SINGAPORE – Take a guess where this car is made. I would have guessed Japan, since it’s a Toyota after all. A couple of people said Thailand, perhaps swayed by the misconception that the Yaris is a Vios hatchback (the previous Vios was indeed a Yaris sedan, which could have led towards that conclusion). But nope, we’re all wrong.
This new Yaris is in fact built in the land of baguettes and croissants. Yes, believe it or not, it is made in France (despite the absence of any markings on the car indicating as such). It is scarcely believable, but then it’s all part of local distributor Borneo Motors’ plan to offer a greater variety of cars apart from the usual Thai and Japanese-sourced models.
In some ways, the Yaris does betray its European roots. The single wiper stalk, for example, is a quirk you’d expect the French to come up with.
But most telling of all is the way the car drives, with the Yaris offering a kind of pep and verve that is somewhat reminiscent of underpowered European city cars that dominate the chaotic streets of Paris, Rome and Madrid.
The 1.3-litre petrol engine churns out a measly 98bhp, but there’s such a buzz to its energy, and its eagerness to rev its nuts off just to get the car moving. 0-100km/h is achieved in 12.5 seconds, but you sure as hell won’t notice, such is the vigour with which the car picks up speed.
There is the characteristic drone from the CVT gearbox as you’re pushing along, but it just adds to the experience in our opinion. And despite our enthusiastic driving (as you would with a car of this size), the Yaris averaged about 7.8 litres per 100km in fuel consumption over the two and a bit days of driving, not far off from the official figures of 5.0L/100km.
The Yaris also displays a surprising amount of poise and balance when you chuck it in a corner, feeling mostly unruffled until you push it to the maximum limit of adhesion. It’s not quite as lively as a Suzuki Swift, but the Yaris is generally fairly composed, and is perhaps a good match for the Volkswagen Polo in terms of driving dynamics.
That said, although the steering is fairly light and hence easy to manoeuvre around town, it could do with a touch more feedback and sharpness. As well, the ride does feel a tad harsh, and the car can get a bit unsettled over high speed bumps.
It’s unlikely to make you fall off your seat though, which is not something that can be said for the Yaris’ price tag. Perhaps as a result of its French origins, this little supermini is currently retailing for a staggering $128,988, including COE.
For that price you do get a stack of standard equipment virtually unheard of in its class, such as automatic headlights and wipers, keyless entry, paddle shifters, and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as engine start-stop, the first non-hybrid Toyota to be equipped with such a feature, but it could be plausible that the inclusion of such features (which bumps the car’s OMV up to $22,000) has thus resulted in a Polo-sized car going for the price of a Golf. And sadly, some of the interior materials do feel a touch plasticky, and totally unfitting of the car’s perceived value.
That can be a tough pill to swallow, but unfortunately, it is a pragmatic world we live in. Despite the Yaris’ positive attributes of a fairly entertaining drive and impressive standard spec, as well as Toyota’s legendary bombproof quality, it’s hard to see Borneo Motors selling more than a handful of these in a market dominated by luxury cars. For shame, and sacrebleu indeed.
NEED TO KNOW
Engine 1,329cc, 16V, in-line 4
Power 98bhp at 6000rpm
Torque 125Nm at 4000rpm
Gearbox Continuously Variable Transmission
Top Speed 175km/h
0-100kmh 12.5 seconds
Fuel efficiency 5.0L/100km
Price $128,988 with COE
Also Consider: Honda Jazz, Volkswagen Polo, Suzuki Swift
Photos by Shahrul Azmi and Derryn Wong