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First look: Toyota Yaris gets a minor makeover

Vitz and starts: Japanese model previews the arrival later this year of the first Yaris facelift.

Toyota’s popular light car emerges in facelifted guise, and is two months away

22 Aug 2008

AN UPGRADED version of Australia's favourite light car has emerged overseas and should be on sale here when it appears at the Sydney motor show on October 9.

As the Vitz, the 2009 model-year Yaris has undergone a "minor major" makeover in Japan, scoring a number of changes designed to keep the hot-selling light car up to scratch against newer and more competitive rivals.

Australia's Yaris Series II enters production this month, featuring the same range of interior and exterior cosmetic changes, plus a few extra features.

While the existing sheetmetal is unaltered, the plastic bits – and there are many of them on the three year-old Yaris’ body – have all been altered.

Most notable is a more aggressively presented front bumper, featuring a narrower and restyled grille, larger air dam below with reshaped fog-light housings on either side, and the addition of strakes on the leading edges.

New headlight covers complete the Yaris’s new nose job and the indicator repeaters currently situated on the front mudguards have been replaced by indicator strips built into each door mirror.

8 center imageThe tail-lights have new lens covers, some badges have been moved around on the tailgate, the rear bumper has come in for a revamp, incorporating a larger number-plate valance. In Japan, there are additons to the colour palette too.

We understand Australia's revised Yaris will also get new hubcaps on the base YR and mid-line YRS models, plus a new 15-inch alloy wheel.

Inside, the dashboard’s distinctive vertical centre console – rumoured to be inspired by the Proton Gen.2 unit – is finished a new silver colour and features a new audio header unit. There will also be new seat trims, grab-handles and telescopic steering wheel adjustment for the YR.

The digital instrumentation that has been a hallmark of the hatch model as well as its Echo predecessor continues, as do the current 63kW/121Nm 1.3-litre and 80kW/141Nm 1.5-litre VVTi four-cylinder petrol engines.

Year-to-date in 2008, the Yaris continues to comfortably lead the burgeoning light car segment in Australia, but numbers are down compared to last year - 16,105 versus 17,801 - while the Hyundai Getz (10,369 year-to-date), Holden Barina (7012) and Honda Jazz (5174) have also seen sizeable slides.

With 9248 registrations, Mazda’s shapely new ‘2’ has proven to be the baby segment mover and shaker, registering a massive 5000-unit increase so far this year, while other winners have been the well-priced and packaged Nissan Micra, Kia’s value-driven Rio, Ford’s German Fiesta and the Mitsubishi Colt.

Yaris will face a trio of ferocious foes over the next 12 months in the shape of the just-arrived second-generation Jazz, the forthcoming Fiesta replacement and next-generation Getz, tipped to be called the i20.

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