Meet Smokey Nagata

The man behind the legendary twin-turbo V12 Toyota Supra build.

First sprint in Merc's ferocious C 63 S

'You can feel how taut the steering is, how sensitive the accelerator is to inputs', writes Charlen Raymond.

DRIVEN: New Yaris launched in Durban

2018-02-09 06:30

Image: Charlen Raymond

Durban - When Toyota discontinued the Tazz at the turn of the millennium, it left a big gap in the Japanese manufacturer’s local arsenal. The Tazz was, one of the best city cars yet; like its rival the Volkswagen Citi Golf are still sought after by many second-hand buyers.

Toyota needed to replace its aging Tazz and so launched the Yaris, a vehicle that would become a best-seller for the brand. The then all-new Yaris hit the market and was an immediate success.

Sales skyrocketed and it was worthy successor to the Tazz. Not only because it was affordable, but because it had many features (for its time) a first-time buyer or student would need in their car.
That was the Yaris then but over the years the car has bigger and pricier. As the Yaris grew up the Etios filled the gap of affordable motoring in Toyota’s stable.

The Yaris’ role in Toyota’s model line-up has gone from being an affordable city car to one that is an affordable alternative to the likes of the VW Polo, Ford Fiesta, and Renault Clio. The new generation hopes to build on the legacy of its predecessor.

Fresh new face

You’d be forgiven for mistaking the new Yaris for an Auris, because let’s face it - the two cars sure do share many styling details. That’s because the Yaris adopted Toyota’s corporate design for its passenger cars for more uniformity. The design is sharper, edgier and more assertive. It’s part of the brand rolling out more daring designs such as the C-HR.

The Yaris is available in three trim levels. The first is the standard package the car is available with by default, then there is a Cross package, as well as an S (sport) package. The Cross adds a number of visual cues to give the car more of a rugged look, but it only adds visual drama and not the credentials to rank it as a small crossover (think Suzuki Ignis). The sport package should be the one that will attract the most attention, as it gives the car a more prominent presence, complete with a red line that runs around the car. The front grille and rear bumper also have a sporty touch and the side skirts are also more prominent.

Compared to the outgoing model the new Yaris is 5mm wider, 45mm lower, 165mm longer, and boot space now reads 310L. Daytime running LED lights have also been added.

Smart entry and keyless start are both standard across the range, but a touchscreen multimedia system is only available to the three more expensive models (Xs CVT, Cross, Sport). This system has satellite navigation, and cellular phones can be connected via Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. On the Sport model occupants are treated to leather seats.

One engine, two gearboxes

What is immediately evident from the new Yaris range is that the 1.0-litre engine and hybrid model have been omitted. And no, they will not be added to the range at a later stage - that is preliminary the case. So only one engine will do duty across the range and it is mated with either a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed CVT automatic.

The naturally-aspirated 1.5-litre engine churns out 79kW and 140Nm but Toyota says that it altered much of the engine’s internals to give the car improved performance and better efficiency. On the launch route, which covered various terrains that included hills and extremely poor back roads, the Yaris was put through its paces. 

It became clear that Toyota has done a lot of work on the Yaris' suspension, especially on the front where the absorption of bumps is a lot better. The rear still has a slight stiffness to it. Steering is very light and responsive.

The two gearboxes have their own personality and characteristics, but it’s best if enthusiastic drivers steer clear of the CVT automatic. The gearbox has no problem ticking over and hooking the next 'gear', but as soon as you plant the throttle it hits the red line and can take a long time to switch cogs. 

Drive it sedately and the howling is mitigated to a large degree. The manual, on the other hand, seems to bring out the best in the engine. The two complement each other well in city driving and on the open road, when pushing on, the engine does not sound as loud and unrefined as is the case with the CVT. 


The Toyota Yaris has its sights set on the Polo and Fiesta but it will have to pull out all the stops if it hopes to take on fierce local rivals. Priced from R230 800 - R286 000, Toyota believes its Yaris is one of the better value-for-money propositions in this highly competitive segment of the market. 

Though the materials used to deck the interior is not as plush and the ride quality not as good as the Polo, it has to be noted that the Yaris is substantially more affordable than its German counterpart. Without sacrificing comfort and features.

Model Line-Up
1.5 Xi MT - R230 800
1.5 Xs MT - R253 400
1.5 Xs CVT - R268 500
1.5 Cross - R268 500
1.5 Sport - R286 000

The Yaris comes standard with a three-year/45 000km service plan and a three-year/100 000km warranty, which can be upgraded to a longer term and/or higher mileage. Service intervals are every 15 000km.

Read more on:    toyota  |  south africa  |  yaris  |  hatchback  |  new models

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.