2012 Toyota Yaris ZR Review Photo:
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2012 Toyota Yaris ZR Review Photo:
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What's Hot
Fresh looks, high tech in-car entertainment system.
What's Not
Lairy interior, and the in-car technology is too buggy and hard to use.
Its pert, cheeky looks work, so does the comfortable ride.
Kez Casey | Feb, 21 2012 | 5 Comments


Vehicle Style: Three-door light hatch
Price: $18,990 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 5.8 l/100 km
Fuel Economy (tested): 7.5 l/100 km



Toyota has promised a greater focus on driving enjoyment for all of its products. For that, read less conservatism and, hopefully, no more whitegoods on wheels.

With the new Yaris, the look is certainly fresher, and it comes with a better and more involving drive.

But does the segment-leading Mazda2 need to worry? And what about competition from the Suzuki Swift, the Kia Rio, VW’s Polo, Holden’s Barina and the rest?

There’s no doubt the 2012 Yaris is a much improved car, and with a lot more personality to boot. But while the interior is improved and it’s better on road, the competition is getting pretty hot - and there are some shortcomings to the new Yaris.



Quality: The little Toyota’s flashy brushed-look black dash and patterned silver highlights really catch the eye. The silver (grey really) is intriguing but the pattern looks a little like kitchen storage-ware, and the black is hard, shiny and strongly reflective.

The buttons and controls are nice to use and feel built to survive, but, for style, the rest of the cabin doesn’t impress much.

With light blue seat-inserts, orange stitching for the steering wheel (on the ZR model), and that black dash, it makes a bewildering combination as a first impression.

Comfort: A lot of work has gone into the cabin of the Yaris: the centrally-mounted instruments of previous models are now gone, the front seats provide more cosseting upper-body support and climate and audio controls are placed within easy reach.

It’s easy find a comfortable driving position, and, with its extended wheelbase, rear-seat passengers fared quite well too. A little more telescopic range for the steering would’ve been nice however, and the high dash adds to a rather Hiace-like feeling at the helm.

Equipment: Pitched squarely at tech-savvy Gen Y kids with a centrally-focused all-important infotainment system, the Yaris ZR sounds good on paper with Bluetooth, SMS readout on the go, voice control, 6.1 inch touchscreen, SD card photo playback, USB input, MP3 compatibility and navigation.

It’s as if all of these features are an attempt to match the do-all ability of a smartphone or tablet.

Problem is, using the interface is a disaster. Across multiple phones we experienced connection and playback problems, endured painful wait times, were frustrated by tiny controls and were thankful the double DIN system could easily be swapped out with a superior aftermarket head unit.

On the plus side however, there’s also sports bumpers, a leather steering wheel, 15-inch alloy wheels, climate control air-conditioning, remote central locking, trip-computer and power windows and mirrors

Storage: The 286 litre boot offers a false-floor partition making it easy to make the best use of available space. 60:40 folding rear seats add capacity when needed.

Throughout the cabin however, oddments storage is limited; the centre removable drink holder in the centre console held no beverage we could find and places to stow a phone or iPod out of sight were just about nil.



Driveability: Although the ZR model adds a few extra visual highlights, the driving experience is identical to fellow 1.5 litre equipped models - the YRS and YRX - and that’s not a bad thing.

With 80kW available at 6000rpm and 141Nm of torque at 4200, the peppy Yaris is happy to dash through traffic with vigour. To get the best results it needs to be worked hard though - the eager ‘step off’ fades into a doughy response below 3000rpm.

The five-speed manual gearbox is the sole transmission on offer for the ZR and it serves up a light, zero-effort clutch, but the gearchange is a little notchy.

On the open road, the road holding is surprisingly secure and there’s a better steering feel than we were expecting.

Refinement: There’s a clear improvement in refinement over the previous Yaris; the extra sound deadening takes some of the roar out of highway stretches but mechanical noise from under the bonnet can be intrusive when working hard.

Suspension: While the Yaris comes with MacPherson front and torsion beam rear suspension, (much like the rest of the light car segment), it offers superior comfort helped in part by the sensibly-sized wheel and tyre profile.

Braking: Thanks to its low kerb weight (1045kg), the Yaris has no trouble pulling up from speed with ventilated front discs and just drums at the rear. Stopping power is adequate, but hardly top of the heap.



ANCAP rating: 5 Stars

Safety features: Seven airbags (head, side, curtain and driver’s knee), antilock brakes (ABS), electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), emergency brake assist (EBA) and electronic stability control (ESC). Pretensioners are fitted to the front seats, with height adjustable head restraints in all positions.



Warranty: Toyota warranty coverage lasts for three years or 100,000km, whichever occurs first.

Service costs: With Toyota’s Service Advantage capped-price servicing, up to six standard scheduled services at $130 each can take place during the first 3 years or 60,000km. Service intervals fall every six months or 10,000km.



Kia Rio SLS ($19,990) - If you can rustle up an extra $1000, the top-shelf three door Rio rewards you with leather trim, proximity key, auto wipers, 17-inch alloys and a soft touch dash.

It's also more fun to drive and features a gutsier engine and better clutch feel. (see Rio reviews)

Volkswagen Polo 77TSI Comfortline ($18,990) - Something of a class benchmark with an inviting, if sombre, interior and peerless build-quality. The loss of the three-door Polo sees five-door models priced quite aggressively and offering drivetrain technology and refinement that the Yaris cannot match. (see Polo reviews)

Mazda2 Maxx/Genki ($17,690/$20,495) - Another five-door offering that adds versatility, Maxx specification is a little more spartan than Yaris ZR. Genki offers more equipment but is pricier. Inside the 2 is showing its age, and while it can feel a little ‘light’, it still offers a rewarding on-road experience. (see Mazda2 reviews)

Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price (unless otherwise noted) and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.



While the new Yaris is a good car, the ZR model sits in a no-man’s-land in the light car market. There’s extra equipment, but it's not luxurious. There are sporting touches, but it’s not a hot hatch.

Clearly, the tech-laden infotainment system suggests Toyota is shooting for younger first-car buyers, but it can be frustrating to use. We think ZR sales will likely be cannibalised by its own more versatile (but auto only) YRX five-door sibling.

Toyota’s reliability and reassuring fixed-price servicing plan are both good reasons to look closely at the Yaris, as is its on-road comfort and perky performance.

In a close field, the Polo and Rio are each a nose in front dynamically, but try the Yaris on for size before you buy.

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