It seems my obsession with small hatchbacks continues. After a brief fling with a
warbling droning Swede, I returned to what seemed to suit me most.
Having sold my C30, I was in the market for a new toy.
I had my eye on a few things, including a 9N3 Polo GTI (drove well, but had uncomfortable seats and felt basic), a couple of Corollas (one Run X with the 2ZZ-GE, and one Auris with the 2ZR-FAE, both 6spd manual) and even the exact same Pug 207 GTI I almost bought a few years ago (Drove average, leaking oil, dubious service history, the dash trims had been badly painted, and the seller was a knob).
I decided I wanted something comfortable, small, reliable and punchy. I didn’t want something I had to constantly rev hard to get it going (like the 2ZZ) or something that felt heavy and underpowered (like the Auris). It had to be tidy, and parts were available.
Looking around, I had been interested in a Yaris that was listed nearby. It was an NZ New RS spec, but it wasn’t until I started to pay more attention to what that actually meant, that I more or less became obsessed with the car.
Long story short, After much back and forth with the seller, my wife and I did a couple of hour round trip and bought the Yaris.
So, what is the deal with the car?
Well, these aren’t that rare to see around, but what you don’t realise is that most are Japanese imports, which feature a 1.5L 1NZ-FE engine coupled to a 5 speed gearbox (or an auto). This engine makes a whopping 107bhp and 140nm of torque.
The Yaris RS? Well, that’s where Toyota followed one of the best formulas; big engine, small car. The Yaris is powered by the 1.8L, dual VVT-I, 2ZR-FE, which makes 132hp and 173nm of torque, at a similar RPM as the smaller engine. Although it’s not a horsepower monster (it’s only 8hp or so more than a stock ZC31S Swift Sport), that big thick lump of torque makes all the difference. This thing pulls up hills like they aren’t there, and give it a bootful in the mid-range and the speedo climbs with surprising vigour.
This engine, and the 6 speed manual gearbox, is lifted straight from the equivalent Toyota Corolla, and is similar to the engine in the Auris I drove (that was the 2ZR-FAE, which is the same engine but with Valvematic instead of VVTI, so it made a smidge more power). In the bigger brother, it feels underpowered, but in the Yaris, which weighs a shade over 1100kg, it feels great.
The whole car is a weird one really. The Yaris RS is based on the facelift European spec Yaris TSport, which means it differs in a few ways from the JDM spec Vitz.
According to a post I found on Facebook, there were 100 of the limited edition RS brought into NZ by Toyota and only for the 2009 model year, so they are very rare.
Starting with the basic RS spec; Not specific to the Yaris, the RS is fitted with sporty bumpers front and rear, side skirts and a chrome tailpipe, to give it a more aggressive look. There is also a small spoiler on the tailgate, and mesh grilles up front.
The Yaris rides on factory 17″ alloys, wrapped in wide 205/45 tyres and sits slightly lower on factory KYB lowering springs and shocks. Behind the wheels are four wheel disk brakes, with big 275mm rotors up front (the same size as the “big brakes” I fitted to the Corolla)
The Euro influences can be a bit weird in places. One feature I like is that the indicator stalk is on the left (as opposed to being on the right on JDM cars), and the car is fitted with keyless entry and push button start (true keyless entry too, it somehow senses the presence of your hand as it nears the exterior handle, without pressing a button, and unlocks the doors).
Yet, the weird features are things like the Yaris having electric windows in the front, but good old hand-crank wind up windows in the rear, and despite being a “high spec” car, it has manual heater controls instead of digital climate control.
Another Euro spec feature that doesn’t seem to appear on the JDM models is the split, sliding and reclining rear seat.
The seat is split 60/40, like usual, but the two sides are on rails, and by using one of the two levers on the backrest, the whole seat slides forward. This is one half fully back, and the other fully forward.
The other lever either folds the seat forward, down flat or can be used to recline the backrest.
Inside is the usual hard wearing Toyota Yaris stuff, with a couple of exceptions. The RS gains a leather shift boot, perforated leather 3-spoke steering wheel and shift knob, and privacy tint rear windows (with the fronts on this car also being tinted from new).
Beyond that, its all standard Yaris practicality; with plenty of storage spaces, including a top glovebox in front of the driver, and two passenger side gloveboxes, along with various cubbies here and there
The cabin is airy, and feels big, without you feeling lost in it. Leg room for a small car is quite good, front and rear, and the RS is fitted with more airbags than you can shake a stick at (two fronts, a driver’s knee airbag, and front and rear curtain airbags; five more than our Honda Fit has).
The seats, although not the pinnacle in sporty bolstering, are comfortable and hold you in well enough for some spirited driving. I believe these are specific to the RS and are slightly more bolstered than normal. The fabric, although dirty in mine, is hard wearing and after 200+ thousand KM, has little to no signs of wear.
There is stability and traction control, which seem to give you quite a bit of leeway before kicking in and pulling the fun back in line. I haven’t yet looked for a button to turn it off, not that I’ll bother anyway.
Unlike the lower spec models (which had basic digital readouts or just an analogue speedo), the RS features a big, center-mounted analogue speedo and rev counter, illuminated in orange.
In the RH corner of the cluster is the digital fuel gauge and a basic trip computer which can give readouts for instant and average consumption, range to empty, average speed and dual trip counters (the trip computer replaces the ODO reading when changed).
My particular example isn’t a show car, its done 213,000km, with the previous owner having done a lot of hot running during their long commute each day, so there are a couple of issues, both cosmetically and mechanically, but overall for the price I paid for it, I’m really enjoying it so far.
The classic Toyota Super Pink is starting to show its head, with the “Cherry” red paint starting to fade, and on the door handles and rear spoiler the clearcoat is peeling. The front is also covered with stone chips from our A+ condition roads.
Mechanically it’s pretty sound, having been regularly serviced, but the gearbox is showing its age, with a slow synchro on second when cold, and a whine at a couple of different road speeds. A gearbox oil change has helped the whine, but it’s still there and at 50kph it can be quite vocal.
I don’t know the plan for it, probably not much to be honest. It’ll need some new tyres soon, so I will find some good mid-range ones to go on, and then I will just drive the pants off it. I could throw money at it, hand over fist (lowering further, new shocks, smaller/lighter wheels etc etc), but it wouldn’t be worth it in the long run, I’m better off enjoying it as it is and spending the money on gas and trackdays.