It may be short on words but ‘family car’ is long on the desirable characteristics of a
passenger vehicle: affordability, space, versatility, comfort and convenience, power
reliability, fuel economy, safety and last, but not least, looks, all jostle to be taken into

This goes a long way to explaining the success of the five and seven-seat sports utility
vehicle, or Mum’s minibus, the eight-seater people mover, which can take the kids and all
their kit.

However, there is another side to family life. Sons and daughters leave home and start
families of their own. It is often left to Mum and Dad to bring the family together with visits
to their offspring.

A gas guzzling minibus is the last thing the downsized duo needs. This is where a small
economical runabout comes to the fore. – something like the Toyota Yaris Ascent Sport
hatchback, a versatile compact capable of carrying four adults, or a couple and all their
luggage, the latter on a considerable road test distance.

At an affordable $22,130, plus on-road costs, the car is the entry level to the Yaris line and
the only variant with a six-speed manual transmission. The others, including petrol/electric
hybrids, have a direct shift CVT, which adds just $1500. A CVT-equipped hybrid on SX
and ZR attracts a further $2000 over their equivalent petrol variants.

Ownership costs include a five-year warranty, extendable to seven years, up to 10 years
on the hybrid battery and five annual services capped at $195 each.

Conveniently to hand on Ascent Sport is standard equipment which includes Apple
CarPlay and Android Auto, LED daytime running lamps, tail and stop lights; auto
retractable door mirrors with LED turn signals; and power windows.

For the first time on a Toyota vehicle in Australia there are safety features designed to
make Yaris the world’s safest compact car. They include front-centre airbags, sensors that
can detect vehicles or pedestrians at intersections when making turns and secondary
collision braking.

The all-new Yaris is shorter and lower than its predecessor, with a longer wheelbase (40
mm). Despite the lower roofline, interior headroom is not compromised, the driver and
passengers sitting lower thanks to the new Toyota B-platform.

A sporty exterior boasts a stand-out cascading grille, longer bonnet, sculpted door panels,
character lines and a shorter rear overhang.

There are 12 exterior colours, including Cherry Blossom in the case of the test vehicle,
which elicited compliments from onlookers who marveled at the subtle change of hue from
off-white to lavender, depending on the light.

Toyota Yaris Ascent Sport has an all-black interior, offering an open, spacious and
comfortable cabin with ample headroom and an up-market ambience with high-quality seat
fabrics. Despite a wider centre console, there is no room for an armrest, hence no leaning
post for the driver. Gearshift and cup holders take up the space.

However, the new platform allows the driver’s seat to be set lower and further back
towards the centre of the car, creating an appealing driving position and helping to lower
the vehicle’s centre of gravity by around 15 mm.

The steering wheel is set closer to the driver, with wider tilt and telescopic adjustments.
Electric steering is tuned for a light feel at low speed and responsive feeling at high speed.

Driver information is sourced through a 7-inch touchscreen and a 4.2-inch multi-
information display in the instrument cluster.

Bluetooth connectivity includes phone and music. With enhanced voice recognition,
there’s access to Sir, Eyes Free, Google Now voice commands. AM / FM / DAB+ digital
radio is in the hands of six speakers, while USB video playback is on offer when the
vehicle is stationary.

The new direct-injection three-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol engine’s 88 kW and 145 Nm forge
gains of 10 per cent and 2.7 per cent over the previous 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine, the
result of a lighter block and crankshaft, reduced frictional losses and high-speed
combustion technology.

Advanced safety technologies include a pre-collision safety system with autonomous
emergency braking, active cruise control, automatic high beam, and technologies to assist
with cornering, staying in the intended lane and detecting speed signs.

A reversing camera and a full suite of brake assist and traction-control systems, including
active cornering assist are also standard. Eight airbags include driver, front passenger, two
front centre, two front side, two curtain shield.

The new front-row centre airbags – a first in class – are designed to offer additional
protection in a range of accidents. They can act as energy-absorbing cushions between
the driver and front passenger in side crashes, or in passenger-side crashes when the
driver is the only occupant. They can also provide safety benefits in rollover accidents.

The initial plan was for the Ogdens to visit their daughter in Sydney from south-east
Queensland without getting caught in the domestic air travel chaos, or risking catching
COVID-19. Fortunately, the kind folk at Toyota Australia found a spare Yaris lying around
and offered it up for the drive.

As we, the intrepid pair, were about to set off, came the news that an old family friend had
died in Melbourne and the funeral was to take place while we were in Sydney. What were
the chances of driving on to Victoria and back in the Yaris? Following a phone call to
Toyota, every chance.

The result was a 3700-kilometre round trip in a vehicle that would have been far from the
top of the list in which to tackle such an exhaustive exercise. How wrong we would have

The entry-level Yaris Ascent Sport had the last laugh, lapping up the highway kilometres,
or taking on heavy traffic in the country’s two largest (and congested) cities. Although the
lack of factory-fitted sat-nav was a drag. Google is no competition here.

The new 1.5-litre petrol engine produces more power and torque, while using less fuel
than the 1.3 and 1.5-litre four-cylinder engines it replaces. Tagged with the ‘Sport’, engine
performance is not all that impressive. In slow city traffic high revs are the key otherwise
stalling is the downfall.

Toyota claims the new Yaris manual uses just 5.4 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres on the
combined cycle. The test car clocked 7.9 litres per 100 kilometres while flitting around
towns on the route and 3.7 litres per 100 kilometres on the open road. Total fuel bill came
to $286.47, thanks, Toyota.

The little motor was quiet enough at low revs but let out a raspy reply when urged to work
higher up the scale.

The manual gear shift at times was not of Toyota’s usual high standards and needed firm
handling to avoid connecting with the wrong gear.

On the upside, the new platform underpins a significant increase in body rigidity, which
contributes to agility, stable handling, ride comfort and lower noise and vibration.

A 270-litre cargo area incorporates a two-level deck board. Big items – two large suitcases
in the case of our excursion – can be accommodated with 60:40 split-fold rear seat backs
folded flat. Front door pockets take up to a dehydration-beating 1.5-litre bottle, rear door
pockets up to a 600ml bottle.

The test took place mostly under clear winter skies, all on sealed roads, the Yaris also
coping with early morning frost in the Southern Highlands and being rain bombed on the
Hume, all the way to drawing together relatives and friends – a genuine family car.

Looks 8/10
Performance 5/10
Safety 8/10
Thirst 7/10
Practicality 7/10
Comfort 7/10
Tech 7/10
Value 8/10


Yaris Ascent Sport: $22,130 (manual), $23,630 (CVT)
Yaris SX: $27,020 (CVT)
Yaris ZR: $30,100 (CVT)
Yaris SX Hybrid: $29,020 (CVT)
Yaris ZR Hybrid: $32,100 (CVT)
Premium paint: $500
Two-tone paint: $450

Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your
local Toyota dealer for driveaway prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Toyota Yaris Ascent Sport 1.5L 3-cylinder petrol, 6sp manual, FWD)

Capacity: 1.490 litres
Configuration: Three cylinders
Maximum Power: 88 kW @ 3600 rpm
Maximum Torque: 145 Nm @ 4800-5200 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 91 RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 5.4 L/100km
CO2 emissions 126 g / km

DRIVELINE: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive

Length: 3940 mm
Wheelbase: 2550 mm
Width: 1695 mm
Height: 1505 mm
Turning Circle: 10.2 metres
Kerb Mass: 1000-1050 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 40 litres

Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Drum

Five years / unlimited kilometres

About Derek Ogden

On graduating with an honours degree in applied science in London, Derek Ogden worked for the BBC in local radio and several British newspapers as a production journalist and writer. Derek moved to Australia in 1975 and worked as a sub-editor with The Courier Mail and Sunday Mail in Brisbane, moving to the Gold Coast Bulletin in 1980 where he continued as a production journalist. He was the paper's motoring editor for more than 20 years, taking the weekly section from a few pages at the back of the book to a full-colour liftout of up to 36 pages. He left the publication in 2009.
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