Toyota has launched its third generation Vitz in Japan – it’s called the Yaris elsewhere stressing the “outstanding” fuel efficiency of 26.5 km/L – thanks to a new start-stop system – in the government 10-15 test cycle.

The model is also built at Toyota’s plant in France but won’t be launched here in Europe until around the third quarter of 2011, according to an insider, who said there would be styling and suspension changes for Europe. Diesel and hybrid engine alternatives will also feature here and manual transmissions will also dominate; the Japanese line is all-automatic.

Since launch of the first-generation in 1999, the Vitz/Yaris has booked cumulative sales in over 70 markets of 3.5m units, 1.4m of those sold in Japan. 

The B-segment car is 100mm (four inches) longer on a wheelbase stretched 50mm has been completely restyled inside and out and now has a single front screen wiper with integrated washer nozzle, like the A-segment Aygo made in a JV with PSA in the Czech Republic. Toyota said this improves wiping performance.

Japanese buyers will be offered 1.0-, 1.3- and 1.5-litre petrol engines, all with CVT transmissions, optional start-stop and four wheel drive packages, four equipment levels, 17 body colours, four interior colours and special driver and/or front passenger seating/equipment to suit disabled occupants. Monthly sales target there is 10,000 units and assembly is at the Nagakusa plant of Toyota Industries Corporation.

Interior length has been extended 35 mm to 1,915 mm, front seats with wider adjustment range use a new frame that enhances comfort and the rear seats have 35 mm more legroom. 

The cargo space is 145 mm deeper and a new adjustable deck board can be set at two heights. 

The passenger seat has a plastic barrier that can be used to prevent handbags or other items from falling forward off the seat.  Shopping bags and such can be hooked to the top of the barrier, which can also be used to keep an umbrella in place. 

As announced earlier, the redesigned Vitz is the first vehicle in the world to use UV-reducing glass in the front-door glass that reduces 99% of ultraviolet light, providing the same level of UV protection as wearing gloves. 

The single windshield wiper works with an integrated washer nozzle that improves wiping performance.

Other standard or optional equipment includes automatic headlights, colour rear view monitor and HDD navigation system with steering wheel audio switches. 

Stop-start, which Toyota calls Smart Stop, is offered with the 1.3-litre petrol engine and two wheel drive. The engine restarts in 0.35 seconds. The 1.3-litre models now have the 1NR-FE engine with dual variable valve timing. 

Electronic brake force distribution and ABS are standard on all models. Front, side and curtain airbags are standard and a whiplash injury lessening front seat system adds backrest-give and head and back support for more protection in a rear end collision.