Toyota’s little Yaris hasn’t exactly set the U.S. market sales charts on fire, but it will soon get some help thanks to a refresh for the 2012 model year. We haven’t seen a U.S.-spec Yaris yet, but Toyota has released images and a little info on the Vitz, which is essentially a Japanese-market Yaris.
With a couple more years beneath its belt, the maturity has earned the Vitz/Yaris a sharper appearance. The front end now sports a version of the current Toyota front grille and a less soft-looking front fascia.
As seen in recent spy shots, the Vitz/Yaris has grown a bit, mainly to provide a bit more accommodation space for passengers. The revised three- and five-door body package is now 153 inches long; the lengthier U.S.-spec sedan will probably see no change in dimensions.
Inside the liftback and hatch designs, engineers found another 1.4 inches of interior length for some always welcomed legroom. The front seats employ a new frame for improved comfort and the drivers seat was specifically endowed with extra ranges in adjustability for preferred seating positions. The cargo hold is 5.7 inches deeper than before.
Other changes to the Vitz/Yaris include the use of special ultraviolet ray-reducing glass on the front windows that supposedly stops 99 percent of UV light upon contact. The Japanese market Vitz has three small engine options — 1.0-liter, 1.3-liter, and 1.5-liter inline-fours — plus front- or all-wheel drive. The U.S. will likely retain the 1.5-liter four and front-wheel drive arrangement currently in use.
A Smart Stop package is also used overseas to achieve spectacular fuel consumption figures. Based on the Japanese drive cycle, a Vitz fitted with the 1.3-liter engine, continuously variable transmission (standard across the line in Japan), and front-wheel drive is capable of around 62 combined mpg. Once shut off, Toyota says the engine needs just 0.35 second to restart.
Since its launch in 1999, Toyota has sold over 3.5 million Vitz/Yaris models around the world. Back then, we knew it as the Echo. Stateside Yaris fans will have to wait a little while longer for the official confirmation on their favorite subcompact car will arrive here.