If, for some reason, budget cars and bargain-bin superminis make you whip out your MacBook and hammer at the keyboard on internet forums about your excitement, well, it's been a great month for you. And this really happens. Visit some popular local automotive online gathering holes and you'll see discussion after discussion about the "awsum new Sunny, it's so gr8, lol" or "OMG did u guys c da new Camry!!!".
Personally (and when I say personally I mean collectively), the only small cars that excite wheels have manual gearboxes or are a Mazda 2.
But we don't buy these things — except for Sony Thomas who benchmarks everything against his 2011 Yaris and only the BMW M5 he reviewed last week made him reluctantly admit it's better than his car — so the manufacturers don't care. They listen to the scores of people who drive out of their showrooms in brand new superminis and then give them more of the same the next time they need to buy a vehicle. And that's exactly what happened with the 2012 Toyota Yaris.
So everyone who's bought a Yaris before and was a subject of a marketing focus group, did you actually go there and tell Toyota's people that you'd be perfectly happy with an underpowered, last-generation powertrain, while the rest of the world gets a brand new contemporary 1.5-litre with stop-start technology and some actual horsepower? You did? OK then, that's what you get.
And don't complain that in America they get to potter around their vast freeways with sufficient power to complete an overtaking move thanks to 106bhp, while we're stuck in the slow lane, desperately accelerating but running out of road because our exit is coming up. That's 87 horsepower for you…
And you know what's even funnier? The official Toyota Middle East press material on the 2012 Yaris is 1,212 words long and yet there isn't a single mention of the engine. Not one. Is somebody embarrassed?
That's it though. The car is slow and that's where the ridicule ends. Everything else about the new Yaris is top-class and regardless of any of my preceding or succeeding words, the thing will sell like lamps at Diwali.
But in the interest of objective car journalism, here's what else the Yaris brings to the table. Sony was kind enough to offer me his beloved ("The second-best car in the world," in his words) for a back-to-back comparison and it's quite obvious that the new Yaris looks different. This metallic blue hue may throw you off, concealing the changes, but in fact every panel has been redesigned with a totally new rear end (the registration plate now sits on the tailgate instead of the bumper) and a well executed front. The lights streak stylishly back instead of gazing straight ahead with a dimwit look like the old car.
It's also bigger, with a 50mm longer wheelbase and 100mm added to the overall length. This doesn't mean that you'll be more comfortable inside, as Toyota chose to devote this added space to the cargo area. But because of the Yaris' airy cabin and thin pillars, as well as a high roofline offering loads of head room, the thing feels quite accommodating for its front passengers; despite actually being 15mm lower (that's good for aerodynamics and fuel economy).
Thankfully the speedo now also found its rightful place right behind the steering wheel, which happens to be awesome to hold thanks to its chunky rim, small diameter and thumb placement. It's sweet to use too because the Yaris' turning circle is a miniscule 4.8m. It can just about do the crab walk. Speed up though and it becomes immediately apparent that it's much too light, but buyers don't care. They must have said so in the focus group.
Toyota also added a thicker anti-roll bar, which is the cheater's way to achieving better handling. It's not noticeably tighter but the 2012 Yaris is still eager to fly into corners at suicidal speeds and then scrub off the excess somewhere along the way. Yes, there is obviously plenty of body roll (US cars get bigger and wider rubber, we get 14in or 15in wheels and tyres) and this is not about performance at all, but it's nice to know that the Yaris exhibits at least some zeal for fun.
With a competitive equipment list including dual airbags, ABS (more than its rivals can say) and even a clever single wiper to save weight, the Yaris also throws in six-speaker audio, Bluetooth and phone controls on the wheel, electric windows and remote entry as standard. Go for the sporty trim, and Toyota adds bigger wheels, novelty spoilers and fog lamps.
It costs more than its main rivals but people who buy the Yaris have a shopping list one-line long. And when you get yours, be sure to rush online to the aforementioned ‘car' forums and... "OMG, my new Yaris roolz LOL!"
Engine 1.3-litre four-cylinder
Transmission Four-speed auto, FWD
Max power 87bhp @ 6,000rpm
Max torque 121Nm @ 4,400rpm
Top speed 170kph
Price Dh51,000 (base)
Plus Cheap and sensible motoring, equipment
Minus Dynamics, powertrain