Toyota upped the ante on its Yaris range with the addition of two new Pulse models – one equipped with a manual gearbox and the other with a CVT (continuously variable transmission).

The Yaris range has been a popular choice among South African car buyers, hence Toyota opting to give the line-up a bit of a push. Though in recent years the Yaris took a bit of a sales slump with the addition of the Etios, the car still speaks to buyers wanting something bigger than the Etios but without the asking price of an Auris.

It is why Toyota felt the need to add a new 1.5-litre derivative to the line-up; taking some sales pressure off the 1.0-litre model.

Check my package

To give the new Pulse models a bit of a differentiation, the car has slightly different head- and taillight designs, different grilles and new colour options.

The new 1.5 Yaris Pulse – available with both the manual and CVT gearbox – has its grille running vertically across the front of the car, while the Pulse Plus – only available on the CVT model – has a honeycomb unit. Consumers now have the option to have their vehicles with either one paint colour or a bi-tone colour combination. With the latter the roof is black as opposed to whatever colour the body is. The two models are further differentiated by model-specific seat designs.

On the Pulse Plus buyers can expect a Sport button near the gearbox, while the car is also fitted with cruise control. The standard Pulse does not feature these.

In typical Toyota fashion the interior is devoid of over-used dials and buttons and is it quite easy to find out how everything works. The multi-function steering wheel certainly does aid the process.

Amongst a host of features the Pulse features additional airbags for drivers and passengers, leather for the steering wheel, electric windows all-round, as well as remote central locking. New to the range are vehicle stability control (VSC) and hill ascent control (HAC). The Pulse Plus features curtain and driver knee airbag, projector headlamp and the aforementioned cruise control over the “lesser” model.

New engine

Prior to the addition of the Pulse models the Yaris range was powered only by a 1.0-litre petrol engine. For the bolstered range the naturally-aspirated 1.5-litre engine pushes out 82kW and 136Nm.

Power outputs may not seem all that amazing, but it makes the Pulse feel rather sprightly – largely also thanks to the light body.

Toyota rates fuel consumption at 5.0-litres/100km for the manual and 4.8 for the Plus CVT. Top speed is 175km/h for both models.

Feel the pulse

The first 1.5 I got acquainted with was the Plus; fitted with Toyota’s seven-speed CVT gearbox. From previous experience CVT gearboxes are not the best ‘boxes in the industry, so it often raises a few eyebrows when manufacturers equip their cars with one. Upon setting off from Cape Town International airport, the CVT pulled away cleanly; with very little to minimal fuss. No problems at all navigating through the slew of cars also exiting the airport.

But in typical CVT fashion, when pushing on, a faint over-revving sound accompanied the push of the throttle. And the gear paddles on the steering wheel needs to be flapped a few times before the gearbox hits the next gear. But that is to be expected of CVT gearboxes and the application thereof is much rather focused on keeping the cost of the vehicle down to a minimum and fuel consumption low.

But flick the gearbox into manual and engage Sport mode, and the CVT undergoes a little transformation. Now switching between the gears yourself becomes more of a joy. The indecisiveness of the gearbox makes way for a more assured persona and the car gets the pulse racing. This automatic version is not without fault, but driven to its strengths it is a fitting range topper for the current Toyota Yaris.

In the latter half of the launch it was time to drive the six-speed manual model, but the differences in driving between driving the two derivatives are not too far removed from each other. This model, however, is the normal Pulse, which means that it is not fitted with a Sport button like its CVT sibling. But then again, manual ‘boxes are for purists, so it’s not very difficult extracting performance from it.

As it to be expected with such a small engine, the car needs to be pushed quite high into the rev range for there to be any mention of spirited driving and in sixth gear there is virtually no performance to be had from it. That’s because sixth is for saving fuel and cruising purposes. But in traffic, in city driving, this model will march on forth in an easy manner; without the clutch feeling heavy and your left leg begging to be relieved of any pressing duties.

Fitting in

The updated Yaris Pulse certainly looks young and spunky, which should bode well for the Yaris range. Though the car grew up a lot and has undergone some changes over the years, Toyota wants the car to again appeal to a younger market. And on design alone they’ve managed that.

For the buyer wanting something that stands out in its segment without the need to break the bank, the Yaris Pulse makes a real strong case for itself. And it comes standard with Toyota’s reputability and reliability.

And peace of mind counts for a lot these days.

Price:

Toyota Yaris 1.0 Pulse – R199 000

Toyota Yaris 1.5 Pulse M/T – R228 700

Toyota Yaris 1.5 Pulse CVT – R241 400

Toyota Yaris 1.5 Pulse Plus CVT – R249 600

Toyota Yaris 1.5 Pulse Hybrid – R307 200

All models come standard with a three-year or 100 000km warranty and three-year or 45 000km service plan.