In the debate between the reactive and proactive, Toyota are definitely the latter. Kneejerk reactions to market fluctuations isn’t how you get to the top and stay there, foreseeing hurdles and prepping for them is the way to go.
For half a decade; almost an entire model life cycle, Toyota lacked a B-segment hatch here. That’s quite a glaring omission from such a high-volume segment, effectively handing it to Honda’s Jazz on a silver platter.
However, they didn’t forget that younger buyers here had a preference for hatches, they were just preparing a worthy adversary for the Jazz when they did throw their hat in the ring. Now, five years later, Toyota is back in the B-segment hatch game and brings a familiar nameplate to lead the charge.
The Toyota Yaris is very much a hatchback Vios and from a brief stint behind the wheel of the Vios, that’s going to spell bad news for the Jazz and anyone else in the ring such as the Mazda 2, Peugeot 208, Volkswagen Polo and even the Kia Rio as well as the Ford Fiesta… yes, those last two somehow haven’t been put out to pasture.
Essentially, the Yaris is a Vios with the derriere lopped off, and though we appreciate some distinctive characteristics this is one instance we can close an eye. A little hint though, if you see it in your rear-view mirror, the Yaris has a different lower grille.
The very same busy front end does add a little excitement to the brand and the segment. Those colour options aren’t too shabby either, the lime green and red should be the obvious favourites with the younger buyer demographic.
Inside, the copy and paste theme continues. The all-new Yaris has a carbon copy of the Vios’ dashboard and entire cabin and that’s not a bad thing though all the idiosyncrasies get carried over as well and includes the ridiculous positioning of the Panoramic View Monitor (PVM) that screams afterthought.
Specs are pretty uniform too. The Yaris 1.5G has the Optitron instrument cluster, 4.2-inch TFT multi-info display and 6.8-inch touchscreen infotainment unit.
What you do miss out on are paddle shifters which is quite a shame as the younger buyers of a hatch would appreciate a feature like that.
The unbelievable NVH levels from Vios make the transition here and we believe it could be the quietest and most refined cabin in the segment. A tall claim indeed but having driven the Jazz back-to-back with this, it’s a foregone conclusion.
Packaging has always been Honda’s interior VTEC and those Ultra Seats in the Jazz are a tough one to surmount. The multiple configurations they’re capable of and the amount of practicality they offer is second to none.
As for the Yaris, it’s the standard 60:40 split folding rear seats. Seats up, boot space is 286-litres. Drop the rear and it grows considerably.
How does it fare on the road? The same 1.5-litre 2NR-FE with Dual VVT-i in the Vios makes an identical 105hp with a 140Nm of torque. Nobody’s expecting anything remotely exciting in terms of power here but that 13hp extra the Jazz possesses over the Yaris is a huge deficit and unfortunately, is easily detected.
The Yaris isn’t sluggish on its own, but if you have the chance to drive both back-to-back, your butt dyno will easily feel it.
The transmission of choice is, again, a CVT with seven-virtual ratios, that drives the front. Together, the engine and gearbox work seamlessly with the latter biting instantly and responding eagerly to throttle inputs.
An upper hand for the Yaris over the Jazz is the exceptional ride and handling as well as the aforementioned NVH. It truly felt like a car from a segment above with composure, refinement and quietness that belies the other B-segment hatches.
Bumps on Karak were soaked up with a calmness and surefootedness that is missing from the segment. Body-roll was ironed out and it seemed keen to show us that it could take more but drawback seemed to be a less communicative chassis.
Since the Yaris has its crosshairs set firmly on the Jazz, can it take the fight to it? What the Yaris has going for it is unprecedented NVH levels, refinement and ride comfort though it still can’t hold a candle to the Mazda 2. It does however take a beating from the Jazz and its Ultra Seats for interior practicality and in a cruder sense, utilitarianism.
Safety isn’t skimped on with the Yaris and that’s another weapon in its arsenal. Seven airbags, stability control and traction control is standard on all trims. Honda bungled by only kitting up the entry-level Jazz with two airbags and no electronic nannies. In this day and age, that’s a huge no-no and could just be the Achilles heel that brings down the might Jazz.