July 19, 2024

_dsc0179By Cor Steenstra. Photography Chris Jones

Toyota added a five-door Liftback, to its popular, fuel-efficient Yaris subcompact model line for 2009. We had a chance to sample this Euro-style and came away impressed. Impressive was certainly the built quality and feel. It seemed a solid car, very different from what you expect in this category, certainly among its peers.

Our test car was equipped with the 1.5 liter 4 cylinder engine, which 106 BHP should be sufficient to propel this little vehicle with easy. Most likely due to precisely the built quality, it seemed under-powered. We really had to rev the engine to make it go round, but when we did it went very nicely indeed, always safe, easy to control within the cars limits.

The higher revs come at a price though. The fuel consumption was surprisingly disapointing for such a small vehicle, but again, that was due to us keeping the revs high to get some performance out of it. For the normal sedate commute, we’re sure the fuel consumption is as Toyota indicates.

_dsc0189Design wise we were surprised to find how spacious the interior is, surprisingly so for the exterior looks certainly give the impression of a small little car. That exterior has an “English Bulldog” quality about it, especially from the front. There is something cute in there, but it definetly looks like it has to be taken serious. As a total design it is very homogenous, everything seems to be designed by the same people around the same theme, and item we did critique Toyota for in the past.

The design, as with the original Yaris, originated from Toyota’s European design studios, which might explain the level of design quality we have found. The interior featured, as again the first Yaris, an instrument panel mounted centrally, with the main switches for heater controls and car stereo following that same center orientation, so the car amount of unique parts for left and right hand steering vehicles is minimized.

The one thing we did not like on the interior was the mounting of the center rear seatbelt. Designers do their best to create good all-round vision, and suddenly there is this thick black strip obstructing an essential part of the rearward w=vision, right in the rear view mirror. Not only is this very irritating, maybe even distracting and confusing during normal driving, but when trying to park, that thing is just wrong.

Of course a center mounted seatbelt needs a sure footing, and a three-point seatbelt is better than a two-poin, but to sacrifice visibillity is such a way defies logic and common sense. We have not seen this bad a solution on any other Toyota product before, so we would politely suggest for Toyota packaging engineers to look within their own range for a better solution. The chassis is being used for other vehicles as well, and they don’t have such a stupid solution, so the strength must be in other places as well.

The new five-door Yaris joins the three-door Liftback and four-door Sedan, making Yaris the only model line in its segment to offer a full complement of three body styles. Toyota projects 130,000 Yaris sales for calendar year 2009, with the new five-door accounting for about a third of those. Yaris five-door will begin arriving in dealerships in August.

Also new for 2009, all Yaris models feature as standard equipment an anti-lock brake system (ABS), front seat-mounted side airbags and front and rear curtain side airbags. Cruise control is now available on Liftback models, and audio systems are satellite ready/capable. Yaris delivers outstanding fuel economy and for 2008 was awarded the lowest cost of ownership in its segment according to Intellichoice®.

The Toyota Yaris brings a high level of balanced value, safety and a fun-to-drive experience to the entry subcompact segment, it is a very economical car plus when it comes to Toyota, you can easily find toyota spare parts whenever you need to. Its 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine is equipped with variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-i) and produces 106 horsepower at 6,000 RPM and 103 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,200 RPM. The optional four-speed automatic transmission features uphill/downhill shift logic to reduce gear “hunting” for smooth performance when driving in hills. A five-speed manual is the standard transmission.

The Yaris Sedan rides on a 100.4-inch wheelbase versus 96.9 inches for both Liftback models. The Yaris Sedan has an overall length of 169.3 inches compared to 150.6 inches for the Liftback models, and the Sedan is 2.5 inches lower than the Liftbacks, as well.

The Yaris is built around a highly rigid yet lightweight structure incorporating strategic use of high-tensile steel. Damping materials strategically located throughout the body structure reduce noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) to help give Yaris a comfortable, quiet ride. Suspension and steering are tuned to deliver responsive handling, a smooth ride and excellent maneuverability, including a remarkably tight 32.6-ft. turning radius. Both the Yaris Liftback and Sedan ride on standard P175/65 R14 tires with steel wheels and full wheel covers (Sedan and Liftback S have standard P185/60R15) and offer available newly-styled 15-inch steel or aluminum-alloy wheels.

The instrument cluster is center-mounted and high on the dash to enhance forward visibility. Generous standard convenience features on Yaris Liftback and Sedan models include air conditioning; tilt steering wheel; digital clock; a map light; intermittent windshield wipers with mist control; and dual sunvisors with vanity mirrors. All models offer 60/40 split rear seating for three with headrests in each seating position.

Sporty S models have a newly designed front and rear underbody spoiler and a new interior color scheme distinguishes Yaris Sport models for 2009. The sport-themed Liftback and Sedan S models feature color-keyed front and rear under-bumper spoilers, sporty interior trim, rear deck spoiler, fog lamps, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, AM/FM/CD player with MP3/WMA capability, satellite ready, integrated iPod audio unit, universal mini-jack port and “S” badging. Aluminum-alloy wheels are available.

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