Not so long ago, little yet luxurious cars were hard to find.

The littlies were synonymous with cheap.

But nowadays, diminutive hatches like the Toyota Yaris we’ve been testing lately are often selected for assets besides low sticker prices and running costs.

In these congested times, they’re so easy to live with — agile, easy to park and, arguably, more fun to drive at suburban speeds than heavier vehicles.

And many of today’s buyers are happy to pay a premium on such cars if they come with a sense of fashion, sportiness or luxury.

Enter the ZR, the premium five-door hatch version of the tried-and-tested Yaris, whose range was recently refreshed.

While a buyer can get into a Yaris 1.3-litre manual hatch from as little as $15,690 plus on-roads, the ZR is an additional $7000.

The ZR gets a punchier 1.5-litre engine and automatic transmission, both essentials for most premium buyers.

Together, these additions account for about $3500 of the price difference.

And there’s much more than $3500 worth of aesthetic and technological additions as well.

The exterior gets sportier body treatments, such as a diffuser, a spoiler and side skirts, 15-inch alloy wheels and LED sports headlamps with auto levelling.

The cabin is jazzed up too — with well-sculpted, striped front seats and a sports three-spoke steering wheel.

These features complement a superbly designed cockpit that makes driving and operating the infotainment system a breeze.

All hatch models get this set-up, though the ZR adds features such as satellite navigation and voice control.

A highlight of the six-speaker infotainment system is a bright 6.1-inch touch screen which provides touch, drag and flick operations — just like a smart phone or tablet.

Other pluses include a reversing camera, SUNA traffic information channel and Toyota Link. The latter, which contains in-built apps, connects to smart phones to help occupants find a destination, fuel, weather details and other information as well as roadside and other assistance.

There’s also Bluetooth phone connection and audiostreaming as well as brilliantly ergonomic steering-wheel controls.

The Yaris is fun to drive in city traffic, being light, agile and offering good visibility.

The auto transmission has four speeds compared with the five to seven speeds offered by most rivals. However, it still operates pretty smoothly.

The Yaris offers reassurance with its excellent safety, reliability, resale value and fixed-price servicing regime, the six in the first three years costing just $130 each.

However, Toyota lags behind some rivals in its three-year warranty and lack of free roadside assistance.

If buying a Kia Rio, for example, warranty is seven years and so is fixed-price servicing and free roadside help (provided the servicing is done at a Kia dealer).

There are lots of classy offerings around the Yaris ZR’s price in the light-hatch domain. See the trio in the adjoining table plus also consider the likes of the Kia Rio 1.6 SLi ($21,990), Citroen C3 Seduction ($22,990) and Renault Clio Dynamique ($23,790).

Also look out for the coming new-generation Mazda2.

If it’s a light car with a lick of luxury that takes your fancy, these days you’re spoilt for choice.

© The West Australian

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