Midsize Samurai: Yaris sedan may stir things up with its impressive features
Japanese major Toyota finally entered the mid-size sedan segment with the Yaris. It seems to have all the right ingredients to give all three a run for the money. Toyota seems to have played it safe with the styling and it lacks the length of its competitors. The front is the most stylish part, with a wide grille and swooping headlamps.
Japanese major Toyota finally entered the mid-size sedan segment with the Yaris. Rivalling some of the most established cars in the segment, the Yaris has a tough challenge ahead with Maruti, Hyundai and Honda. On paper, the sedan seems to have all the right ingredients to give all three a run for the money. What's more, it's backed by the strong reputation of the brand. So how good is it? What is it? First impressions are neutral as the Yaris, although modern-looking, doesn’t have that wow factor to it.
Toyota seems to have played it safe with the styling and it lacks the length of its competitors. The front is the most stylish part, with a wide grille and swooping headlamps. And if you think it looks like a baby Corolla, you are not alone. The profile, however, is bland. The relatively small 15-inch wheels make the Yaris look smaller than it is. The short wheelbase is evident too. At the rear, the sleek tail-lamps look good, but the Yaris does have a bulky look to it. Where it aces the competition is in terms of equipment and safety features. You get a lot even on the base variant, which is commendable. Powering the Yaris is a 1.5-litre petrol engine with 107hp, mated to either a six-speed manual or a CVT automatic gearbox.
The Yaris has a lot going for it on the inside. For starters, the two-tone dashboard is sleek and has multiple elements like silver accents, piano black inserts and wood trim, and subtle chrome-laden brightwork. The quality of plastics and materials is good in places and the build feels robust. The buttons and knobs also feel well made and the instrument cluster gives you the right amount of info.
The 7.0-inch touchscreen is tilt-adjustable and has all the necessary applications like navigation and Bluetooth; it is also easy to use and touch sensitivity is good too. The steering wheel, however, is placed too close to the dashboard and is in want of telescopic adjust. What adds to the sense of space is the bright upholstery and you don’t realise how short the wheelbase is at the front. The powered driver‘s seat is broad and offers good support, but in the back, what‘s most noticeable is the lack of headroom. For passengers over six feet, there is none, but if you’re of the average Indian height, it shouldn’t be much of a problem.
Further, the roof mounted AC vents cramp the cabin. That said, legroom and under thigh support are good. The seats themselves are soft and well-cushioned, and there‘s enough space to seat three as there is no transmission tunnel or air vents protruding in the middle. The recline on the backrest is just right too, which results in a comfortable back seat experience.
On top variants, you also get a rear sunblind for added convenience. Available in only one guise, the 1.5-litre petrol engine is refined and silent, and responsive. Vibrations are well contained, and the power delivery is linear, and it responds well initially.
However, there is no punch or strong response from the engine, required for overtaking manoeuvres, and waiting for the power to kick in dulls the driving experience quite a bit. The manual gearbox is what we sampled first, and it felt light and impressive. The clutch is light and progressive too. Pedal effort is just right and the gates on the six-speeder are well defined, so slotting in the gears is easy. Also, the gearing is well suited for city driving; this means the Yaris is quite tractable and you can amble around the city in third gear at around 30kph with ease.
It is only when you need to overtake that you need to downshift. The CVT too is good for city use and is also a bit quieter than the other CVTs on sale. This unit, however, has the same inherent flaws like other CVTs the whine at high rpms and the average performance should you need to make a quick move on. Yes, you do get paddle-shifters, but this doesn‘t help things too much. Where the Yaris excels, however, is in the braking. The discs on all wheels certainly help give it stopping power, but feels a bit over-assisted, so it‘ll take some getting used to. Ride comfort is another plus, as the Yaris tackles bad roads and potholes with ease.
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It is only the low-speed bumps that are felt inside, apart from that, ride quality and stability are excellent. Handling isn‘t its forte, though. The steering is light and easy to use in the city, but it lacks feedback and doesn’t inspire any confidence at high speeds. Grip levels are good and you won’t notice the minimal body roll in corners, unless you’re really pushing it hard. Toyota has packed the Yaris with a lot, and in a spec comparison, it does look good. But what it has going for it, is the comfy ride and Toyota‘s promise of reliability.
Priced between Rs 8.75 lakh and Rs 14.07 lakh, it is higher than the current segment champ, the Hyundai Verna, but it does offer more. On the whole, the Yaris comes across as competent in most areas and nothing more. What‘s special, however, is the 7-year extended warranty, and should you want a car with the cast iron promise of a hassle-free performance and very good resale value, the Yaris is for you. The Toyota Yaris definitely makes for a very sensible buy.
By Jay Patil, DNA (ZeeGnition)
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