Toyota has today launched the new Yaris, starting from a very appealing $14,990. But is it a small car men can drive without hiding behind the wheel?

Possibly, yes. And not just because this small car isn’t big enough to hide an average sized man. In fact, the roomy interior makes you feel like you’re driving a Corolla or a much more generously proportioned large car, so you could hide if you wanted to. What really makes the new Yaris a lot different to the current generation of small cars is the styling. Led by the Volkswagen Polo, car companies are beginning to twig that men want to buy small cars and Toyota has reacted swiftly.

Can a small car really be a man’s car? Yes, if you’re a city dweller. If you’re in it for thrills though, like your Nissan Skyline R32 driving brothers, then no. EFTM took the new Yaris range for a test drive from Melbourne’s CBD to the Yarra Valley and back. We threw it through winding roads, stuck it in traffic, rode it down a motorway and jumped it over gravel. The results were promising, but not at all unexpected.

Any notion of a sporty car (which you begin to get when you see the all new Yaris ZR version) quickly disintegrates when you hit the accelerator and feel the somewhat less than mighty power of the 1.5 litre VVTi engine (or worse, the 1.3 hooked up to the automatic gearbox). It lets out a sharp scream without propelling your car forward much. But let’s be fair, the Yaris is a city car where 1.3 autos certainly do the job. So despite the new, sharper, male inspired looks and the ZR sports version, no, the Yaris won’t fill the void any sports car has left behind. But it can still be a mans car.

Now that the sports question is done, we can focus on what the Yaris is actually made for – smart urban dwellers that don’t often hit the highway. The overall package is impressive. Available in YR, YRS, YRX (five door auto only) and ZR (three door manual only, interior pictured above) models, all feature seven airbags, VSC, Bluetooth music streaming and an all-new dash layout that rids the Yaris of the hideous centre console design. All this is even in the basic YR version featuring a 1.3 litre VVTi engine in either manual or automatic. It produces 63KW. We tested the stock version and found it was every bit as good as the 1.5 until you got it on the highway where it ran out of grunt faster than Pauline Hanson ran out of credibility (in this authors humble opinion).

Move up the mark and you start getting some seriously impressive kit. The YRS has a great touch screen audio system and ups the 1.3 engine to a 1.5 VVTi producing 80KW. Available in both three and five door, auto or manual, we would see this as the perfect city car. The chassis rolls a bit through sharper corner and the steering is a bit light, but it’s hard to find a more comfortable and spacious small car for the price, which we will fill you in on later.

Move to the very top and you can choose from the YRX and ZR models. The YRX is a four door automatic only while the ZR is a body kit fitted, leather steering wheel and gear knob wielding, sports version, available in three door manual only. To both these models you get satellite navigation with Suna traffic management and DIVX player – although this can only be used when stationary – as standard. You also get alloy wheels and seats that are fitted to give the rear passenger more space while supporting you better in the case of a sudden stop. For those familiar with the Yaris model line up, the ZR will ring bells as an all-new model. This is where Toyota is really trying to grab the male market. It screams sports in its styling, if not its 80KW engine. “It will have a broader appeal to men without alienating the female fans,” Toyota’s Matthew Callachor told us.

And now for the really great part – the pricing starts at $14,990. Crazy when you think that the Toyota Echo, which became the Yaris, started at $14,990 way back in 1999. When you factor in inflation, Toyota cars, much like Apple computers, just get cheaper and cheaper over time, yet the quality remains the same, if not better.

Pricing for the three-door Yaris models starts at $14,990 for the YR. The YRS is at $16,890 and the ZR that should pick up most of the male buyers, sits at $18,990. Go for five doors and you will be putting down $15,690 and $17,390 for the YR and YRS respectively. These are all manual prices, with automatic costing $1,600 extra. It’s not an option on the ZR though. For the auto only YRX you’ll be throwing down $21,390. All prices exclude government charges and delivery.

So, the big question is – would we at EFTM purchase a Toyota Yaris? Yes, as a second car, for sure. It’s one of the best small cars around. Throttle response aside, it’s roomy, gadget filled and drives smoothly aside from over the harshest of bumps. Would we buy it as an only car? Only if we lived in the middle of the city.

Web: Toyota

EFTM travelled to Melbourne to attend the launch of the Toyota Yaris as a guest of Toyota Australia.