Trendy, Groovy Toyota Yaris

Yaris Image

It's been a long time coming, but finally we have an alternative to the Honda Jazz in the form of the Toyota Yaris. Unveiled in Thailand on the 20th January, the Yaris should have Honda worried, as around 60% of their Thai sales come from the Jazz.

As usual Toyota have managed to find a disturbingly sad caption for the launch of the new car. This time "Be Groovy" is the best the Toyota marketing team could come up with, and the press release managed to use the word "trendy" a couple of times, which seems to be a word which is erm... trendy in Thailand at the moment.

This from the press release:

"Toyota Motor Thailand Co., Ltd. attracts the passion of the younger generation, who loves groovy lifestyles, by introducing the new Yaris.
Yaris is designed under the concept of "Vibrant Clarity" with 4 components referred to as, "PASS";

  • P= "Proportion"…New Innovative design in every proportion of the car"
  • A= "Architecture"…A New and trendy design"
  • S= "Surface"…A design that comes with strength"

That's as far as the press release takes us, so I'm afraid the final "S" in the acronym is unknown. But I'll hazard a guess that it's something along the lines of: "S="Sport"...A trendy and groovy design with innovative sporting strength for your groovy lifestyle."

Joking aside, the dodgy marketing waffle is about the only thing that is funny about the Yaris. It is a strong little car, with impressive build quality for a car in this price range.

The Yaris comes with the same 1.5 liter VVT-i engine as found in the Toyota VIOS, which is good news because it's a sweet little engine. In other markets the Yaris is available with 1.2 liter petrol and 1.4 liter diesel options, but it looks likely that we'll only have the 1.5 liter here in Thailand for the time being. There were some rumors floating around that the diesel model would be launched here, but we'll have to wait and see.

The Jazz has two 1.5 liter engine options, the i-DSI (dual spark) engine at the lower end, and the VTEC power plant as a higher end option. The Yaris with it's VVT-i engine is in direct competition with the VTEC models from Honda. With prices starting at 599,000 baht the Yaris is competitive against the Jazz VTEC which starts at 622,000 baht. Having said that, the Jazz i-DSI is very popular and starting at 513,000 it will remain a tempting low-cost rival to the Yaris despite it's lower power output of 88 bhp (Yaris is 109, Jazz VTEC is 110).

The Yaris is cute to look at, and from the outside it looks very small. On the road it seems to be dwarfed by the cars around it, but this is deceptive. Standing beside it it's actually tall, and when I sat into it I was surprised with how high up the driving position was. I was also pleasantly surprised to find ample head room (I'm 6'+) in the spacious and well-laid-out interior.

Yaris Image

I should point out that I have not driven the Jazz or the Yaris, but from first impressions having sat in each, and meddled around with the switch gear and adjusted the seating I feel that both are very well engineered. For my money, the Yaris is ahead of the Jazz in this respect. The quality of the materials used is just on par with the Jazz, but the amount of stowage compartments and drinks holders in the new Toyota is impressive.

Yaris Image

Toyota have also (in my opinion) bettered Honda's brilliant seating system. In the Jazz it is possible to fold the rear seats forward and down into the floor providing a perfectly flat cargo area. In order to fold the seats down in this manner you first need to fold the front seats forward out of the way to allow the headrests on the rear seats to pass. The Toyota also allows the rear seats to be folded flat into the floor, but the Toyota doesn't force the owner to adjust the front seats first, since the rear headrests can be lowered to fit flush with the top of the backrests. Additionally the Toyota seats can be adjusted forward to increase the cargo space, at the cost of legroom for the back-seat passengers.

If you are in the market for a Jazz then I would recommend you to take a careful look at the Yaris too. The quality is much better than the Vios, and that's not exactly a shabby car either.

Toyota might not blow the Jazz away with the Yaris to the same extent as they have the CR-V with the Fortuner, but the will certainly take many sales away from Honda in the compact segment.