We’ve had the Starlet, the Echo and now we’re more than familiar with the Yaris, Toyota’s pint sized entry into the compact car market which has just been refreshed to remain a valid choice for P platers and Grandma’s alike. I was never a big fan of the original Yaris, our family had the four door sedan YRX with the pokey little 1.5-litre engine and horrid cost cutting centrally located gauge cluster. Everything about it screamed bare bones and basic, the most exciting feature being the ability to frighten unsuspecting pedestrians with the horn. So I must admit I wasn’t looking forward to putting the new model through the gauntlet.
It’s the top spec Yaris ZR that I got my hands on which is now only available in hatch form, gone is the sedan model. The new model looks very much the same as the model it replaces, afterall it’s only a minor visual refresh and it’s not a bad little looker. The front is full of swooping angles and sharp lines making it look angry but in a hilarious way like an agitated chihuahua and I’m quite a big fan of that big single windscreen wiper. From the back it’s not a plague on your visual senses, with the spoiler and diffuser adding character and sport-like visuals for drivers trapped behind you.
It’s the inside where I was shocked in a good way. Toyota has gone bonkers and put stripes on the seats! Compared to the drab grey assortment of bland I’d be expecting, this was promising. The cabin is very airy making it feel larger than it is and while the materials are plastic in nature for many surfaces, they’re textured to feel and look higher grade. Ninety-nine percent of the time your hands will be wrapped around the nice chunky steering wheel and shifter which is clad in perforated and stitched leather. Bright orange dials dominate the gauge cluster, with the 6.1-inch colour touchscreen infotainment unit housed centrally albeit closer to the passenger side making you reach a little further than needed to adjust things.
Once cranked up the stereo delivers, audio comes through clear and crisp with enough bass to do your dubbed up tracks justice. Sadly, there’s no Android Auto or Apple CarPlay available which is a real oversight, but you can rely on the included Bluetooth to connect your phone or make do with the AUX in.
My only real complaint with the interior would be the trip computer controls which flex when pushed and give off a cheap feel. Exclusive to the Yaris ZR is the included climate control air conditioning managed by the control stack under the infotainment unit, simple to use and works a charm.
The seats for the Yaris ZR are not only comfortable but supportive as well. They’re no race seat but for an entry level car you’d expect much less. And it’s once you’re in the seats that you’ll realise just how easy it is to see everything going on around you, visibility is excellent. It’s one of the few benefits tiny hatchbacks have over their larger brethren.
For added assistance when backing up Toyota has included a reversing camera as standard and a selection of safety features best enjoyed when traveling forwards. There’s a Lane Departure Alert system that will both beep and display on the gauge cluster when you’ve not been able to stay within the lines. Automatic High Beams control the Bi-LED headlights and the Pre-Collision Safety System make up the remainder of the ZR’s Toyota Safety Sense features. For convenience cruise control is available as well as satellite navigation connected to SUNA/Toyota Link for up to date traffic information.
At the heart of the Yaris ZR is the same 1.5-litre VVT-i engine that hauled the original Yaris around. It still makes the same 80kW at 6,000 rpm and 141Nm of torque peaking at 4,400 rpm. In the lighter hatchback the engine will get you up and moving but power is lacking. Happily, the ancient but reliable four-speed automatic is oh so eager to shift down make up for this flaw.
Expect everything to thrash you at the lights and plan one week ahead before attempting to overtake anyone. For the most part the auto performs as it should sitting in the background swapping cogs for you without drawing positive or negative attention to itself. The other huge advantage of tiny little hatches is how much fuel they don’t drink, often meekly sipping away and giving great fuel economy. Toyota claims the Yaris will manage 6.4L/100km and in perfect test conditions with a well trained and patient foot I’m sure it could. Out and about in the real world you shouldn’t get your hopes up. I got an average of 8.3L/100km which isn’t poor but not a strong showing either.
The Yaris ZR is a fun car to hustle through the corners with decent feedback provided through the wheel, it’s a shame that the Yaris ZR isn’t offered in manual. The turn in is decent and the 15-inch alloy wheels have more than enough grip for the power they have to manage. Tackle bumps and bad roads with gusto and the Yaris will be dropping some big hints to back it off a bit. Overall, it’s a good mix of comfort and handling without being too soft to destroy confidence when pushed.
Design and Comfort: 8/10
Performance & Handling: 7/10
Features & Equipment: 8/10
All up the Yaris ZR is hardly the car I was expecting. Rather than a featureless and charmless car that would bore me to death Toyota has created a cheerful, feature packed stylish hatch that doesn’t disappoint.
I’d have loved to have seen the C-HR’s 1.2-litre turbocharged engine and CVT gearbox placed into the Yaris but that’s too much to expect on a facelift model. Even so, the Yaris ZR is still a solid contender and worth a serious look.
- Solid selection features
- Decent stereo
- Looks good inside and out
- Engine and gearbox are getting long in the tooth
- No Android Auto or Apple CarPlay
- Not available in manual
2017 Toyota Yaris ZR Automatic Pricing and Specification
|Price (Excl. On-Roads):||From $22,470 / As tested: $22,470|
|Warranty:||3-year or 100,000km|
|Warranty Customer Assistance:||N/A|
|Country of origin:||Japan|
|Service Intervals:||6 months/10,000km|
|Engine:||1.5-litre VVT-i in-line four-cylinder petrol:|
80kW @ 6,000rpm, 141Nm @ 4,400rpm
|Power to Weight Ratio (W/kg):||77.7|
|Fuel Consumption (Combined):||6.4L/100km (claimed); 8.3L/100km (tested)|
|Fuel Capacity (L):||42|
|Body:||5-door hatch; 5 seats|
|Safety:||5-star ANCAP, 7 airbags, ABS, BA, EBD, ESC, Traction Control, Reverse Camera, Lane Depature Alert, Pre-Collision Safety System, Automatic High Beam|
|Dimensions: L/W/H/W-B (mm):||3,945/1,695/1,510/2,510|
|Boot Space (L):||286|
|Towing Capacity (kg):||Braked: 900/Unbraked: 550|
|Entertainment:||6.1-inch colour touchscreen with six speakers, satellite navigation with SUNA Live Traffic, safety alert, Bluetooth, USB/AUX input, Toyota Link connected mobility|