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We find a hundred thousand lumens and focus it on the Toyota Yaris
Some time back, Toyota president Akio Toyoda issued a diktat to designers across the company, “No more boring cars”. And ever since, Toyota have successfully set itself on a journey of transformation, from a manufacturer of functional, practical cars to ones that are also great to look at. The transformation is visible right here in India as well, and when I was handed the keys to the bright red Yaris, I sported a thousand- lumen smile.
Years before the Yaris was launched in India, it was a popular nameplate all across Europe. And that popularity was due to a number of reasons. Most strikingly, it was the fantastic packaging and great design that endeared it to consumers. It was packed with all the features you would want in a form that caught the eye. In India, we get the more practical sedan body style and that just adds to the appeal of Toyota’s first car in this segment.
So what makes the Yaris so appealing? The flowing lines across the body combined with the smartly integrated headlight assembly give the Yaris a face that’s hard to miss. And in the shade of red we had it in, it would be sacrilegious to not spend more time poring over the finer details. With it raining cats and dogs in our part of the world and the sun hiding behind the clouds for most of the day, we headed underground to put the Yaris under the spotlight. And that’s when the best bits of the Yaris’ design came to the fore. With LEDs and their intensity of a million lightbulbs, all the elements of the Yaris that make it special stood out.
It all starts with the signature smiling grille that greets you. This is a highlight in a sea of angry and aggressive cars, and the way that the headlights have been integrated is really pleasing to the eye. Move your eyes above the glare of the LED lamps and you find the creases on the bonnet, give the Yaris’ front end a tautness that goes well with the overall look of the Toyota sedan. Towards the sides, the character lines lend a contemporary flair that keep you interested in the car before leading your eyes to the rear where the wraparound taillamps combine neatly with the boot to complete what is an aesthetically pleasing design.
Don’t, for a moment, think the Yaris is only about exterior styling. Good design is as much about the designer’s crayons as it is the work of the engineers working on ergonomics and that remains a great plus point on the Yaris. As we’ve highlighted on our multiple drives with the Yaris, this car is absolutely fatigue free, despite spending 12 straight hours behind the wheel. It is the result of perfect ergonomics starting with the H-point that is set quite high and means you walk in and out of the car. Neither the driver, nor the back seat passengers have to crouch to get in or out of the Yaris and that goes a long way in making the car comfortable. An added benefit of the high-set seats is great visibility which makes spotting dangers and obstacles easier and well in advance so you have time to react, all of which reduces the fatigue of driving the car. The driving position is good, the controls all fall easily to hand, the posture is great with the crucial lower back support being very good and the comfy seats are allied to a comfortable suspension setup. All of this means in the Yaris’ case, design and practicality do go hand in hand. Even the low roofline doesn’t compromise rear seat comfort while the wide stance serves a design and practical purpose.
The inspired design is visible in the cabin and particularly the dashboard. The first thing you notice when you set foot into the cabin is the waterfall design central console that combines all the functionalities of the climate control and music system. The central touchscreen is placed right at the top of the dash and is a treat to use with the incorporated gesture control. The menu systems also work logically and you immediately get used to it and don’t need a thick owner’s manual to figure it out. The cabin is dressed up in premium materials all around and the stitching effect does make for a premium image. As you find a comfortable seating position in the Yaris (which you do find rather quickly each time) and grab onto the chunky steering wheel, it is difficult to not think about how good design is not just aesthetics but also about how you feel when sampling the product. And on the inside that’s where the Yaris scores and scores heavily it does.
Spend some time in the cabin of a Yaris and the packaging nous of Toyota is evident in the way a number of features find their place. The steering-mounted buttons are just the right size and feel great to use. Got loads of bags to carry? The boot has enough space to swallow everything you throw at it and more. All the features the Yaris finds itself blessed with are thoughtfully designed and are engineered with the comfort and convenience of the user in mind.
After the better part of a day spent observing the Yaris from close quarters, a few things spring to mind. The Yaris’ design grows on you and even if you start the day not quite convinced about the design or simply, the way it looks, you’d find yourself in its corner by the end. It is the simple design touches that have a lasting impact on your mind and endear the car to you. Things like the soft finish on the doors make you feel at home, when several other manufacturers have hard plastics for you to contend with. Also, the roof-mounted air-con for the rear passengers with its mood lighting works far, far better than the floor-mounted vents of its rivals and serves a secondary purpose of not ignoring the passenger sitting in the centre. This is just one of the many signature details of the Toyota and it is the cumulative effect of all these details that make the Yaris such a beautifully appealing prospect.