At today’s opening of the 2017 Thailand International Motor Expo, we had a chance to take a closer look at the Toyota Yaris Ativ, an entry-level lower-B segment sedan that’s positioned below the upper-B segment Vios.
Launched earlier in August, the Yaris Ativ is created in response to Thailand’s unique Eco Car regulations. As such, it uses a smaller 1.2-litre 3NR-FE Dual VVT-i petrol engine. The engine produces 86 PS at 6,000 rpm and 108 Nm at 4,400 rpm. In comparison, the 1.5-litre Vios produces 108 PS at 6,000 rpm and 140 Nm at 4,200 rpm.
Drive is transferred to the front wheels via a CVT-type automatic transmission that's shared with the Vios but minus the manually selectable seven-speed ‘virtual ratios’ function.
Despite having a smaller engine, the Yaris Ativ’s body size is no smaller than a Vios. In fact, the Yaris Ativ is actually 5 mm longer and 30 mm wider than the Vios, while maintaining the same height and wheelbase. Herein lies a clue: there's a reason why the very meticulous Toyota allowed both the Yaris Ativ and Vios to share a similar body size. More on that later.
With a starting price of THB 529,000, the Yaris Ativ is priced about 15 percent lower than the Vios.
It competes against the Honda Brio Amaze, Nissan Almera and Mazda 2 Sedan. Unlike Malaysia, the Thailand market Almera uses a 1.2-litre petrol engine while the Mazda uses a 1.3-litre petrol.
It might be an entry-level model but the Yaris Ativ is decently equipped. Standard features on all variants include seven airbags, electronic stability and traction control (VSC and TRC), hill start assist, anti-whiplash front seats.
Inside, the cabin even comes fitted with matching body colour plastic trims, with decent space for five adults.
The odd, gawky looking front-end design is not going to win the Yaris Ativ any beauty awards but as a basic, practical family sedan backed by the trusted Toyota badge, the Yaris Ativ certainly checks all the right boxes.
Is it coming to Malaysia?
Sources at Toyota Motor Thailand have hinted that the Yaris Ativ will eventually succeed the Vios, once it’s fitted with a larger 1.5-litre engine of course. The fact that the Yaris Ativ has a slightly larger body size than the Vios is in itself a very strong indicator of where the Yaris Ativ sits in the grand scheme of things. The model's introduction had to be fast-tracked for Thailand as the Eco-Car programme is putting the 1.5-litre Vios at a disadvantage. For now, Toyota Motor Thailand will sell both the Vios and Yaris Ativ in parallel until the current Vios is phased out.
It is unclear if the Vios nameplate will be retired for Thailand but we are pretty certain that for Malaysia, the Vios nameplate will remain. Likely to be introduced in Malaysia in 2019, the Yaris Ativ-based new Vios could be a candidate for Toyota’s upcoming new passenger car plant in Bukit Raja, Selangor.