Watch out - it’s a trap!
Toyota Yaris 1.3 VVTi 2006
The second generation Yaris was nowhere near as sensational as its predecessor. I mean, just take a look at it. I recall the Toyota personnel explaining to me how they cannot design spectacular cars for Europe in a rainy, gloomy city like Brussels. Their design department moved to the French Riviera to get some inspiration and alas, a few years later we got this second Yaris.
There is simply no way these shapes were sketched on the Riviera, despite all the official talk about how it was designed by Europeans, for Europeans. Proving the point is the Witz, an identical vehicle engineered and sold in Japan. Well, okay, not quite identical: it did have the steering wheel on the wrong side, and there is a possibility that those aircon knobs were grouped differently.
Anyway, regardless of its origin, the design is rather blunt. Of course Toyota customers know that design is only skin deep (how else could they have stomached the Frog Eye Corolla?) and it's the inner perfection that counts.
Compared to the sizzling brilliance of a Honda Jazz the Yaris really does not have much to offer apart from
- being a lot larger than the MkI Yaris
- having sliding rear seats which allow you to increase the rear legroom at the expense of the boot, or vice versa
The funny thing is that this latter feature allows the Yaris to beat any contemporary small car hands down, including the Jazz
The interior designers of Yaris must have heard that customers (a.k.a. women) love to stash their gear into a zillion little compartments inside their car. So zillion they made: you could establish multiple groundhog colonies inside the Yaris. There is even a lidded compartment in front of the driver, since the instrument panel is located centrally – a tradition established by the first generation model. This layout is not for everyone's taste, I can imagine older drivers would have a hard time adjusting to it.
Our specimen has covered 95 thousand kilometres over the course of six years, something which has not taken its toll on the car. While this is highly owner-specific, the car appears to be as good as new. The only thing that has worked itself loose is the plastic insert on one of the rear door sills. There is absolutely no sign of rattle or squeak.
The interior of the Yaris is the epitome of perfect packaging. It is narrow like all city cars but space is agreeable lengthwise. There is little to dislike in here. The seats come to mind for one, as they are just not shaped for longer trips. On the other hand you sit high up which is why the Yaris feels so spacious.
The second generation Yaris was offered in three engine variants. For starters you had the 1.0 three-cylinder petrol with 69 PS, then the enjoyable 1.3-litre 87 PS and the 1.4-litre diesel, rated at 90 PS. As for gearboxes you could choose between the manual and the automated MMT. The latter is sluggish and prone to failure so I would rather steer clear of it. Looking around on the Hungarian used car market you will mainly find 1.3 versions, with almost as many 1.0's available. Diesels are really scarce. The price difference between the two petrols is insignificant: thee-cylinder versions command a premium since they are (potentially) cheaper to run and maintain
The car we inspected sported the larger petrol engine and driving it reassured me that this is the real deal for the Yaris. You may think 87 PS is excessive but it isn't. Environmental regulations have gagged the 1.3 VVT-i (variable valve timing – intelligent) engine, resulting in a relative lack of responsiveness. Start pushing it hard though and you will enjoy driving dynamics that are better than the average. The gearbox is surgical. While there is a lot less sway coming from the chassis the second generation Yaris is still far from being sporty.
The engine can do with minimum servicing. It has a timing chain rather than a belt, meaning it will run forever and a day. For lubrication it takes 5W30 but can do with semi-synthetic – change your oil every 15K and nothing can go wrong. Fuel consumption was a modest 6.2 l/100km during out test drive. We drove it in the summer, with the A/C running a good deal, both in and out of the city. In exclusive urban use it will probably need more than that.
There is just one issue with the Yaris and it's a serious one. If you can live with the size you are risking entry into a black hole with no way back. The Yaris is so easy to drive, nimble around the corners, silent and highly practical that it will be hard to sell, simply because you will not be motivated to do so. Your only ticket out is through your own poor prior judgement: you will end up selling your Yaris if you had thought you would manage with the 1.0-litre engine or could drive 30-40K a year in this blithe little car.