A few weeks ago Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM) introduced a new model to the market. We missed the local launch event but got our hands on a Toyota Vitz XR to find out what it’s all about.
Do you remember the Tazz? Of course, you do. Whether it was the first new car for a small family, or a hand-me-down for a student, we all know someone who owned or drove a Tazz. But cars like the Tazz and CitiGolf are no longer part of the motoring landscape… or are they.
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TSAM has just added the Toyota Vitz to its portfolio, bringing with it a level of affordability and cheap, honest motoring, perhaps to a new market of buyers. The Vitz is a new nameplate for SA. If you think it looks familiar maybe it’s because you’ve seen it before.
The Vitz is another one of the models that is produced by Suzuki. Others include the Toyota Starlet (Suzuki Baleno) as well as the Rumion (Suzuki Ertiga). These shared models are part of a deal that TSAM has with Suzuki SA’s parent company to source models and rebadge them as Toyotas.
As with most Suzuki models sold locally, the Vitz is also produced in India. Incidentally, that’s the same country where TSAM sourced the Vitz’s forebear, the now discontinued Ayga. The Vitz’s appearance is nothing too exciting, with a rather upright and boxy stance.
The simplicity continues into the cabin. A few simple controls, nothing more than is absolutely necessary in this day and age, are all in close proximity to the steering wheel. There’s a touchscreen infotainment interface as a well as a USB charging port and a 12v socket. There is also manual air-conditioning and electric windows all round.
There enough room for four adults, though you tend to sit a little upright on the rear bench. The boot volume is also commendable for a small hatchback, although the loading lip is a little high for comfort and the tailgate doesn’t have a handle on the inside to pull it shut. The split rear seat back folds down if you need to move really large objects.
Less obvious, but more importantly, the Toyota Vitz XR has anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) as standard. Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) is also standard across the range. These items are crucial for a novice driver especially considering the ‘quality’ of driving witnessed on our roads these days.
Click here to read about the recently launch Suzuki Grand Vitara and Toyota Urban Cruiser.
There are three derivatives in the range. There’s an entry-level version and a slightly higher-spec XR. Both of these feature five-speed manual gearboxes. At the top of the tree is an XR version with an automated transmission. There is only one powertrain in the range, regardless of the derivative you choose.
The Vitz range features a 1,0-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine. This unit develops 49 kW along with 89 N.m of torque. Short-ish gearing makes good use of the meagre power on tap. There is enough grunt to stay at the national limit but be prepared to row through the gears to make safe overtakes or deal with long inclines.
Toyota claims an optimistic 4,4 L/100 km for the combined cycle fuel consumption figure. We managed a more realistic 6,1. It must be noted that the Vitz also has an automatic stop/start function, which will come in handy for those who deal with loads of congested commuting.
On the Move
We used the Vitz over a wide variety of roads during the recent long weekend. We found the car quite agreeable in almost all conditions. The ride is quite comfortable and there is a decent level of grip. We did find the cabin rather noisy at higher engine speeds.
The Cape is experiencing a nasty spell of weather at the moment, including very strong winds. The slab-sidedness of the Vitz’s profile does not work well in a howling wind. We found ourselves having to constantly correct our path with the steering. Speaking of which, the electrically assisted rack feels very much like a video game. There is very little communication from the front wheels and there isn’t a strong self-centring action. We’re willing to bet most buyers won’t notice either aspect.
At the start of this piece we asked if you recall the Toyota Tazz. Well, think of this as a modern-day version of that best-selling hatch. The list price of the Toyota Vitz XR is a shade over R200 000, which includes a two-year/30 000 km service plan. There is a simplicity and honesty to the Vitz, with just the right level of safety equipment (as mentioned above) that includes twin front airbags. Factor in a massive dealer network and Toyota’s (or should that be Suzuki’s) reputation for reliability and the Vitz is bound to be an attractive option.
Model: Toyota Vitz XR
Price: R219 900
Engine: 1,0-litre inline triple
Transmission: five-speed manual, FWD
Max power: 49 kW
Max torque: 89 N.m
0-100 km/h: yes
Top speed: n/a
Fuel consumption: 4,4 L/100 km