By on December 22, 2010

One of Toyota’s best selling cars, with cumulative sales exceeding 3.5 million units since its first-generation launch in 1999, and with sales in more than 70 countries around the world, is the Vitz.

The what?

Well, Vitz is what the car is called in Japan. You will probably know it better as the Yaris. The first generation Vitz was sold as Echo in some markets. Now it’s Vitz in Japan and Yaris in most of the rest of the world.

Today, Toyota showed the 3rd generation Vitz (Japanese spec) to the Japanese press in Yokohama.

As I had already been in the neighborhood, I popped in and checked it out. Dozo.

About half of the worldwide production of the Vitz is sold in Japan. The Vitz is Toyota’s top-selling gasoline powered car in Japan (the top-top selling car is the Prius hybrid.)

In Japan, the Vitz is duking it out with Honda’s subcompact-class-leading Fit and Nissan’s March. With the new Vitz, Toyota wants to give Honda a fit.

With so much at stake, Toyota laid on a big event at the Osanbashi Hall, right on Yokohama’s cruise ship pier. Akio Toyoda himself, assisted by chief engineer Hirofumi Yamamoto and goateed design group manager Takeshi Goh introduced the car.

When asked what he thinks is the perfect car, Akio Toyoda answered: ”This is the topic of my life. But it is not for me to say. The perfect car is decided by the customer.” Toyoda’s solution to the dilemma? “That’s why we try to give the customer many choices.”

Goateed Goh has designed a little edgier Vitz/Yaris, with sharper corners than its slightly rotund predecessor. Goh praised the “smiling face” that becomes Toyota’s full frontal signature design. Goh talked about the challenge faced by A-Class designers around the world: How to build a car that is small on the outside but large on the inside. He managed to squeeze 35 mm (1.3 inches) more space into the Vitz.

Chief engineer Hirofumi Yamamoto had been faced with a much bigger dilemma. The Vitz/Yaris became infamous for its body roll, especially at higher Autobahn speeds. This trait coined two expressions in Toyota-speak: “Buru-buru” and “hyoko-hyoko.”

The former is translated in a dictionary as “walk with a tremor,” the latter as “unsteady steps.” Again, we are amazed at the frank and open words of a chief engineer with the national press corps in attendance, and his boss keeling over with laughter.

But not to worry, Yamamoto-san says that both “buru-buru” and “hyoko-hyoko” have been eliminated in the 3rd gen Vitz. Yamamoto has two years of European test drives to prove it.

Europe is the second largest market for the Vitz under the Yaris name. About 40 percent of the production is sold there. “The competition is tough in Europe, and the customers are demanding” says Yamamoto.

It will be a while until the Vitz-turned-Yaris will face the European competition and you can inspect the Yaris up close and personal. Although no official launch date is given, end of 2011 is probably a good guess. By that time, the Yaris should also be available in the U.S. and Canada. In Canada, the Yaris attracted quite a following, but nothing compared to Japanese and EU numbers.

In Japan, the Vitz has become the darling of the ladies. The new Vitz chases women even more than the previous generation model. That target group has become so important that Toyota established a special UV department, and its leader Ito-san praised the front windshield in the Vitz that filters out 99 percent of harmful UV rays. Japanese women are very protective of their skin, and use an umbrella more when the sun shines than when it rains. We doubt that that feature will make it to places where people are proud of their tan.

Two of the three Vitz trim levels (U, F, and RS) can be had in a special “Jewela” version that adds “exclusive body and interior colors and interior and exterior ornamentation with a plated finish to convey vibrancy,” all favored by the fashion-forward Japanese lady.

When the Vitz turns Yaris and lands on EU and North American shores, it probably will have lost its effeminate accents along the way, and will be available in more manly trims. In Japan, the male Vitz buyer is the target of a sporty RS version with a 1.5 liter engine.

Speaking of engines, the Vitz comes with a choice of three. There is the one liter 1KR-FE engine, a 1.3 liter 1NR-FE engine and said 1.5 liter 1NZ-FE engine. All engines are mated to a “Super CVT-I” (Super Continuously Variable Transmission-intelligent) transmission. The manly RS is the only Vitz that can be had with a stick. For the F1-feeling, the CVT-I version has paddle-shifters in the RS.

The 1.3 liter engine is Toyota’s secret weapon. It gets 26.5 km/liter (62 mpg, non-EPA), beating the March (26 km/liter) and the Fit (24.5 km/liter.) The 1.3-liter engine sports Dual VVT-i (Dual Variable Valve Timing-intelligent) and can be had with a super responsive idling-stop feature that restarts the engine in a third of a second – literally in a blink of an eye.

Japanese MSRPs for the Vitz range from 1,060,000 yen ($12,700) for the base 1 liter model all the way to 1,790,000 yen ($21,400) for the RS model.

The Viz comes equipped with all whizbang electronics such as EBD (electronic brake-force distribution), ABS, VSC (Vehicle Stability Control) and TRC (Traction Control). The navigation system is optional. People familiar with the Yokohama waterfront can inspect the picture and will receive proof that TTAC had actually been there.

Disclosure: I paid my own fare on the JR train for Frau Schmitto-san (who provided the cross-cultural edification) and myself. Toyota provided a free bottle of water.

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39 Comments on “TTAC Brings You The Toyota Yaris You Can Buy A Year From Now. And Lots Of Exclusive Pictures...”

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    So only one booth babe in the Toyota both?

  • avatar

    Is the idle-stop only offered on the 1.3L, and if so, why not make it available on all models?

  • avatar

    You will probably know it better as the Yaris.

    The what?

  • avatar

    Nissan has an answer to the question “How to build a car that is small on the outside but large on the inside” – totally ignore how the car looks on the outside. Dunno about the March, but the Versa sacrifices swoopiness for space.

  • avatar

    Hate to nitpick but the Prius is gas-powered too. So the Yaris/Vitz is the top selling gas-only vehicle.

  • avatar

    I call it the Schvitz.  That’s because us Yanks who play Gran Tourismo already know the car, and we wonder how much Toyota paid to get all those Vitz series races on the game. One thing’s for sure…we all hate the Vitz for wasting our Playstation time.

  • avatar

    Don’t know it either as a Yaris, Echo or Vitz. FOr some reason Toyota has deemed this car too sophisticated for us. However, they are kind enough to let have a shot at an Ethios next year.

    Well, judging by the side photo, this car has almost no trunk. Maybe that’s why Toyota knows it’s no good down here. Cars of this size must do family duty, too. The rest of it may be a dog , but the Ethios probably has the Yaris trumped in that department!

    • 0 avatar

      This is because Brazil has very restrictive import tariffs.  Importing a car into Brazil from overseas will easily double the price.
      Toyota is building a plant in Sorocaba that will build the Etios and be able to competitively price their vehicle for the Brazilian market.  Build the car for the market at the market.  The Yaris doesn’t fit into that.
      Personally, the Etios looks like a more interesting car.

    • 0 avatar

      They sold the Yaris up here, gen 1 and 2, the latter even in sedan form (yuck)
      This people took the only car I really liked from them (yes I can like some Toyotas, I’m not perfect) and uglified it, to the point the “do not want” folder is needed.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Ah….B.S.:  You always seem to find the most photogenic Asian ladies…..

  • avatar

    I loved the previous generation Yaris since sitting in it, but a) what is the safety of such a small car and b) my daughter likes big cars. Maybe I’ll get one in about 2021, if we are still around.

  • avatar

    As long as they fix the egregiously cheap strip of grey plastic that runs the span of the cabin and fix the absurdly tall seating position, I’m good.  I never warmed to the second-gen Yaris; it didn’t much of an improvement over the Echo, save for the sedan’s styling and overall safety.  

    I quite liked the Echo hatch, but the new car got a much cheaper dash** and a seating position designed for five-foot tall women***.
    It would be nice to get the trick rear seats in all trims, though.  That Toyota made you step up to the top trim to get rear seats that split/fold was petty.

    ** and I’m normally ok with cheap dashes, but the Yaris was one step too far.
    *** which given this article, makes sense now that I think about it.

  • avatar

    The Toyota lineup is aging very fast against the competition.  The Corolla hasn’t had a full model change since 2006, same with the Camry and Rav4.
    Toyota has delayed their updates in the face of the financial crisis and to better time a release as the global economy recovers, but their attrition to their marketshare is getting fairly dramatic.
    So the new Vitz seems to be the harbinger for the succession of Toyota updates.  One thing that Toyota that really gotten right with this car is that its globalized the manufacturing since it’ll be built in Japan, France, Thailand, Indonesia, China, and Taiwan.  So this car should be able to be priced competitively in a lot more markets.
    But the question isn’t how this car stacks up against its current competitor but rather will it be a competitive platform for the next 5 years.  For Toyota they really need to hit a home run with the Corolla.

    • 0 avatar

      The Corolla was completely redone in 2009 and is getting it’s 2 year refresh in 2011.  I’ll admit that the new(ish) Corolla doesn’t appear on the outside that much different from the last gen Corolla.  And now that I think about it the inside doesn’t appear that different either.  People still buy the crap of them though so the decision not make any drastic changes probably was a smart play on Toyotas part.  At least, until the new Focus comes out and stomps all over the Corolla.    

  • avatar

    I maintain interest in the Echo/xB/Yaris/Vitz family because I have a Gen 1 xB.  Hard to believe the 1.5 L engine is still around, but now it’s called “sporty”, although fuel economy has certainly improved.

    The Spartan Gen 1 Yaris never did much for me, and I resented Toyota’s cheapening game with the options list. It’s a tiny car inside, so maybe the Vitz will improve things a bit.

  • avatar

    There is something about the essay/article above that comes across to me as being exceptionally well-written.
    I was also impressed with some of the mutterings and utterances of the Toyota higher-ups.
    They come across to me as much more “real” than the business-suited to-me class enemies infesting the higher-ranking slots in car-related corporate USA.
    Oh, for a cheap thrill, the thrill-type I, the Disgruntled Old Coot revel in, perform a Google Image Search using “vibrancy, all favored by the fashion-forward Japanese lady”. I saw one pic NOT SAFE FOR WORK but the rest appeared okay but I did NOT push the “more” button.

  • avatar

    I pass. I hope they don’t touch with their “magic” the Aygo.
    I see 1st gen Twingo-style wiper, lost the center mounted instruments, Ethios like front end. The dash and steering are nice, the materials don’t seem so. The rest of the car :rolleyes:

  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    “How to build a car that is small on the outside but large on the inside. He managed to squeeze 35 mm (1.3 inches) more space into the Vitz.”Quote
    I have already read that the new model is 100 mm longer , but now they tell us it only has 35 mm more space ? This is not very clever. And I know nobody buys a Yaris/Fitz for its’ style , but it still looks much too frumpy. The first edition had some pizzaz.

  • avatar

    Are you saying the guy with the chin hair is named Goateed Goh ?   Shirley you jest.

  • avatar

    I’m getting more than a little tired of the c-pillar treatment that many cars, this new Vitz included, are getting.  It just looks wrong to my eyes to have the fatter portion at the bottom, with the leading edge leaning rearward.  Not only does it look wrong, it creates a larger blind spot.  I will not consider this car purely for this reason.  Sorry Toyota.  The Rav-4 is another Toyota with the same styling ‘error’.

  • avatar

    The interior looks like a major improvement, and styling looks pretty good. I wouldn’t expect it to drive that great, but who knows.

  • avatar

    Hmmm, they put the instrument cluster behind the steering wheel again.
    Anecdotal only, but I think Toyota sales-floor feedback is that people react poorly to central instruments as a first impression. Maybe they’ve listened?

    • 0 avatar
      Uncle Mellow

      I react very poorly to central instruments. My first car(when I was 17) had central instruments until I sawed the dash apart and re-positioned them.

    • 0 avatar

      I love central instrument clusters.  At 6’6″, for decades I’ve only ever seen the 0-40 and 80-120 parts of the speedometer since the 40-80 part has always been blocked by the steering wheel.  My gen 1 xB fixed that problem for me.
      Central instruments are also a little safer, since the driver’s eyes don’t have to travel as far from the road to see them.

    • 0 avatar
      Uncle Mellow

      “Central instruments are also a little safer, since the driver’s eyes don’t have to travel as far from the road to see them.”Quote
      You’re joking , right ?

  • avatar

    in europe, toyota has a problem of too many small car models.
    there is the iQ, the slightly bigger Aygo, and then the Yaris, which is slightly bigger than the Aygo.
    all three share the same powertrains (Aygo doesn’t get the 1.3 or diesel, but shares the 1.0).
    the price points of the three cross each other as well, despite the iQ’s marketing of being a premium product.
    hopefully Toyota can solve this problem with the new Yaris. Already there is a good amount of differentiation with engines.

  • avatar

    I can’t figure out the Yaris strategy in the U.S. Help me.
    A couple of years ago,I wanted to buy brand new (first time in over 20 years) and wanted a Toyo. When all was said and done, the Yaris was uncomfortably close in price to the Corolla LE , had a smaller engine (1.5 to 1.8L) got almost identical highway mileage . When the dealer got finished playing pricing games ,I turned to my wife and said that we’ll just take the Corolla. It’s been great,although I did get one that needed an ECU at about 60,000 miles ,whichToyota popped for with no hassle.
    I guess the question is: Who would buy the 4 door Yaris over the Corolla when the money is about the same ? The two door I can understand ( easy to park,great first car etc..),but the 4 door seems like a waste.

    • 0 avatar

      I would recon that unless the HP differentiation of the Corolla is significantly better than the Yaris, that’d be one reason, but other than that, the 5door Yaris is for those who want 4 doors in a hatchback body, the Corolla doesn’t offer anything BUT a 4 door sedan.

  • avatar

    Oh great, another four door with an automatic. I don’t see any pics or mention of a two door but I can get a chicky colored one with a special windshield to preserve my fair complexion. Yay. Mass transit just sounds better and better every day.

  • avatar

    Holy smokes batman what is the point in even offering this in a hatch when there is all but 2 inches of space leftover with that rediculous overly short pug like back end. I sure would hate to be the person sitting in that back seat in a rear end collision. Can you say “whats the last thing on a rear seat passenger’s mind in a new Yaris after a rear end collision” or his ass filled with tires edition!

  • avatar

    Given the choice… I’d still rather have the Fiesta. The Fiesta just screams “take me driving, what fun we’ll have!”

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