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The 2012 Yaris will also have a much improved interior. (Toyota)
The 2012 Yaris will also have a much improved interior. (Toyota)

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Auto Buzz: Toyota shows off next-gen Yaris Add to ...

The British arm of Toyota has revealed what the next-generation Yaris hatchback will look like, and early photos and online reaction suggest the subcompact five-door is a styling hit.

The smallest of Toyota's small cars - at least until the Scion iQ arrives by the end of the year - has been hit hard in the Canadian market by much fresher entrants such as the Hyundai Accent and Ford Fiesta. Both of these subcompacts offer hotter designs and fresher interiors and features, compared to the once dominant but now rapidly fading Yaris.

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The new 2012 Yaris will fight back with not only sharpened looks, but a much improved interior that dispenses with the centre-mounted dials that became its signature interior feature - and common source of mocking. The new highlight inside is a high-end touch-screen stereo that offers Bluetooth, USB input and a rear-view camera, while a GPS system is also available to U.K. buyers.

More questionable is whether North American models will feature the continuously variable transmission instead of a usual automatic and which engines will make it here. U.K. buyers get a choice of a 1.0-litre four making a paltry 68 hp, a 1.4-litre diesel that will pump out 89 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque, and a 1.33-litre gasoline four that makes 98 hp and 92 lb-ft of torque.

The 1.3-litre mill sounds most realistic for North America, suggesting that Toyota will sacrifice performance for fuel economy in this price-conscious sector. The CVT and 1.3-litre drivetrain combo in the new Yaris will deliver an overall average of 4.8 litres/100 km, Toyota says.

Ford has already confirmed that it will offer a 1.0-litre, turbocharged, EcoBoost three-cylinder engine in North America and around the world that will replace its 1.6-litre engine with similar power and better fuel economy. The firm showed it in a crossover derivative of the Fiesta at the Geneva auto show in the spring, and says it will reveal more specifics on power, fuel economy and where it's headed and when at the Frankfurt show in September.

The next-gen Yaris will be available by then in Europe, but likely won't come to Canada until the end of this year or early 2012.

Infiniti's slow tease with crossover

Nissan's upscale brand is slowly unveiling teaser images on Infiniti's Facebook page of its upcoming JX seven-seat crossover, which will culminate in the JX's complete unveiling at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in August.

Infiniti will reveal seven teasers in total over the summer, a new one every Thursday for seven weeks until the wraps come off August 18 at the famed seaside golf course. But, because the large crossover won't be on sale until spring next year, Infiniti says its "official" debut won't be until the Los Angeles auto show in November.

The JX will be built at Nissan's Smyrna facility in Tennessee, which also plans to add the all-electric Leaf by the end of 2012, Carlos Tavares said at the L.A. show last year. He was Nissan's head of the Americas then, before becoming COO of Renault in late May.

Only U.S. fleets will get iQ EV

Confusion seems to be the order of the day with Toyota's electric vehicle plans in the United States. After a Pike Research note that came out last week suggested that the RAV4 would only be available to fleet buyers, the research company said that Toyota had more recently contacted it to say that it was in fact the Scion iQ EV that will be available to fleets only.

Pike Research told the autoblog.com site that Toyota had previously told it that it would be the RAV4 EV that would be fleet only, but a corrected version of the report has since appeared on Pike's website.

Of course, all this is academic for Canadians until Toyota Canada confirms whether it will attempt to sell any BEV (battery electric vehicles) in this country, either next year or at all. It never brought in the first-generation RAV4 EV.

Although Toyota's desire to push hybrids including plug-in hybrids as the best green solution is well documented, with Nissan and Mitsubishi Canada planning to market their BEVs here by the end of the year, and GM launching its Volt extended range EV by fall, the pressure's on to see if Toyota here can maintain its hard-fought reputation for environmental technology leadership.

Gilles sings praises of Dodge Magnum

Although nothing official has been announced, Chrysler design chief Ralph Gilles sung the praises of the Dodge Magnum wagon recently, fuelling speculation that there may be a resurrection in order for the full-size wagon.

Gilles told The New York Times that the Magnum "was single-handedly killed by one executive who is no longer with the company," but that the car had a lot of fans in the company, as well as with buyers, who owned, displayed and customized the "swagger wagon"' in droves.

"A lot of things that weren't possible back then, now are," said the report, since picked up and widely disseminated online by reports in trade journal Automotive News and consumer site autoweek.com.

Gilles, who is now looking after establishing the SRT brand, admits both the brand and the firm need an entry-level vehicle, with spy shots suggesting a new one is coming to replace the Dodge Caliber hatchback.

"Stay tuned," he told the Times. "Great things are coming. That's all I can say."

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