Road Impressions – Toyota Land Cruiser Prado 3.0D VX-L

Change, they say, is as good as a holiday. While it is often unwise to question the wisdom of those wiser than ourselves, change often comes at a price.

Stepping back in time a little there once was the Toyota Land Cruiser presented in a range spanning several models, specifications and engines with the behemoth VX at the top of the pile. Although technically a Land Cruiser, the original Prado stood to one side, different enough for most people not to even realise it was family and to identify it simply as the Prado.

Now, there is the Land Cruiser 200, two models from many and the Prado with five variations. Land Cruiser is the most widely available model in the global Toyota product range – being sold in more than 190 countries worldwide.

That is not the major change. This comes in the fact the Prado is now bulked up and loses its niche slot along with the cuteness of the previously much smaller – and often – more practical offering especially for those only intending the thrill of parking lot kerb crawling.

Indeed, I parked my test Prado at the airport, deliberately choosing a spot between two other large size SUVs and really battled to open the door to get out! (Admittedly, the designers of most parking lots appear to have to share a single brain cell between them).

Parking lots aside, the new Prado is truly a formidable beast and would probably climb a vertical wall if pressed to do so.

I just think Toyota could have kept the status quo with Prado a smaller, high-end version of the Land Cruiser family.

The overall length is now 5 010 mm, width 1 885 mm, wheelbase 2 790 and height 1 880 mm and it has a GVM of 2,9 ton – so, certainly no midget.

The Prado range traditionally consisted of two grades, the mid-level TX and high-grade VX. For the first time, a new third grade, called VX-L has been added to the model line-up that combines all the features of the VX whilst adding a power-operated tilt-and-slide moon roof and comprehensive active safety assistance package to the mix.

The exterior design of the new Prado is unmistakeably Land Cruiser and maintains the core strengths of that brand in providing practicality, with headlamps and cooling openings positioned to maximise protection and wading depth, durability, with the powertrain and all functional parts well protected and capability, with a tight turning circle and generous ground clearance, essential for the most demanding off-road driving conditions.

The bonnet has been shaped to improve downward visibility at the centre and it is sandwiched by the sides of the bumper to help protect the engine bay. The corners of the lower part of the bumper have integral fog lamps and kick upwards, while the centre section is shaped like a skid plate for easier manoeuvring off-road.

The top section of the wings has been raised so that it is easier for the driver to pinpoint the vehicle’s extremities.

The front grille apertures have been made as large as possible for optimum engine cooling, while the headlamp main beams are positioned inboard to avoid damage when driving off-road.

In keeping with Land Cruiser Prado heritage, the grille itself features broad vertical bars with slit-shaped cooling openings, finished in chrome. The headlamp clusters comprise high and low beams, front turn indicators and daytime running lights, contained in a distinctive housing. VX-L models feature high brightness LED units. All models have LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL) and fog lamps, in addition to automatic light control system, as standard.

Ground clearance is 215 mm, with 31-degree approach, 25-degree departure and 22-degree ramp break-over angles.

VX and VX-L derivatives ride on 18-inch wheels and tyres and it comes with an 87-litre fuel tank.

New elements at the rear include a redesigned lamp cluster (featuring two stacked C-shapes) with an LED stop light, a smaller rear garnish plate and a restyled bumper.

I was unable to join colleagues on the official launch activation where the new Prado took on Sani Pass, the mightiest of all South African mountain roads but based on Instagram and Twitter activity coming from the event, it appeared Prado turned this into a ‘doddle’.

My own off-road test route is far less scenic, but has a few good really technical sections and the advantage of repeatability in terms of comparing like vehicles against each other.

At a few Rand short of R1-million for the VX-L, this route is significantly more strenuous than the average owner is likely to choose for such a luxury vehicle – a sad reality for most SUV sales with massive ability unrealised by equally massive under use.

How good is the new Prado? Well, if the ‘Crawl’ function is activated, the clever systems in the car will analyse and assess the obstacle, deciding how much power is needed at each wheel and move the car along with a perfect combination of throttle and brake.

All that is left for the driver is to steer – and, possibly, to die of boredom.

I cannot fault the technology but it does take all the fun out of off-road driving.

Inside, he top of the centre console tower has been set lower (by 25 mm) for a sleeker appearance and better front-on visibility when driving off-road. It is fitted with a new 8-inch, full-colour multimedia screen, a flush-fitting air-conditioning control panel and the drivetrain-related instrument cluster.

The controls for driving and comfort functions are located in separate panels for ease of use, positioned behind a new, leather-trimmed gear lever. They include switches to operate new integrated heating and ventilation for the front seats.

The redesigned instrument binnacle has a four-gauge layout with precision Optitron (high-definition backlit) meters with a metallic base panel and polished dials with raised scale markings. The meters flank a 4,2-inch TFT colour multi-information display (VX and VX-L) which presents comprehensive vehicle and infotainment data, controlled using switches on the steering wheel.

The top-tier VX and VX-L models are outfitted with Satellite Navigation and an enhanced surround-view Multi Terrain Monitor camera system, which also includes Panoramic and overhead view modes.

The standard convenience specification list includes automatic dual-zone climate control, audio system, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, illuminated entry, cruise control, park distance control, keyless entry, three power outlets, Bluetooth connectivity, USB, 3rd row seating and reverse camera.

High-grade models add memory function for the driver’s seat, a 14-speaker Premium audio system with woofer, multi-information display, power tilt-and-telescopic steering adjustment, rain-sensing wipers and power-fold-down 3rd row seats.

 The VX-L retains the 3.0 D-4D engine, offering 120 kW and 400 Nm available between 1 600 r/min and 2 800 r/min. This is mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission with gear ratios optimised for low-speed tractability and off-road use.

All Prado models feature Toyota’s Active Traction Control system (A-TRAC), which actively regulates wheel-slip, by directing torque to the wheel with the most traction. The system is capable of applying braking pressure to wheels individually to maximise traction. A low-range transmission with user-selectable rear and centre diff-locks and Hill Assist Control (HAC), naturally forms part of the standard ensemble.

The Multi-Terrain Select (MTS) system (VX and VX-L only), operated by a centrally mounted rotary knob, allows the driver to select the correct mode depending on the ‘road’ ahead. The system has five pre-configured modes (mud & sand, loose rock, mogul, rock & dirt and rock), to tailor the vehicle’s traction control, transmission characteristics, power delivery and suspension settings to the terrain at hand. Downhill Assist Control (DAC) is included on VX and VX-L models.

VX-L grade versions of the new 2017 Prado are equipped with Toyota Safety Sense active technologies to help prevent accidents from happening, or mitigating the consequences if an impact does occur.

The package includes a Pre-Collision System (PCS) with pedestrian detection function, Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Lane Departure Alert (LDA) and Automatic High Beam (AHB).

Further driver support is provided in the form of a Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (both VX and VX-L) and an upgraded tyre pressure warning system – with digital read out in the multi-information display.

These active safety systems complement the standard seven air bags and comprehensive brake and stability control systems  and all Land Cruiser Prado models include a 5-year/90 000 kilometre service plan and 3-year/100 000 kilometre warranty.

Not particularly significant in terms of its market positioning but the VX-L will amble off from rest to reach 100 km/h in 12,1 seconds and reach a terminal velocity of 171 km/h. CO2 emissions are 224 g/km and Toyota claims an overall fuel consumption of 8,5 l/100 km.

My own experience – highway, rural and urban – came closer to 9,2 l/100 km, still an acceptable figure considering the overall mass of the vehicle.

On the road, it is hugely comfortable and, despite the size, easy to drive with the changes to the front improving vital visibility – augmented by the wide choice of exterior camera options. It is not a great fan of sudden directional changes at speed but has no really bad habits and, as mentioned, will probably scale a vertical wall if correctly cajoled.

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Crash tests reveal flaws

The eye-opening results of the first crash test of popular South African compact and small cars may just tweak a nerve among car buyers and persuade them to put safety specification at the top of the must have list when considering a new car.

The crash tests of the VW Polo Vivo. The Datsun Go+, Toyota Etios, Renault Sandero and Chery QQ3 formed part of the launch of #SaferCarsforAfrica, a joint venture between the AA South African and Global NCAP, the internationally respected vehicle testing authority – that now gains its first ‘footprint’ in Africa.

The crashworthiness results of the five cars tested show a wide range of safety performance, from four to zero stars for adult protection, with the lowest ratings resulting in a high probability of life threatening injury in a road crash.

Combined sales of the five cars account for around 65% of all the new cars sold in South Africa last year.

Global NCAP chose the entry-level version of each model and as a result one of them was not fitted with air bags as standard. The results highlight differences in the structural integrity of the vehicles tested.

Lauchlan McIntosh, Chairman of Global NCAP, says: “In 2016 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a road safety resolution, which recognised the important role NCAPs play as a catalyst for improving vehicle safety standards.

“The UN has sought to encourage the spread of NCAPs across the regions and automotive markets of the World and today, in Cape Town, I am delighted Global NCAP is helping to achieve that goal with the launch of the first ever crashworthiness programme for cars sold in Africa. Global NCAP has provided assistance to launch similar programmes in South America, India and the ASEAN region, programmes which have led to the delivery of safer cars into those markets over the last five years.”

The results for the Chery QQ and Datsun Go+ were less than exemplary, with the former scoring zero and the latter just scraping through.

It is almost unbelievable in this day and age, there are any vehicles still sold without a basic mimimum of dual front air bags and anti-lock braking – especially in a country that kills dozens of people every day in car crashes.

South Africa has one of the poorest road safety records in the world and Government is snail-like in its approach with pretty much everything it does heavily focused on how much money it will generate for state or municipal coffers.

Admittedly there is a disparity in society with thousands still living below the breadline and juggling the need to achieve upliftment to personal mobility and keeping people safe is not an easy task.

Car ownership is not a right. It is a privelige and an expensive one.

However, allowing 10 and 12 year old ‘clunkers’ and new cars that do not have proper safety basics on the road is simply unacceptable – the problem being all too often people have the attitude road safety is something for other people.

Wrong! It does not matter how well you think you can drive, your chances of meeting up with someone who cannot is very likely. Driving an unsafe car will kill you.

Collins Khumalo, CEO of the AA of South Africa says: “The crash tests represent an important step in road safety in South Africa. We believe consumers have a right to know what the safety ratings are on the cars they want to buy.

“These results are critical to educating the public about vehicle safety, but, more than that, they empower road users to make informed decisions. In the same way emissions and green ratings are displayed on vehicles, we think safety ratings should also be displayed on vehicles, and we do not believe this should be too much of a challenge to make happen.

“The involvement of Global NCAP, the FIA Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies in bringing these results to Africa, indicates how seriously our partners view road safety, and it is incumbent on us, as South Africans, to consider road, and vehicle safety, in the same way.”

David Ward, Secretary General of Global NCAP added: “It is good to see a four star result in these first ever African crash test ratings. However, it is extremely disappointing there is a zero star car. Such a poor result shows why it is so important for countries such as South Africa to fully apply the UN’s crash test standards.

“Consumers need clear, comparative crash test information to help inform their car purchase decisions. This is why Global NCAP supports the introduction of mandatory crash test labelling for all new cars sold in South Africa.”

The Results

Global NCAP has awarded a separate child safety rating to each car in order to highlight the different levels of protection vehicles provide to passengers on the rear seats. Because the only safe way for young children to travel is properly restrained in a child seat, the assessment checks how compatible the car is with the child seats recommended by the manufacturer, as well as the protection provided in the crash test.

In the assessments, some of the child seats recommended by manufacturers were found to be incompatible with their vehicle’s belt system. In the Polo Vivo, Chery QQ3 and Datsun GO+ there was no three-point seatbelt on the rear centre seats and no way to safely install a child seat or transport a small child safely in that seating position. Only the Toyota Etios and Renault Sandero offer Standard ISOFIX anchorages for the outboard rear positions and three-point seatbelt for all passengers facilitating minimum conditions to safely install a child seat.

Toyota Etios

The Etios achieved a four star rating for adult occupant protection in the frontal crash test at 64 km/h. The vehicle structure was rated as stable, offering good general adult occupant protection. The car included seatbelts with pretensioners for both front passengers. Using the child seats recommended by Toyota, the Etios achieved a three star rating for child occupant protection.

Renault Sandero

The Sandero achieved a three star rating for adult occupant protection in the frontal crash test at 64 km/h. The vehicle structure was rated as stable, offering acceptable general adult occupant protection. The car did not include seatbelt pretensioners. Using the child seats recommended by Renault, the Sandero achieved a four star rating for child occupant protection.

Volkswagen Polo Vivo

The Polo Vivo achieved a three star rating for adult occupant protection in the frontal crash test at 64 km/h. The vehicle structure was rated as stable, offering acceptable adult occupant protection. The car did not include seatbelt pretensioners. Using the child seats recommended by VW, the Polo Vivo achieved a three star rating for child protection.

Datsun GO+

The GO+ achieved a one star rating for its poor adult occupant protection mainly in the Driver chest in the frontal crash test at 64 km/h. The vehicle structure was rated as unstable, steering wheel movement, even though a steering wheel air bag was fitted, recorded high compression to the chest of the driver dummy. There was no air bag for the passenger. The Datsun GO+ achieved a two star rating for child occupant protection using the child seats.

 

The QQ3 achieved a zero star rating for its poor adult occupant protection mainly in driver’s head and chest. The vehicle structure was rated as unstable as showed collapsed in some relevant areas during the impact. Injury impacts recorded in the dummy head and chest in particular led to this result. There were no air bags for the adult passengers. The manufacturer did not recommend specific child seats which explains most of the points loss for child occupant protection. The QQ3 was given a zero star rating for child occupant protection, considering the poor vehicle readiness to safely accommodate the child seats

Road Impressions – Toyota C-HR 1.2T 6MT Plus

Motor manufacturer marketing speak can sometimes surpass even wine speak in its ability to take a long time to actually say very little, and the usual launch presentation about market research and customer profile, yadda, yadda, yadda, is followed by a stampede of journos racing to get to the top model for the launch drive.

Being first online or in print with impressions or a road test of a new model is important for sales and the general wellbeing of the individual publications but, sometimes, it is well worth stepping back and waiting a few months before testing a car – just to see how marketing speak versus actual public reaction compare.

With the C-HR, which stands for Coupé High Rider, Toyota said this: “With the C-HR, Toyota targets a clear and singular customer profile (identified as Millennials). Predominantly driven by emotional considerations, these customers want individuality and to be the first to try new experiences and products. Style and quality are essential considerations in any purchase they make, and the car is an extension of their personality.

“The Toyota C-HR’s unique character demonstrates the flexibility that the TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) gives to vehicle developers in the three key areas of design, powertrain and dynamics, enabling them to deliver a new and fresh take on the increasingly commoditised crossover segment.”

Pretty much marketing speak for: “We have a cute car and everyone will want one but not everyone can afford one.”

And yes, that applies to every new car launched into the market!

Undeniably cute, with its dramatic cut lines, the C-HR is a moving vision of light and shadow interplay that is, I think, the best design from the company since the Celica of the late 90’s, surpassing even the current 86.

The small SUV segment represents the fastest growing ‘group’ on the South African passenger vehicle landscape. A characteristic of this segment is the variety and diversity of models, notably the ‘cross-over’ – a fusion of hatchback and SUV, taking the best attributes of each to create a vehicle that perfectly fits the modern urban lifestyle.

However, the C-HR is more hatch than it is SUV with city and urban surrounds a better playground choice than those roads less travelled.

The front is a development of Toyota’s signature design identity. The upper grille flows from the Toyota badge into the wing extremities of the headlamp clusters and wraps fully around the front corners of the vehicle. The striking headlamps also house LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL) in a prism shape.

The C-HR’s coupé-like styling is enhanced by disguised rear door handles integrated within the C pillar – while good for the looks, they can be a tad awkward to use.

The driver-oriented area sees all operating switchgear and a display audio touch-screen slightly angled towards the driver.

In conjunction with the asymmetrical centre console design, this brings all controls within easy reach of the driver, whilst still allowing front passenger access. Because the touch-screen stands proud of the instrument panel rather than being enclosed by it, the upper dashboard is considerably lower in depth, helping driver visibility.

The Toyota C-HR is the first model locally utilise Toyota’s 1,2-litre turbo engine. The 1.2T engine uses advanced technologies that allow the engine to change from the Otto-cycle to the Atkinson cycle under low loads, it has vertical vortex high tumble airflow intake ports, an exhaust manifold integrated in the cylinder head and advanced heat management.

From a displacement of 1 197 cc, the engine delivers 85 kW and a constant torque curve of 185 Nm between 1 500 r/min and 4 000 r/min, achieving the 0 to 100 km/h dash in 10,9 seconds with the top speed set at 190 km/h.

Toyota claims 6,3 l/100 km on the combined cycle and delivers just 141g/km of CO2. Actual testing averaged out at 6,5 l/100 km with hard use taking the numbers up to 8,1 l/100 km.

The 6-speed manual uses Toyota’s iMT system (intelligent Manual Transmission), which automatically increases the engine revs with a perfectly executed ‘blip’ when downshifting, ensuring a smooth gearshift.

The system also works when shifting up in order to improve comfort for driver and passengers by reducing shift shock. A shift indicator with two directional arrows housed in the instrument cluster, provides the optimal shift points on M/T models.

The gearbox has a good feel to it and changes are short, sharp and positive with no gear lever ‘wander’ in the neutral space.

The MacPherson strut front suspension was designed specifically for the Toyota C-HR. It includes a strut bearing rotation axis that has been defined to reduce steering friction drastically, allowing smooth and accurate steering. To ensure a hatchback-like roll-rigidity, the large-diameter stabiliser is directly linked to the strut via a stabiliser link.

At the back, a double wishbone suspension contributes significantly to the crisp driving experience. Thanks to the use of a specific sub frame, the suspension angles are optimised to give this ‘C’ Crossover its hatchback-like handling in spite of its increased height.

In this the C-HR does impress and it remains solidly upright through hard cornering with little noticeable body flex or roll. It is fitted with 17-inch wheels, shod with 215-60R-17 rubber.

The C-HR comes standard with an Electric Parking Brake (EPB), cruise control and Hill Assist Control.

On Plus models there is a dual-zone electronic climate control, one-touch auto up/down power windows, auto-on headlamps and wipers and electrically adjusted mirrors. The interior also features two conveniently located cup holders in the centre console, a storage shelf for mobile devices or media players and a 12-volt power outlet.

A full suite of Active Safety functions are embedded into the C-HR and include anti-lock brakes, Brake Assist (BA), Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Hill Assist Control (HAC) and Vehicle Stability Control (VSC).

Driver and Passenger air bags round out the safety specification.

At R346 700 the Toyota finds itself in the same company as the Suzuki Vitara 1.6 GL Auto (R341 900), Honda HR-V 1.5 Comfort (R344 200), Hyundai Creta 1.6 Executive Auto (R344 900), Fiat 500X 1.4 Cross (R347 900) and Kia Soul 2.0 Street (347 995).

What it does have, that some others might not, is an enviable dealer network and generally high resale value retention.

All C-HR models come standard with a comprehensive 5 year/90 000 km service plan, with service intervals set at 15 000 km. A 3 year/100 000 km warranty is provided.

2017 Toyota C-HR

2017 Toyota C-HR

Road Impressions – Toyota Etios 1.5 Sprint

With the second edition of the Festival of Motoring due at the Kyalami circuit soon, one of the few cars to debut at that event is about to celebrate a birthday, namely the Toyota Etios 1.5 Sprint.

The revised Etios range announced at the time reduced the number of model derivatives and made some badge changes most notably with the ‘X’ variant replaced by the Sprint – all part of a much needed re-energising of a brand name under intense pressure from competitive offerings in the market.

“The Etios represents one of the core models for Toyota, and has proven popular with a wide variety of customers. The pay-off line ‘Here to make you smile’ represents what Etios is all about; simple rewarding motoring – and with the most recent styling, spec and safety upgrades, it is set to continue.” said Glenn Crompton, vice president of Marketing at the time.

So, a year down the line, where does the Etios Sprint fit? At its current price of R172 600 it is flanked on that ladder by the Etios X Sedan and higher up the 1,2-litre Chev Spark LT – but that will soon disappear along with General Motors.

The primary opposition is the Volkswagen Polo Hatch 1.4 Conceptline (R173 800) and, on paper, there is little to choose from between the two in terms of specification and engine – 66 kW from the Etios versus 55 kW from the Polo Vivo and equal on torque at 132 Nm.

Both have two air bags, anti-lock braking, air-conditioning, audio system and Bluetooth.

Cost was an important consideration in the whole Etios range revise and the Sprint comes with power windows and manually operated side mirrors – something I dislike intensely as I would far rather wind my own window down than have to stretch across the car to adjust the left side mirror.

Cost against practicality – always a conundrum for the product planners.

The Etios was given an aesthetic makeover with the key change point being the front bumper design, incorporating a large lower air dam as its main focal point. The lower air dam stretches the entire front width, and features integrated fog lamps with sculpted bezels.

The lower grille is fashioned in matching black and utilises sharp horizontal slats while the upper radiator grille employs a distinctive wing-like motif, with the Toyota ellipse at its centre and a broad chrome ‘brow’ forming the upper border.

The rear also received styling tweaks and the rear bumper incorporated a lower crease line accentuating the profile – flowing from the outer corners and blending into the number plate recess. The revised bumper treatment bumped up the overall length by 109 mm on the hatch.

Sometimes mid-life and range revise styling changes are a visual air of desperation from an automaker scrabbling to find additional sales from an ailing and dated model – not so with the Etios, which can still proudly pose alongside any of its opposition and garner more than a few admiring glances.

In keeping with the ‘fun’ theme envisioned by Toyota, the Etios Sprint has a centre-mounted dash display, the half-moon display looking quite funky. While easily readable, I have to admit to being a bit of a purist and I still like my dials and gauges directly in front of me.

However, is it fun to drive?

Indeed it is. It is not a ‘hot’ hatch by any stretch of the imagination and nor was it intended to compete against the true hot hatches.

What it offers is a suitably swift response off the line, a nice rorty engine note going up the rev range and enough ‘vooma’ to make Officer Plod choke on his fried chicken as he tries to press the trigger of the radar gun.

It is nippy and has a sense of the mischievous, making it quite a fun drive.

Handling details sees a Macpherson strut design at the front with a torsion-beam-type suspension for the rear, augmented by a reinforcement brace to ensure handling stability.

Overall, the dampening system is tuned to achieve a supple, mild ride comfort that confidently allows traversing of bumps in the road surface.

This translates to pretty nifty handling, although the short wheelbase did have the rear wanting to swop ends on occasion when pitched hard into a tight corner. Even though the suspension works well to contain the bumps, our often-rippled road surfaces did provoke some mild twitching off line from time to time.

Good low-speed torque delivery made the Etios a breeze to navigate in and out of traffic with the hatchback recording 6,4 l/100 kilometres average during our test.

All Etios models come with a 2-year/30 000 km service plan, backed by a 3-year/100 000 km warranty and service intervals are set at 10 000 kilometres.

In the tough market segment in which it is playing, the Etios Sprint has stood up strongly in its first year to remain a cost effective option for the price conscious buyer.

Tested – Toyota Yaris 1.5 Pulse CVT

The once expansive range of Toyota Yaris offerings that h hatch and sedan has been whittled down in the latest iteration to a five-car pot, all badged Pulse in homage to the 1,5-litre engine that replaces the 1,3-litre fitted to the outgoing model.

Perched at the top end of the range (with the exception of the more expensive Hybrid), the Yaris Pulse Plus CVT is our test subject.

Officially launched at the Geneva Show earlier this year, the new Yaris takes on a funkier and more dynamic look. The appearance is also more refined, with fresh detailing in the bodywork and cabin as well as new colour choices.

Particularly here are the Bi-Tones – where Pearl White, Grey or Cinnabar Red are mated to a black roof.

The redesign of the front of the car features a new front bumper that creates a ‘catamaran’ shape with broad sections flowing down from new headlight units, flanking the wide, trapezoidal grille. The result is a more pronounced three-dimensional effect, and the sense of a wider, more planted road stance.

The grille itself has  an arrangement of ‘stepped’ horizontal bars and the integrated fog light housings either side of the grille have also been reworked with a more compact recess.

At the rear is a new tailgate design that extends the horizontal emphasis with new rear light clusters that stretch from the rear wings to the door.

Following the same concept as the new frontal design, a ‘catamaran’ architecture has also been created at the rear with a new bumper design supported by re-shaping the area framing the licence plate and the addition of black garnish details in the lower bumper.

Changes to the interior include a three-spoke steering wheel that has a new look and boasts the addition of piano black trim inserts along with new propeller-style air vents.

 Priced at R249 600, it comes up against the Kia Rio Htch 1.4 LX, Hyundai i20 1.4 Motion and Ford Fiesta 5-dr 1.0 Trend – in all instances beating them out with its 1,5-litre engine.

Compared to the 1,3-litre unit, it is 0,8 seconds quicker in acceleration from 0-100 km/h (11,2 seconds in the CVT) while being more fuel efficient than the unit it replaces – Toyota claiming up to 12% here and looking around 5,8 l/100 km as an average.

Real world use produced 6,2 l/100 km during our testing.

The new 1,5-litre engine is part of the ESTEC (Economy with Superior Thermal Efficient Combustion) engine family. It runs on a high compression ratio (13.5) and a cooled exhaust gas recirculation system.

The thing is, the Yaris – in terms of price – is surrounded by high levels of tech in the opposition products and the 82 kW (at 6 000 r/min) and 136 Nm of torque at 4 400 r/min on offer from the Yaris engine is more but, the question is: does it work?

This comes down to the CVT gearbox. In city traffic a CVT can work well enough, where the low speeds allow it to smoothly work out the best options on your behalf.

Remove the traffic and the CVT becomes something of a screamer – a failing of pretty much all CVT gearboxes – as it tries to balance driver input to the best drive choice. The Yaris has both Sport and Eco modes and the switch to Sport quiets the hunting CVT beast a little when an opportunity for brisker driving presents.

For more press on occasions the semi-manual mode eliminates many of the steps taken by the CVT but is not advised if fuel economy is a consideration. Road and wind noise at the national speed limit is nicely abated for such a small car and road-holding is stable and secure.

The Yaris is well appointed and offers comfortable seating with more rear seat space than first glances might indicate – the easy, relaxed drive position mitigating the CVT annoyances somewhat.

It is fitted with front and side air bags, anti-locking braking, brake assist, electronic brake force distribution, hill assist control and vehicle stability control as part of the comprehensive package of safety and convenience features.

It has also got a good infotainment display, strong air-conditioning and comes with a Euro-NCAP rating of five stars and it rides on 185-60R15 alloy wheels and tyres.

The Yaris continues to be a good value-for-money product, with all models offered with a 3-year/ 45 000 km service plan and a 3-year/100 000 km warranty.

KEY FIGURES

 

Maximum Power (kW @ r/min) 82@6000,
Maximum Torque (Nm @ r/min) 136@4400,
Number of Cylinders and Arrangement Inline-4,
Engine capacity (litre) 1.5
CVT Gear Ratio 2.480 – 0.396
0-100 (sec) 11.2
Top Speed (km/h) 175
Fuel Consumption (Combined Cycle) (l/100km) 5.8 (Claimed)
CO2 (g/km) 108
Lugagge Capacity (L) 286