First drive in Toyota Yaris and Wish

By CARSIFU | 4 June 2006

The happy smiles and grins told the story. Every one who had a go with the car was suitably impressed including ourselves.

The Toyota Yaris is really something! It has the looks, the oomph and the handling to make any enthusiast want to own one. The 1.5-litre VVT-i engine is so responsive that at every opportunity we eagerly floored the accelerator. To say the least, it is a hot hatch.

It was the same story with the sporty Wish which didn’t disappoint either. The 2.0-litre VVT-i engine pulled strongly every time we poured on the coals.

But driving two very different cars in two days takes some adjusting. The Wish is an MPV while the Yaris is a compact hatchback. Having first tried the longer sporty Wish naturally we found the shorter compact hatchback Yaris rather twitchy until we got used to the very positive steering.

The interior of the Yaris 1.5G.
The interior of the Yaris 1.5G.

The marketing people at UMW Toyota did a fantastic job in giving us a test drive of the two cars albeit a very short one barely a week after the official launch. We were promised that in the near future as more cars come onstream we would get them for the normal weekend test drive, though.

The simple fact is that UMW Toyota Motor is on a roll. It is already the top selling make after Proton – something attributable to the healthy sales of the Vios and Avanza models.

UMW Toyota Motor Sdn Bhd managing director David Chen explained at the official dual launch that it was with an eye to broadening the current model line-up that the Wish and Yaris – both imported models, were chosen.

Both are imported from Toyota’s factory in Thailand which shows that UMW Toyota is taking advantage of the recently introduced National Automotive Policy as well as the Asean car policy with its reduced import duties.

The end result is that the Yaris (two models Regular and Sporty) are competitively priced between RM90,300 and RM98,100 and the Wish from (three trim models) RM152,700 to RM154,800.

The Yaris is a premium compact hatchback that was launched in 1999 and was responsible for thrusting Toyota into a top-seller in Europe.

Its design concept and overall package so appealed to the young and those wanting to be different that it garnered the prestigious 2000 Europe Car of the Year award.

In Japan, the Yaris took to the market by storm, clinching the 1999/2000 Japan Car of the Year award. This is the first time that a Japanese car took both awards in the same year.

Wisely, Toyota Japan has decided to introduce the second-generation Yaris to the Asean market as it means that the initial bugs are all ironed out.

Toyota sees good demand for new models

If it has European looks this is because it is styled at Toyota’s European design centre in collaboration with Toyota Japan’s Design Centre. More importantly it retains the DNA of the successful predecessor while including a more youthful appearance as well as a higher level of refinement, sophistication and a fun-to-drive experience.

And FUN was what we and others who gave it a spin experienced. The eye-catching looks meant we were surrounded whenever we stopped the Yaris.

Inside, the sporty black trim, sporty steering wheel and comfortable seats set the mood. On the move, the quick engine response and the agile manner in which the Yaris handled itself was thoroughly enjoyable. We are indeed counting the days when we can lay out hands on it again for a longer test session.

The Wish, meanwhile, is a sporty urban mid-sized MPV that was launched in Asia in 2003 and Malaysians had its first look at the 2003 Kuala Lumpur International Motor Show.

Its stylish looks gave a new dimension to MPVs which increasingly began to look ponderous and bulky. Since then more and more Wish models began to be seen on Malaysian roads due to the efforts of the grey importers.

Thankfully UMW Toyota has decided on the Wish with the more powerful 2.0-litre VVT-i engine which has resulted in a very spirited driving style. Even with five passengers on board, we didn't find the Wish wanting in pace at all.

Double the impact

With such power on tap, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and found we could drive aggressively whenever we felt like it.

Those who bought the grey market Wish models found that with a single air-con compressor, cooling air could not be felt by passengers sitting at the rearmost row of seats and thus was uncomfortable.

UMW Toyota Motor has addressed this situation and, no, there is no second air-con compressor but has a booster feature to blow cool air right thru to the rear passengers. This is activated via a switch on the right of the dashboard next to the steering wheel.

The Wish also has a brace of active and passive safety features to give safer driving: ABS (anti-lock braking system), Brake Assist and EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution), VSC (Vehicle Stability Control) and TRC (Traction Control).

Like the Yaris 1.5S, driving the exciting Wish 2.0S for a day has whetted our appetites. — LOUIS CHEANG