Toyota Yaris 1,3 T3 Spirit (2005) Driving Impression

Toyota Yaris 2005

Although the elderly Tazz is not quite driving off into the sunset just yet (give it a few months), Toyota South Africa has finally entered the modern city car game with its eagerly anticipated (and long overdue) Yaris hatchback, a direct competitor to the likes of Fiesta, Corsa and Getz. Looking ahead to a period of increased “down-sizing”, the Toyota Yaris is likely to remain a key model for Toyota for many years and a certain bet for sales stardom. Of course, the Toyota badge alone will make the Yaris near impossible to resist for thousands of buyers, but the question remains whether it is as good as its main competition, especially seeing as it is not exactly cheap…

Cuddly looks for Toyota Yaris

At first glance, the Toyota Yaris looks like a smaller car than its rivals, but much of this is due to its curvy design. Still, it is compact, with very short front and rear overhangs and an almost comically bulbous front-end that rises steeply into the windshield. There are almost no straight lines or hard corners to be found anywhere, a design approach that should endear the Toyota Yaris to female buyers in particular. As ever, build quality is good, with the Toyota Yaris displaying a solidity that belies its very light kerb weight (1 040 kg). Neat 15-inch alloy wheels add a sporty touch.

Thankfully, the interior is significantly more spacious than the exterior dimensions suggest. There’s good head-, shoulder- and legroom all-round, but at the rear this has undoubtedly come at the expensive of boot space – only 192 L-worth of luggage can be accommodated. Interestingly, the rear seat can slide forwards or backwards, allowing occupants to tailor bootspace/rear legroom to a degree. The rear seat is also split 60/40 and can fold to accommodate larger objects. The sensation of space in the cabin is further accentuated by the high seating and large glass area, so the cabin is light and airy. Also contributing to this are light trim colours.

The front seats provide good comfort, and there will be few complaints about the driving position, seeing as the steering wheel boasts rake and reach adjustment and the seat itself can be raised and lowered, though not quite low enough. Fronting the driver is… nothing. The Yaris’s instrumentation is centrally mounted, which may not please everyone, but we found it worked quite well. The facia’s layout has allowed Toyota’s designers to place lidded storage areas in front of both front occupants, as well as fold-out cupholders beneath the ventilation outlets. There is also a tray below the front passenger seat.

Toyota has been fairly generous with standard features, which is just as well given the relatively high price. Included are; air-conditioning, front and rear fog lamps, electric mirrors, electric windows, radio/CD with remote audio controls, central locking and, on the safety front, no fewer than 7 airbags and ABS with EBD.

Willing engine

The Toyota Yaris is powered by a modern 1,3-litre engine that develops 63 kW and 121 Nm of torque, the latter figure at a rather high 4 400 rpm. Thankfully the Toyota Yaris is not a heavy car, because there is certainly a lack of torque low down in the rev range. It is not so much a hassle around town, where the Yaris feels reasonably nippy anyway, but rather at higher speeds and when faced with overtaking. You may need to drop down a gear or two to extract the performance. Thankfully, the five-speed transmission is precise and slick, contributing to an overall feeling of excellent drivetrain refinement. For what it’s worth, the Toyota Yaris will sprint to 100 km/h in just over 12 seconds and can reach a 170 km/h top speed. More important, however, is that it can also be very economical when driven in a frugal state of mind – achieving 5,5 L/100 km will, however, take some doing.

Overall, the Toyota Yaris is very impressive on the go, with the aforementioned sense of refinement also prevalent in the way it rides and keeps its occupants isolated from the noises and bumps of our roads. The suspension set-up is certainly on the soft side, which benefits ride comfort, but at the same time it can also not be labelled as being excessively top-heavy or “wobbly”. The relatively long wheelbase and wide track lend the Toyota Yaris a more sizeable footprint than you may think, after all. It impresses particularly in its most likely environment, that of the city. The electrically assisted steering is very light, but accurate, and visibility out of the car is excellent, too.

Toyota Yaris - Verdict

Although the Toyota Yaris initially looks like quite an expensive product, there’s a lot of depth to its ability that is not immediately apparent. The safety specification alone is impressive, and the refinement levels are almost certainly near class best. Add a frugal and willing little engine, great manoeuvrability and a decent service plan and there really is very little standing between the Toyota Yaris and that number one slot on the local sales charts.

We like:

  • Practical cabin
  • Refinement
  • Safety spec
  • Fuel economy
  • Likely resale
We don’t like:
  • Central instrumentation
  • A bit pricey
Fast facts

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 alloy

Top speed: 170 km/h

0-100 km/h: 12,4 seconds

Fuel economy: 5,5 litres/100 km


Also consider:

  • Volkswagen Polo 1,6 Comfortline: A very popular choice with good reason – the Polo offers excellent perceived quality and a very stylish package overall. Resale values are high, and so are comfort levels. Lacking in standard specification, though.
  • Honda Jazz 1,4i-DSI: Although there’s not much that’s exciting about the Jazz, it is a high-quality, practical offering that puts the emphasis on longevity and convenience. Really hard to fault.
  • Ford Fiesta 1,6 Ghia: The current Fiesta is very popular, primarily because of its sprightly character and good price. The cabin may lack the sophistication of the VW and the space utilisation of the Honda, but the Ford is a far more agile, fun car to drive.