First Drive in the Toyota Yaris

Do you remember when the Toyota Yaris launched back in 2005? Gosh it was so cool. I wanted one so badly and I was so jealous when a girl I envied got one…in black! Every time I saw a black Yaris drive past me I would think of her and think, “One day, I will also be as cool as her.” Well, time went by and I didn’t become cool, but one thing is for sure, the Yaris didn’t retain its cool edge either. It had younger and hotter models to compete with such as the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo. Last year Toyota tried to add some edge with the launch of the Yaris Pulse, but it is the all-new Yaris which launched mid Feb which is helping it to redeem some street cred.

It is now slightly bigger. It has lengthened by 165 mm and even widened by 5 mm (I am not sure the naked eye will be able to see those 5 mm though). It now looks sleeker, cooler and more mature. It certainly needed to grow up. These hatches cannot be considered budget buys any longer, their price tag says so. And it is for this reason that these cars have such a tough time. Split personalities if you will. They need to appeal to the youngsters who can’t actually afford them and they also need to appeal to an older crowd who can afford them but want something more premium and more mature. Talk about a tough crowd!

Step inside and the all-new Yaris boasts a much classier cabin than before. There is still some evidence that this was once considered an entry level car, but overall, it does look and feel better. And with four trim levels to choose from you should be able to find your perfect match. The Xi model which kicks off the range still boasts keyless entry and push-start button, a four-speaker audio system with USB and Bluetooth functionality (which is great except for the fact that it is positioned on the infotainment system so you either have a flash drive sticking out of the dash or you have your charger wire running down over it. It can prove rather inconvenient and annoying), a multi-information display, electric mirrors, front electric windows, power steering and manual air conditioning. That’s not too shabby for a price tag of just over R230 000 brand spanking new. (I just wanted to use the word ‘spanking’). The trim levels go right up to the Sport model which has slightly different kit and ‘sporty’ touches.

The one slight downfall is the engine. Although it houses a 1,5l petrol engine under the bonnet, it lacks the power you find in the Polo’s 1,0l turbo. Going uphill with the aircon on proved to be a tiresome task, a lot of downshifting was required. However, once on the open road, cruising was relatively effortless. You can opt for a CVT transmission, but I would only choose this if you spend most of your time in traffic, otherwise, the manual will be the way to go.

This car is spacious, very much so in fact, and this should appeal to buyers. As well as the great price tag. The problem for Toyota is that the Polo is still the more appealing option. Not only is the engine better, but the interior feels more premium than that of the Yaris. The new Fiesta is set to hit our shores soon too, which should make for an even more interesting comparison. I think the Yaris is well on its way to getting back to what it once was, it just has such stiff competition that it will be hard to take pole position ever again.


1.5 Xi MT         – R 230 800

1.5 Xs MT        – R 253 400

1.5 Xs CVT      – R 268 500

1.5 Cross        – R 268 500

1.5 Sport         – R 286 000

Warranty and Maintenance

All Yaris models come with a 3-year/45 000 kilometre service plan and 3-year/100 000 kilometre warranty.



I’m Julz, South African motoring journalist with a passion for cars and a questionable sense of humour. I am not your average motoring journalist, and this is not your average motoring website.

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