Toyota Yaris: Is Honda Jazz worried about this new rival?

Last week, UMW Toyota launched the all-new Yaris in Malaysia. This is Toyota’s first locally-assembled hatchback, and their third affordable Japanese hatchback to join the market.

DSF went on a day drive with the top-of-the-line Yaris 1.5G and here are the first impressions.

There’s no better place to start at than design

DSF has to commend its youthful, premium exterior looks. In spite of being so closely related to the new Toyota Vios, the Yaris manages to distinguish itself, with a more athletic silhouette and some nice touches.

All variants are available in five colours: Citrus Mica Metallic, Red Mica Metallic, Attitude Black, Silver Metallic and Super White II.

The Citrus Mica Metallic and Silver Metallic were the best looking, particularly from the rear.

This is perhaps down to the piano black trim piece on the hatch lid that creates a nice contrast against livelier body colours.

From the front, the Yaris looks much like the new Vios. The fog lamp inserts have a pattern and glossy finish to them here, unlike the plain, matte ones on the Vios.

The lower grille also sports a honeycomb pattern on the Yaris. On the Vios you get horizontal lines instead.

The cabin sees some improvements over the Vios. First of all, the Panoramic View Monitor button looks professionally finished and feels tactile here. The Yaris only comes in fabric upholstery.

While this means the centre armrest cover is finished in fabric, you still get pleather armrests on the front door cards.

Impressively, Toyota has given the Yaris a black headliner, which creates the illusion of a more upmarket, cosy interior. We also perceived less reflectivity on the instrument cluster plastics, but that effect is still present.

While the media test drive of the Toyota Vios took us at high speeds down south along the PLUS highway, this drive took us through the tight bends leading to Kampung Janda Baik.

Was the Yaris any better to drive than the Vios? Honestly, it’s hard to tell. There’s no increase in power or significant change in tuning. But the conditions of this drive brought out the best in the chassis.

It was extremely planted and rigid, lending excellent ride and handling characteristics.

The Yaris still leans a little towards comfort and relaxation than something like a Ford Fiesta, Proton Iriz or Mazda 2, but it’s still a capable vehicle. With a manual gearbox, it would have been beautiful to push.

My only gripe really is the steering feel. It feels the same whether you’re reversing into a parking lot at 5km/h or taking a corner at 60km/h.

The CVT tuning in the Yaris is actually not bad. Toyota took the “Sport” and “Eco” modes extremely seriously. You can immediately perceive the differences in throttle response in each mode.

This is not something you’d get in other CVT-equipped vehicles. Normally, full throttle means the same thing in any mode, but in the Yaris, each mode gives you a different character of the car. This is what people have been asking Toyota for, and they finally got it.

Finally, there’s the amount of equipment and value aspect to consider. The Yaris, in spite of its fabric upholstery and lower price point, FEELS like a more premium, more exclusive vehicle than the Vios.

“Toyota has outfitted it with features normally reserved for more expensive models. Seven airbags are now standard, as is VSC and TRC making the RM70,888 1.5J an excellent value proposition.

But if you want a Panoramic View Monitor, front-facing DVR, Sport and Eco Modes, a 6.8″ infotainment system with USB mirroring, and an impressive Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, the 1.5E will get you those for just RM6,000 more.

This spec also gives you 16″ alloy rims and LED rear combi lambs, and auto-fold wing mirrors. Undeniably a lot of value added there and the Yaris 1.5 E looks like the sweet spot.

The 1.5G spec adds a few more “nice-to-haves” like auto air-conditioning, a 4.2″ information display in your instrument cluster, steering switches and other goodies.

The real reason to spend RM83,888 on this particular model: rear disc brakes. These have a demonstrable advantage over drum brakes, but in this weight class, the difference may be negligible.

The 4.2″ information display does have some useful data, like being able to calculate how many Ringgit worth of petrol was spent on each journey.

*Editors note: a previous version of this article misquoted the E and G specs, leading to the conclusion that the G spec was the best value. This has now been reversed.

Toyota Yaris 1.5G specifications

Engine: 4-cylinder Dual VVT-i Petrol
Capacity: 1496cc
Gearbox: CVT automatic
Max power: 105hp @ 6000 rpm
Max torque: 140Nm @ 4200rpm
Price: RM83,888

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