While it would be accurate to say that the compact sedan market – or the sedan market in its entirety – has been under pressure in the past few years, a number of recent new arrivals seem to suggest that car makers still think there may be a significant number of buyers out there looking for traditional four-door-and-a-boot motoring. Nevertheless, some of these newcomers attempt to fight off their funkier hatchback rivals by offering strong design character and suspension set-ups tuned as much for driving pleasure as comfort – cars such as the new Mazda2 and Ford Fiesta sedans, are examples. But the dominant car in this segment is one that has largely stayed true to the traditional strengths of the four-door sedan, that of ride and cabin comfort, boot space and a balance between performance and economy. In its latest guise the Toyota Yaris sedan, ageing as it may be, appears to be as strong a rival as ever. Perhaps conservatism is not such a bad thing after all?
Classy conservatism for Toyota YarisFamiliarity and time haven’t had much of a negative impact on the Yaris’ design appeal. In fact, the Toyota Yaris still looks modern, and to some eyes the classy conservatism is more attractive than the somewhat contrived “wannabe cool” designs of some newer rivals. The body is largely devoid of frills, and the long 2 550 mm wheelbase pushes the wheels out to the corners, contributing to the modern and elegant overall look. Unfortunately, Toyota has deemed it fit to add some rather ugly “Zen” stickers to the package, but these should be easy enough to remove.
If there’s some originality to be found in the Toyota Yaris package, it resides in the cabin. The centrally mounted instrumentation remains contentious, and the argument that it boosts safety is seriously debatable. Nevertheless, the facia is not unattractive and there are some clever touches, including fold-out cup holders and a neat silver V-shaped centre section that contains the audio system’s controls. There is also a convenient storage area at the base of the facia in front of the gear lever.
The Yaris’s cabin is airy, the generous wheelbase certainly resulting in lots of space for the occupants, front and rear, and the perception of space is further enhanced by the light trim colour. The cabin space has not come at the expense of packing volume, because the boot can accommodate 448-litres worth of luggage. So, although, the Toyota Yaris Sedan is a compact car, in terms of its packaging it is entirely practical for a (not-so-small) family. Safety is therefore also a non-negotiable, and parents will be happy to know that this “affordable” sedan boasts no fewer than seven airbags in addition to its ABS/EBD brakes and Isofix rear child seat mounting points.
Refined, comfortable driveDue to its spaciousness, the Yaris sedan is off to a good start in terms of cabin comfort. The seats, while perhaps lacking some lateral support, also proved to be pleasant over long distances and the considered selection of standard features means that such trips never become boring or tiresome. Included in the package are air-conditioning, central locking, electric windows and mirrors and a front-loading radio/CD player.
But the Yaris’s trump card is its refinement, which is possibly unparalleled in this segment. There’s nothing special about the suspension design of MacPherson struts in front and a torsion beam arrangement at the rear, but the underpinnings have obviously been tuned with comfort as the top priority. Consequently the Toyota Yaris glides over imperfections and the way in which it settles after major bumps reminds of a bigger, more luxurious car. Furthermore, the low levels of NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) enhance what is already a top-notch effort overall.
Willing little engineAt this price level the Yaris’s 1,3-litre engine is up against some bigger-capacity competitors, including a 1,6-litre Volkswagen with considerably more power. Nevertheless, the Toyota Yaris feels livelier than its 63 kW and 121 Nm appear to suggest, offering good low-down grunt around town and even some reserve power at higher speeds for overtaking. Again the refinement impresses, a trait that also extends to the smooth and light five-speed manual transmission.
Although the fuel consumption can rise steeply during prolonged high-speed cruising, the daily average of between 6,0 and 7,0 litres/100 km is very good indeed, especially at the Toyota Yaris sedan is not the smallest of cars.
Toyota Yaris - VerdictAs the current Toyota Yaris sedan nears the end of its life cycle in the face of fresh new competition, it still offers a remarkably appealing package that is very carefully tuned to the target market’s needs. Sharp dynamics and edgy styling take a back seat to comfort, refinement and economy, but judging by the sales figures, this is exactly what the consumers want. Now add the Toyota’s enviable after-sales reputation and resale value, and it’s clear that the Toyota Yaris sedan won’t go down without a fight.
- Classy, conservative looks
- Cabin space
- Willing engine
- Ride quality
- Resale value
- Centrally mounted instruments
Engine: 1,3-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Power: 63 kW @ 6 000 rpm
Torque: 121 Nm @ 4 400 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual
Wheels: 15-inch steel
Top speed: 170 km/h
0-100 km/h: 12,7 seconds
Fuel economy: 6 litres/100 km
- Volkswagen Polo Vivo sedan 1,6 Trendline : This locally developed cheapie offers plenty of value, courtesy of its more powerful 1,6-litre engine, high levels of perceived quality and resale value. Rear legroom is not that good and it lacks some features, but the basics are all there.
- Ford Fiesta Sedan 1,4 Ambiente: Also brand new on the market and shares its underpinnings with the Mazda, so is dynamically sharper than the Toyota Yaris. Courtesy of a 1,4-litre engine, the Ford also offers slightly more power. Can’t match the Yaris’s airbags count.
- Mazda2 Sedan 1,3 Active: A very strong new rival that offers plenty of appeal, due to zesty dynamics and exciting styling, inside and out. The engine delivers similar power to the Toyota Yaris and the specification is comparable too. Lacks the Yaris’s refinement and safety specification, though.