Toyota NZ has equipped its 2021 Yaris with significant safety firsts in a bid to inject renewed interest in the small car.
Yaris, like the rest of its five-door, town-and-around hatchback rivals, has been pushed aside in the last decade by the growth of compact SUVs.
In 2013, for example, small cars (21,511) accounted for 26 per cent of an overall 82,355 NZ Transport Agency registrations. Last year, they (15,024) represented 9.7 per cent out of 154,479.
Meantime, SUVs – small, medium, compact, and luxury – last year accounted for 44 per cent of numbers; in 2013 it was 27 per cent. Compact SUVs alone have jumped 31 per cent in the last three years.
The 2021 Yaris itself is hardly going to kick-start a small car revival in a market where 13 of the top 15 best sellers are SUVs, but it does break new ground in its class. It is:
- the first to be awarded a five-star crash safety rating under rigid new criteria.
- the first with twin centre airbags designed to protect front seat occupants from banging heads in a severe side impact.
- the first with an expanded – and more sophisticated – autonomous emergency braking (AEB) system. It comes with turn assistance, which can avoid hitting pedestrians when turning into a side street.
Yaris’ five-star performance in the New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) test in Europe was validated by ANCAP, the Australasian New Car Assessment Programme.
Centre airbag protection(above) is one of the new criteria for 2020 that makes it tougher for new models to earn a five-star safety rating. The Yaris and the Isuzu D-Max ute were the first vehicles globally to be assessed against the new standard. The D-Max was also awarded five stars.
There’s another first for Yaris, too: a choice of petrol-electric or conventional powertrains for New Zealand buyers. The car uses a 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), direct shift in the petrol car and electronically controlled in the hybrid.
The non-hybrid engine generates 88kW/145Nm; the hybrid 67kW/120Nm. Combined output, says Toyota, is 85kW. Hybrid fuel use is a claimed 3.3 litres/100km; the standard car is good for 4.9-litres/100km. In turn, CO2 emissions are 76gr/km and 114gr/km.
Yaris is the first Toyota small car to be based on the company’s new global B platform, architecture that increases body rigidity for improved vehicle stability, ride comfort, and reduced noise and vibration levels.
The overall improvements are mirrored in the retail prices: $25,990-$32,990. The outgoing Yaris was priced between $21,490 and $25,990. Its entry-level model was a five-speed manual, but dealers couldn’t give them away.