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Toyota Yaris Spirit

Broadcast dates : 20th November 2005
26th November 2005

The beautiful Western Cape was the setting for a car launch that could be the most significant new model event in 2005 - the Toyota Yaris.

By the end of this year, close to 5000 of them will be running around our roads.

The previous-generation Yaris was launched in 1999 and in 2000 it won the European Car of the Year title, which was a long-held objective for Toyota.

But being a fully-imported car, Toyota South Africa wasnít able to bring in the first-generation model for of cost reasons.

Now with Toyota having a major export programme underway, the South African market leader has been able to introduce the second-generation Yaris at reasonable prices.

The entry-level T3 model costs just over R108 000, while range-topping Spirit automatic costs R147 320. 

Our Spirit five-speed manual test model costs R137 000 and, incidentally, all the models use the same 1,3 liitre petrol engine.

Toyota claims class-leading interior space for the Yaris and according to chief engineer Kosuke Shibahara, more than a hundred meetings took place between the body and power train divisions in Japan to achieve the right package.

Some of the trimmings are traditional Toyota quality inside. The upside is that the cabinís bright and cheery, with an airy feel.

Thereís not much luggage space with the seats upright and extended backwards but importantly the Yaris comes with a full-size-spare wheel.

The 1,3 litre engine is up against 1,4 litre competitors, but it does develop a healthy 63 kiloWatts.

Itís a little soft low down in the rev range, and another aspect we didnít like is the lack of clutch take-up feel, making pulling off smoothly a bit granny-like on occasion.

But the gear change action is both solid and slick, and performance is perky enough to go with the cheeky good looks.

Most impressive of all perhaps is the handling package that Toyota has come up with, for what is essentially a city car.

A fine balance of comfort and competent high-speed behavior has been achieved.

The Yaris is one of the few cars in its class to achieve a five-star NCAP safety rating.

All models come with driver and passenger airbags and on the Spirit models there are side airbags, curtain airbags and a knee airbag for the driver.

ISOFIX child seat mounts are also included. The seats have second generation anti-whiplash head restraints. 

With the T3 Spirit you get quite a lot of extra equipment over the base model, apart from the already-mentioned safety extras.

It has fifteen-inch alloy wheels, including an alloy spare, a steering column adjustable for both height and reach, satellite audio controls on a leather-covered steering wheel, and front fog lights.

Performance is competitive in its class, with a claimed 0 - 100 time of 11,5 seconds, which may prove to be a bit optimistic. Top speed is 175 km/h.

The engine is a pleasant, smooth-revving unit, and the brakes, which have ABS, offer good stopping power and feel.

Overall, the newcomer is extremely well-rounded, with no small measure of charm.

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