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We drive Toyota's sporty Yaris

2008-12-10 12:41
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Toyota
Engine 1,8 litre dual VVT-i
Power 98 kW @ 6 000 r/min
Torque 173 Nm @ 4 400 r/min
Transmission six-speed manual
Zero To Hundred 9 seconds
Fuel Consumption 7.0 l/100 km
ABS with EBD (Electronic Brake Force Distribution), BAS (Brake Assist) VSC (Vehicle Stability Control)
Airbags dual front driver and passenger, side, curtain and knee
Tyres 205/45 R17 tyres with alloys
Service Plan four-year/60 000 km
Price R198 900

Hailey Philander

It comes with a 1.8-litre engine, loads of equipment and a fairly hefty price tag. Wheels24 samples Toyota's sporty Yaris TS.

When we first reported on the Yaris TS from the recent Johannesburg motor show, there were a fair number of readers who expressed distinct displeasure at the thought of forking out around R180 000 for a Yaris. If you were one of those, perhaps you should skip the next paragraph.

Toyota SA executives went to great lengths to stress that the 1.8-litre Yaris TS is not a hot hatch in the traditional sense, but rather a sporty model to round off the local range. It is extremely well equipped, since it's meant to cater to the tech-savvy amongst us, but all this kit comes at a price - R198 900 to be precise.

Admittedly, this car is chock-a-block with kit.

Changes, inside and out

As far as the cosmetic and functional enhancements go, there's keyless entry and go, privacy glass for the rear windows, 17-inch alloy wheels, and side skirts and a rear spoiler to give this Yaris a more masculine appearance.

Rear light clusters with red surrounds are markedly different to those seen on the more sedate Yarises. The view from the behind is further distinguished by the tall rear fog lamps that are ripe for abuse by clueless road users…

As for the interior, the steering wheel and gearshift housing are wrapped in leather, while the sports-like seats’ minimal bolstering make them very comfortable on longer drives.

Dials now have red indicator needles, although since the instrument cluster is located in the central position, it's not necessarily that easy to spot. Another thing, which is sadly not limited to the Yaris, is that the instrument displays become difficult to read when you use your lights during the day time. The effect is compounded by having to squint off to the left at the central display.

Bluetooth functionality with voice controls is standard, though, and should allow you to focus more on the road ahead. Should you run into a spot of bother, the flagship Yaris comes with ABS, EBD, BAS, VSC and seven airbags to hopefully see you through.

"It's not a hot hatch"

Of course, the biggest drawcard on this Yaris TS, is its four-cylinder, 16-valve 1.8-litre dual VVT-i engine that produces 98 kW at 6 000 r/min and 173 Nm at 4 400 r/min.

If you're interested in the figures, top speed is "close to 200 km/h" while the 0-100 km/h sprint is covered in nine seconds. However, if you're expecting fireworks, don't. It's what one would imagine from an old lady's hot hatch...

The six-speed manual shifter's taller gearing makes for a car that is a very pleasant cruiser and it simply breezed up and over the hills just outside Cape Town. Although one would prefer shorter ratios on a sportier car, one advantage of the TS gearbox’s configuration is that you should (hopefully) be spending less time at the fuel pumps - Toyota claims an average fuel consumption of 7.0 l/100 km.

This little Yaris did not once issue a complaint at being hustled across some of the Cape's more treacherous mountain passes, and while the use of the standard Yaris's chassis was cause for much consternation ahead of the launch, we were pleased to see how well the TS performed, even without a sports suspension.

Though there has been no tinkering to the MacPherson strut and torsion beam arrangement, the power steering unit has been tuned for sharper, more precise responses. This was demonstrated beautifully on Du Toit's Kloof Pass where the gutsy TS had the opportunity to display its unflappable side.

Toyota's Yaris TS is a very decent car, but expecting consumers to fork out close to R200 000 for an over-specced three-door mini car is a tad optimistic on the part of the manufacturer's planning gurus.

Thankfully this halo car is not expected to sell in droves and Toyota expects about 25 units to find a new home each month.

And, to further mistreat the oft-mangled Henry Ford quote, you can have it in any colour, as long as its black or red.

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