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Motoring: A Mazda masquerading as a Toyota

Credit: NAUMAN FAROOQ

The new Yaris Sedan was a collaboration between Mazda and Toyota; but don't be fooled; it's basically a Mazda wearing a Toyota hat.


Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | February 15th, 2016



When is a Toyota not a Toyota? When it’s something else in reality, but wears a Toyota badge.

In recent years, Toyota has shown that it likes to collaborate with other auto manufacturers to help bring new and better products to the market. A few years ago, Toyota joined forces with Subaru, which resulted in the BRZ for Subaru and the Scion FR-S for Toyota, a car that will undoubtedly be rebranded next year, since the Scion brand has just been given the axe.

News also has it that Toyota is working on a project with BMW, and the resulting sports car to come out of it will likely be the new Supra.

In the middle of all this, Toyota also joined forces with Mazda to come up with a new subcompact family car. One can understand why Toyota got outside help for sports car projects, but the company has produced many compact and subcompact vehicles itself, so why the tie up with Mazda?

Toyota knows a good thing when they see it. In the last decade, the Mazda2 was the best subcompact I had driven, and with the new model promising to be even better, it was the right platform to get behind.

So Toyota partnered up with Mazda, and decided to give the platform a sedan body, and call it the new Yaris Sedan. Given the fact that Mazda Canada won’t sell you the new Mazda2, if you want this platform, you have to go spend money in a Toyota showroom.

So, what’s it like?

Well, unsurprisingly, it felt like a cross between the old Mazda2 and the current Mazda3. In other words, the driving dynamics had that familiar ‘Zoom-Zoom’ feel, and nothing like any Toyota I’ve driven in the past.

The road manners are good, and the car feels light and nimble, making this subcompact a joy to drive.

The mechanicals are all Mazda too. Rather than the VVT-i motor found in the Yaris Hatchback, which is still a Toyota product on their platform, the Yaris Sedan uses Mazda’s SKYACTIV powertrain. This means drivers get a 1.5 litre, inline four-cylinder engine that develops 106 horsepower and 103 pounds per foot of torque. This might not be the most powerful subcompact motor, but it is smooth and willing to work. Power is sent to the front wheels via either a standard six-speed manual gearbox, or an optional six-speed automatic gearbox, both of which are from Mazda, too. My tester had the automatic.

The ride and handling of this new Yaris Sedan is just excellent, it soaks up the bumps well, and when you push it through the corners, it keeps good composure. This is a little car that you can enjoy driving. It is good on the highway too, with good insulation against road and wind noise, and is fairly stable too. The only issue is that the car does have tall, slab sides, which in a crosswind can push you more than you’d like.

The interior is also nice. There is plenty of space in the front and back, plus a huge 382-litre trunk. The best part for me was the steering wheel because since it is still essentially a Mazda, it had cruise control switches nicely imbedded in the steering wheel, rather than that annoying little cruise control switch all Toyota and Lexus products have, the one that looks like it was bought from an aftermarket dollar store.

The quality of the fit and finish is nice, and you get decent equipment. My tester had an infotainment system that even had a built-in navigation system.

This car has a flaw, which is the styling. To give it its own personality, Toyota changed the nose on the car, and it isn’t a pretty one. Just look at the pictures and you be the judge. The rear of the car is pure Mazda, only it wears a Toyota badge.

If you’re interested in buying one, prices start at $16,995. Not only is it cheap to buy, but it is cheap to run also. I averaged 6.8 litres per 100 kilometres in my test week, which is incredible.

This 2016 Toyota Yaris Sedan is now the new best subcompact on sale in our market, and Mazda should kick themselves for not offering their version in Canada, because they’re the ones who did most of the hard work on this model, only someone else is getting to reap all the rewards. Good move, Toyota.
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