Last week, UMW Toyota launched the all-new Yaris in Malaysia. This is Toyota’s first locally-assembled hatchback, and their third affordable Japanese hatchback to join the market. We went on a day drive with the top-of-the-line Yaris 1.5G and here are our first impressions of the car.

There’s no better place to start at than design.

We have to commend its youthful, premium exterior looks. In spite of being so closely related to the new Toyota Vios, the Yaris manages to distinguish itself, with a more athletic silhouette and some nice touches.

All variants are available in 5 colours: Citrus Mica Metallic, Red Mica Metallic, Attitude Black, Silver Metallic and Super White II. To our eyes, the Citrus Mica Metallic and Silver Metallic were the best looking, particular from the rear. This is perhaps down to the piano black trim piece on the hatch lid that creates a nice contrast against livelier body colours.

From the front, the Yaris looks much like the new Vios. The foglamp inserts have a pattern and glossy finish to them here, unlike the plain, matte ones on the Vios. The lower grille also sports a honeycomb pattern on the Yaris. On the Vios you get horizontal lines instead.

The cabin sees some improvements over the Vios. First of all, the Panoramic View Monitor button looks professionally finished and feels tactile here.

The Yaris only comes in fabric upholstery. While this means the centre armrest cover is finished in fabric, you still get pleather armrests on the front door cards.

Impressively, Toyota has given the Yaris a black headliner, which creates the illusion of a more upmarket, cosy interior. We also perceived less reflectivity on the instrument cluster plastics, but that effect is still present.

While the media test drive of the Toyota Vios took us at high speeds down south along the PLUS highway, this drive took us through the tight bends leading to Kampung Janda Baik. Was the Yaris any better to drive than the Vios?

Honestly, it’s hard to tell. There’s no increase in power or significant change in tuning. But the conditions of this drive brought out the best in the chassis. It was extremely planted and rigid, lending excellent ride and handling characteristics.

The Yaris still leans a little towards comfort and relaxation than something like a Ford Fiesta, Proton Iriz or Mazda 2, but it’s still a capable vehicle. With a manual gearbox, it would have been beautiful to push. My only gripe really is the steering feel. It feels the same whether you’re reversing into a parking lot at 5km/h or taking a corner at 60km/h.

The CVT tuning in the Yaris is actually not bad. Toyota took the ‘Sport’ and ‘Eco’ modes extremely seriously. You can immediately perceive the differences in throttle response in each mode. This is not something you’d get in other CVT-equipped vehicles. Normally, full throttle means the same thing in any mode, but in the Yaris, each mode gives you a different character of the car. This is what people have been asking Toyota for, and they finally got it.

Finally, there’s the amount of equipment and value aspect to consider. The Yaris, in spite of its fabric upholstery and lower price point, FEELS like a more premium, more exclusive vehicle than the Vios.

Toyota has outfitted it with features normally reserved for more expensive models. 7 airbags are now standard, as is VSC and TRC making the RM70,888 1.5J an excellent value proposition. But if you want auto air-conditioning, a 4.2″ information display in your instrument cluster, rear disc brakes, steering switches and other goodies, the 1.5E will get you those for RM6,000 more.

But I would skip the 1.5E and go straight into the 1.5G if goodies are what you’re looking for. This model adds the Panaromic View Monitor, Sport and ECO modes I mentioned earlier. More impressive is its 6.8″ infotainment system with USB mirroring capabilities and Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert. These are features the B segment often misses out on. And you get them on this top spec Toyota Yaris for RM83,888.

Toyota Yaris 1.5G Specification

Engine: 4-cylinder Dual VVT-i Petrol
Capacity: 1496cc
Gearbox: CVT automatic
Max power: 105hp @ 6000 rpm
Max torque: 140Nm @ 4200rpm
Price: RM83,888