The Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corporation launched the 3- and 5-door hatchback subcompact vehicle called the Toyota Vitz in 1998. Toyota Vitz is in its third generation and the name Toyota Vitz has consistently been used in Japanese market since its first appearance. However, in some of the regions outside Japan, it is sold Toyota Yaris. The first generation was also sold as Toyota Echo in some countries.
The figures collected in 2010 shows that more than 3.5 million units of Vitz sold in about 70 countries of first two generations where 1.4 million sales were recorded only in Japanese market.
First Generation (XP10; 1998–2005)
The first generation officially went on sale in Japan in January 1999 while the production began in 1998. The first generation Vitz was designed at Toyota’s ED2 studio in Europe by Sotiris Kovos. The Vitz went on sale in European market two months after its appearance in the Japanese market as Toyota Yaris, while it was introduced in Australia in October 1999 as Toyota Echo.
The car was first revealed at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1997 as a concept model. The concept was given the name ‘Funtime’ and was built under the supervision of Shuhei Toyoda. The term ‘Vitz’ is taken from German word for ‘brilliance’ or ‘wit’. Further, the company states that the devised name ‘Yaris’ is used to depict a European impression and the name ‘Echo’ is used to Echo nothing.
Unlike the previous models by Toyota that came with the analogue instruments, the Vitz offered with digital instruments fixed in a ‘pod’ in the center of the dashboard. However, the Vitz when offered in the Canadian market, it was available with traditional speedometer, fixed in the center of the dashboard.
Second Generation (XP90; 2005–2010)
In 2005, the second generation redesigned model of Vitz was launched in Japan. Although, Toyota Belta shared a lot with Vitz, both were designed at different facilities, i.e. the Belta being designed at Japanese design studios, while the Vitz was designed at the European ED2 design studios. Except for sheet metal, the other features such as frame and drivetrain were similar in both Vitz and Belta.
In late 2005, the second generation Vitz was launched in the European, Australian, Canadian, Mexican, Venezuelan and Puerto Rican markets. The vehicle was offered for the first time under the name Yaris in Australia and North American markets. In January 2006, the production version of Yaris for the US market was unleashed at the Los Angeles Auto Show. XP90 series of Vitz is assembled in Japan, France and Thailand.
In the new generation model, the new 3-cylinder engine replaced the earlier 4-cylinder 1.0-L VVT-i engine used in the Toyota Aygo. The stop and start feature was introduced in 1.33-L engine offered in the European versions in 2009. Also, nine airbags were used for the first time in any Yaris.
Third Generation (XP130; 2010–present)
On December22, 2010, the third generation Vitz XP130 was unleashed by Toyota in Yokohama, Japan. In Europe and certain other countries, the Vitz XP130 will make its debut somewhere around the end of 2011.
In the XP130, a new 1.3-L engine is added and Toyota claims that it will prove more economical than the previous 1.0-L engine. Some other features offered in new generation model include a single windscreen wiper and start/stop system.
At Geneva Motor Show held in March 2011, Toyota brought its Yaris HSD Concept with a hybrid powertrain. According to Toyota, this hybrid version will be available for sale in Europe by 2012.