- more, would prefer the new yaris to the old one. And not to forget, it is a Toyota Yaris…so good resale value 🙂

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