“A great little car around town” was the verdict of Falklands war veteran Simon Weston OBE, after trying out the new-style Toyota Yaris 1.0-litre T2 for a week in the run-up to the Mobility Roadshow 2003. The three-day event takes place at Castle Donington, Derbyshire from Thursday 12 June, and for the third year running Simon will be on the Toyota stand to talk to visitors about solutions to mobility problems.
The restyled Toyota Yaris and Yaris Verso models, launched in May, feature enhancements in terms of engine specification, safety features, equipment and handling. The entry-level model Simon drove had also been fitted with a number of special adaptations for disabled drivers, including hand controls, a steering ball and a swivel seat, and will be at the Mobility Roadshow for visitors to inspect.
“Hand controls take a bit of getting used to for someone who has the use of their legs, and the steering ball is brilliant,” says Simon, who has some problems with his hands. Simon considers the Yaris ideal for many of the 80 per cent of Motability clients who have disabilities that require no major adaptations, or who are carers.
“It’s a great urban runabout,” he says. “It has a brilliant turning circle and is very easy to manoeuvre.” Front and rear suspension settings have been changed on the new models to enhance manoeuvrability as well as ride comfort. “Parking is great – if you can find a disabled bay that isn’t parked in by the uncaring and unthinking, you can pop into it and have a street party in the space left over!”
The Yaris may measure a parking-friendly 3.6m from bumper to bumper, yet it offers 2.5cu m of cabin space and more than 15 litres of cabin storage, spread around 12 different compartments.
Simon enjoyed the Yaris experience both around town and on the open road. “I found the car an absolute dream to drive. And the economy is great – certainly someone on a limited income, which the majority of disabled people are, would find it absolutely brilliant.”
The Yaris range has the most efficient engine line-up in the supermini class, including a new 86bhp 1.3-litre petrol engine for hatchbacks and the 1.4-litre D-4D common rail diesel. Upgraded 1.5-litre models and the 1.0-litre Simon drove complete the line-up. All now comply with EURO IV emissions regulations for 2005.
The T2 was also equipped with an innovative economy device, the Multi-mode Manual Transmission, which is optional on 1.0-litre models. MMT offers the choice of clutchless sequential gearshifts or fully automatic operation, in which mode it is more fuel-efficient than the standard five-speed manual gearbox.
“I love the MMT transmission because, as with an automatic, it allows you to concentrate on the road,” says Simon. “And the second you stop, it goes straight down to first gear.”
The central instrument panel layout was new to Simon. “I’ve never seen anything like it before but it was very clear. All-round visibility was great and the handbrake dead easy.” The Yaris range also has ABS and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and rear-seat three-point seatbelts fitted as standard on all models, making it a class leader in safety since its launch.
“The Yaris and Yaris Verso versions have proved popular on the Motability scheme and the improved 2003 models are set to carry on that trend. We also intend to keep it price competitive for Motability customers,” says Tim Copland, Toyota’s National Leasing, Rental & Special Sales Manager, who is responsible for Motability sales. “Motability is not only about access and wheelchair stowage for many customers, they also want what everyone else wants – style, performance, economy and safety.
Notes to Editors
Simon Weston saw active service in Berlin, Northern Ireland and Kenya and was aboard the Sir Galahad with the Falklands Task Force when it was bombed by Argentine aircraft in 1982. His resulting burns required a series of operations, which continue to this day. A writer and broadcaster, he was awarded the OBE in 1992 for his charitable work, including his youth charity Weston Spirit.
Around eight million people in the UK have mobility problems. The 1.57 million of these who receive the Higher Rate Mobility Component of the Disability Living Allowance qualify for assistance under the car-provision scheme run by the charitable body Motability. Some 400,000 people currently run vehicles obtained through Motability, which can also provide charitable grants to cover adaptations or advance payments in cases of severe hardship.
Toyota Motability Contract Hire covers a three-year/45,000 mile period and includes cost of routine servicing and maintenance, fully comprehensive insurance and RAC Membership including Roadside Assistance, Home Start and loss of use cover. Some 3% of Motability clients opt to buy new or used cars on HP, which includes the RAC membership package for one year. Most Toyota vehicles are available under the Motability scheme, but the Yaris, Corolla and Verso versions of both are the most popular choices.
The majority of Toyota dealerships have Motability First Class accreditation, which means that they have suitable facilities for disabled visitors and trained specialist staff to make them feel welcome and to advise on vehicles and adaptations to controls.
More customer information on the Toyota Motability scheme is available from local Toyota dealerships, the Toyota Mobility helpline, 0845 602 1727 or the Toyota website www.toyota.co.uk
To pre-arrange an interview with Simon Weston or Tim Copland at the Mobility Roadshow please contact Sam Williams in the Toyota Press Office on 01737 367307 or, from 11 June, on 07909 9000 85.