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With all the banging on about SUVs, one can be forgiven for completely forgetting about the clever packaging and practicality of smaller cars, especially in our larger cities.
For those living close to the hustle and bustle, where space is always at a premium, a smaller car can be a good but often overlooked choice.
Light cars or city cars, however you like to label them, are segments of the new car market that don’t generate the level of general interest and excitement that they should. At present, the smaller end of the market is packed with quality cars. Equipment levels are high, while competition and value are strong.
To refresh our perspective, Toyota has stumped up a 2017 Yaris ZR hatch. This is the top variant in the three model Yaris range. It’s priced at $22,470 plus on-roads. At that price, there’s no need to examine the options list, the only box to consider ticking is the one for premium paint, which will add $450.
The Yaris ZR comes with plenty of standard kit, but the biggest improvements have come in the form of a pre-collision system with autonomous emergency braking, lane departure alert and automatic high beam. In a sensible move, these safety additions are not confined to the ZR variant, they are able to be optioned on all Yaris models for a very reasonable cost.
For the 2017 model year, the Yaris has received a host of exterior styling upgrades to freshen its looks. Up front, there’s a new front bumper, lights and grille. The back features a new tailgate design with a new-look rear light cluster.
The interior is the very epitome of a mixed bag. The layout is really clean, it’s clutter free with a very minimalistic approach to the design, but there are a few things missing for a top-spec model.
Space is generous with ample room in both rows. The Yaris is hard to beat if spaciousness is a heavily weighted aspect of your selection criteria.
The seating position is excellent for a small car, the Yaris features a high roofline that allows the seats to be raised. The upright style of the seats gives the impression you are higher off the ground than what you actually are. It might sound like a simple thing, but it makes getting in and out of the car a far more dignified process.
Toyota insiders will immediately notice the Yaris is home to one of the better steering wheels in Toyota’s fleet. It’s compact and feels lovely in the hands. Unfortunately, the buttons on the wheel aren't illuminated making them impossible to see at night.
The 6.1-inch colour touchscreen display does the job, however, it could be a little bigger, it gets lost in the dash. Toyota’s infotainment system is well sorted and easy to adapt to. The hot keys either side of the screen are very handy for shifting between functions when on the move.
There are some very clever aspects to cabin storage. The large glove box has a secondary storage area, while the two tier boot is excellent for hiding valuables.
For a range topping model, the Yaris ZR is missing a few niceties. Front passengers miss out on a centre armrest and drivers will need to to make do with an ignition barrel in the absence of push button start.
When it comes to performance, the Yaris ZR is surprisingly capable. The engine is strong considering it’s a 1.5-litre packing 80kW and 141Nm. The Yaris doesn’t have a lot of bulk to move around, making it a reasonably zippy performer.
On paper, a four-speed automatic transmission seems a little outdated in 2017. For the most part, the transmission does the job without drawing any attention to itself. It’s only when you're in a hurry, it can feel a cog or two short.
Around town, the Yaris is in its element. Lovely light steering and a tight turning circle make the car extremely manoeuvrable in an urban environment. The compact footprint also makes it a cinch to park.
Toyota takes the time to ensure its cars are tuned for local roads and input from local engineers has delivered a very smooth ride. The suspension easily irons out uneven surfaces at city speeds.
What firmly cements the Yaris as a city slicker is time out on the open road. When driving at 110 clicks, occupants will have the serenity disturbed by wind and road noise. It’s not out of step for the class, but the quality of the ride in town can lead you into a false sense of security.
After driving the Yaris for a week, predominantly in town, the fuel consumption came in at 6.7L/100km, very close to the official figure of 6.4/100km. The Yaris is an efficient car, but it’s a little thirstier than some of its light car rivals from Suzuki.
For the 2017 Yaris, Toyota is sticking with inconvenient and unnecessary service intervals of 6-months/10,000km. Pricing for the first six visits back to the dealer is capped by way of the Toyota Service Advantage. At only $140, it’s hard to complain about the price, it’s the frequency that’s annoying. We wait in anticipation for Toyota to realign the maintenance schedule of its fleet to mirror that of its new CH-R.
Toyota is also sticking with a three year/100,000km warranty. It’s only a matter of time until five years is the industry standard, however, being miles ahead in the sales race means Toyota doesn’t yet have any real incentive to improve its warranty coverage in Australia.
There is plenty to like about the facelifted 2017 Yaris. In the areas of urban comfort, safety and spaciousness the Yaris presents a strong argument in favour of value. Excellent packaging will see it appeal to those shopping in for a small or light car. The Yaris isn’t the sexiest car in the segment, but it will find a home with buyers wanting a hassle-free ownership experience.
2017 Toyota Yaris ZR Specifications
Price from $22,470, plus on-road costs Engine 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol Power 80kW @ 6000rpm Torque 141Nm @ 4400rpm Transmission 4-speed automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 6.4L/100km Tank Capacity 42L Length 3945mm Width 1695mm Height 1510mm Wheelbase 2510mm Kerb Weight 1,055kg Turning circle 4.8m Service Intervals 6-months or 10,000km Warranty three year/100,000 kilometre
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