It would have been easy for Toyota to maintain continuity and simply release their new car as a Starlet, a model name that had been on roads since 1973 in one form or another. But this new car was not simply an evolution of the Starlet; this new car was a revolution and demanded a new identity. It had been designed and engineered to be the ultimate car for city life, with a 21st century name for 21st century cities.
That car was the Yaris and it would become the focal point of a reinvigorated Toyota in Europe.
Fast forward to January 2014, and 15 years have passed under the wheels of the Yaris in Europe, to a point where it’s now hard to remember a time before it existed. It’s now one of the most popular Toyotas of all time and a part of many people’s lives - so much so that if you don’t own one, then it is likely you know someone who does.
In July 2013, Toyota’s supermini celebrated an amazing milestone reaching three million sales in Europe. In that time it has evolved and been refined over three generations and scooped numerous accolades. Some of these in the early years included winning the Top Engine of the Year awards in 1999 and 2000 for the 1.0 litre and 1.3 litre VVT-I engines respectively. This would be added to soon after with the coveted European Car of the Year and Safest Supermini by Euro NCAP awards.
Built since launch by Toyota Motor Manufacturing France, near the city of Valenciennes in the north of the country, the Yaris was proudly awarded the label of Origin France Warranty. It was an accolade awarded to Yaris before any other car, even the established and recognised brands such as Peugeot 208 and Renault Clio.
The label aims to provide consumers with clear and transparent information about the origin of a product, and is reserved for products manufactured in France only. In Toyota’s case, it manufactures but also designs, employs and distributes and is a pioneer in using the award in the automotive industry.
Most importantly, this shows that wherever the Yaris is manufactured, the same legendary Toyota quality and attention to detail is to be found. This can be seen in leading technical and owner surveys such as Germany’s TUV and J.D.Power customer satisfaction, where the Yaris has been highly ranked for durability and reliability.
The success of Yaris has come at a time where people have changed their habits and look to reduce the size of the car they own without compromising on the features they hold dear. For example, the Yaris was the first car in its segment to be equipped with a full navigation system, in 2004, normally reserved only for much bigger, more expensive cars.
By incorporating the legendary reliability and high quality of Toyota, packaged within a small fuel-efficient body-shell, the Yaris made the transition down in size for many a surprisingly easy journey.
For those used to small cars, the Yaris impresses with its stylish exterior styling, futuristic interior layout and agile and comfortable handling. This success can be seen in a country that loves its small cars and demands the best –Italy. Here they have taken the car to their hearts and it has historically been the biggest market for Yaris in Europe.
After the instant success of the first generation, the replacement model in 2005, developed the clever packaging DNA of the original whilst focusing on even greater interior flexibility and equipping it with the latest in on-board technologies. Featuring Toyota’s Easy Flat rear seating system, the first knee airbag in the segment and a clever Smart Entry and push button start, the Yaris really did feel like a car equipped from a class above.
More recently the Yaris broke even more new ground, when the first Yaris Hybrid rolled off the production line in France in 2012. As a first in its segment, the hybrid system was installed into the Yaris and combined with a 1.5 litre VVT-I petrol engine, to produce class leading emissions, with a reduction in not only carbon dioxide but particulate matter emissions and fuel efficiency. It was the first hybrid urban car to receive the accolade of Green Car Award 2012, by the French Press Association in recognition of its positive impact on air quality.
To cement its popularity Yaris is now truly a global car as exports to North America commenced in 2013, a continent normally only used to buying far bigger cars.
So as we celebrate 15 years of Yaris, we can look forward to many more generations of the car that is simply loved by the city…