PINT-SIZE BATTLE: Toyota Yaris versus Kia Picanto
Price: $17,490 drive-away
The Yaris Ascent hits a new low price because a new model is overdue (take a further $500 off in August). Standard are remote central locking, aircon, cruise control, Bluetooth, steering wheel audio controls and rear-view camera. Absent are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Service intervals are six months/10,000km, more frequent than most rivals. Warranty is three years/100,000km, less than most rivals. Capped price servicing is cheap at $140 for each of the first six visits ($840).
This generation Yaris has had two facelifts since 2011. Toyota extended its life to enable the next Yaris to fit the company's latest technology. The bold face and bland interior might not suit all tastes but the quality and practicality are undeniable. The Yaris is in the next class size up from the Picanto and the extra shoulder width, rear kneeroom and boot space are noticeable.
Zippy enough for commuting, the base Yaris has a 1.3-litre four-cylinder (63kW/120Nm) matched to a four-speed auto. More ratios would benefit highway fuel economy though its well-calibrated auto is preferable to a poorly sorted CVT or six-speed. Claimed thirst is 5.8L/100km - 7L-8L in traffic is more likely.
Seven airbags, dusk-sensing headlights and rear camera are standard. Rear sensors are a dealer-fit accessory. Its five-star safety rating (35.41/37) is from 2017. On today's more stringent standards it would likely slip to four unless equipped with autonomous emergency braking ($650 in a bundle with forward crash alert, lane wander warning and auto-dipping high-beams).
A textbook example of a stress-free commuter car, it has just enough oomph to get you out of trouble and ease into moving traffic. The steering has a reassuring feel and the turning circle is tight, although the tyres are designed for economy rather than grip. Outward vision is good, although thick windscreen pillars can obscure pedestrians on crossings and corners.
Price: $17,490 drive-away
The GT-Line gains faux-leather seats, 16-inch alloys, projector beam headlights, daytime running lights and LED tail-lights. Standard fare includes remote central locking, aircon, cruise control, Bluetooth, illuminated steering wheel audio controls, rear camera and sensors, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Service intervals are 12 months/15,000km. Industry-best warranty is seven years/unlimited km. Capped price servicing total for the first three years is $969.
Compared to the Yaris, the Picanto is 50cm shorter, 10cm narrower, and the front and rear seats are 11cm closer. It seats five, squeezes into tighter spots and negotiates tighter U-turns. The interior looks a touch more upmarket thanks to the tablet display, the seats and covered centre console. The body kit looks sporty but the engine is shared with the base model.
The 1.25-litre four-cylinder (62kW/122Nm) is also matched to a four-speed auto (same comment applies). These cars weigh about the same so they're equally zippy. Claimed average thirst is identical, too: 5.8L/100km; expect 7L-8L in the real world, as with the Yaris on 91 unleaded.
Six airbags, rear-view camera and rear sensors, city-speed autonomous emergency braking and dusk-sensing headlights are standard. Performs OK for occupant protection (13.14/16, which once would have earned five stars) and the addition of crash avoidance tech is a plus. However, in the view of ANCAP, occupant protection is marginal so it gets a four-star rating.
The base Picanto on 14-inch wheels deals well with bumps and corners. In the GT-Line, the 16-inch alloys and low-profile rubber could have been a backward step - but it's almost as smooth over bumps. Grip in the wet is let down by the Nexen tyres but in the dry it's fine. Four-wheel disc brakes (versus rear drums in the Yaris) endow a precise, reassuring pedal feel.
If you need space, pick the Yaris. If you're comfortable with something slightly smaller, the Picanto has plenty of extra features and more than twice the warranty coverage for the same money.