PROS Super fuel economy, Highly maneuverable, Great prices
CONS Center-mounted gauges, Small hatch area, Too noisy
Yaris replaced Echo in 2007 and is Toyota's smallest car. It's a traditional subcompact that competes with vehicles like the Chevrolet Aveo, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, Nissan Versa, and Suzuki SX4. For 2009, Toyota has added a four-door hatchback to the existing lineup that includes a two-door hatch and a four-door sedan.
The sedan has a 100.4-inch wheelbase. Both hatchbacks ride on a 96.9-inch wheelbase. For comparison sake, most subcompacts have a 97- to 98-inch wheelbase.
Each body style is offered in Base and S trim. All have front-wheel drive and come with a 106-horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Transmission choices include a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic.
Standard safety features on all models include antilock brakes, tire-pressure monitor, emergency inside trunk release on the sedan and dual-front, front-side, and curtain-side airbags.
The Base model starts at $12,965 and includes air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, cloth upholstery, front bucket seats, height-adjustable driver seat (sedan), folding-rear seat (hatchback), tachometer, intermittent wipers, cargo cover (hatchback), 175/65R14 tires, and wheel covers.
The S model starts at $14,025 and adds to the S leather-wrapped steering wheel (hatchback), split-folding rear seat (sedan), AM/FM/CD/MP3 player with digital-media player connection, rear defogger, rear wiper (hatchback), fog lights, rear spoiler, and 185/60R15 tires.
2009 Toyota Yaris Base 4-door hatchback
Base Price: $13,305
As-Tested Price: 17.094
Built in Japan.
Remote Keyless Entry
Carpeted Floor Mats
Engine: DOHC 1.5-liter I4
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Drive Wheels: front-wheel drive
Options include power locks, power windows, cruise control, keyless entry, theft-deterrent system, and intermittent wipers. The Yaris is assembled in Japan and carries a $750 destination charge.
Get Up and Go Yaris seems to be quicker off the line than both the Honda Fit and Hyundai Accent. Still, acceleration is leisurely. With automatic transmission, Yaris accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in about 10.5 seconds. When equipped with the manual the 0 to 60 time drops to below 10 seconds.
Add a few passengers or a load of cargo and the engine struggles in passing situations or when climbing hills. In addition, the automatic transmission reacts slowly when called upon to downshift in passing situations.
Yaris' forte is fuel economy. It runs fine on regular-grade gasoline and the automatic model is EPA rated at 29 mpg city and 35 mpg highway. Those numbers are slightly better than competitors'. Real-world driving will confirm that the Yaris regularly averages more than 30 mpg. In fact, the Yaris might be the most fuel-efficient, non-hybrid, gasoline-powered car sold in North America.
On the Road Though Yaris is a small car with a short wheelbase, it has a solid structure, supple suspension, and modestly sized tires. That combo yields a composed and comfortable ride that is more mature than most rivals. There's still some wallow over potholes, but the Yaris seems to be more refined that competitors.
Though not as sporty as the Fit, Yaris can be fun to drive. It's maneuverable and has delightfully accurate steering. The tires don't have enough cornering grip and there's too much body lean to call Yaris sporty, but overall it's more competent that you might expect.
Toyota made antilock brakes standard for 2009 and that's a great safety feature that buyers in this class will appreciate.
Like most subcompacts, Yaris isn't the quietest highway cruiser. Above 70 mph, there's too much wind rush and the engine buzzes annoyingly. Road noise also joins the fray on grooved concrete surfaces. Thankfully, Yaris cruises quietly around town.
Behind the Wheel Yaris sports an interior that's mostly functional and utilitarian. That said, the overall appearance is pleasant. Most materials are on par with competitors and assembly quality is better than expected given the price point.
The instruments are mounted in the center of the dash top, meaning drivers have to divert their eyes from the road longer to check speed and fuel level. While this move might save a few dollars, it comes at the expense of safety, which isn't a good thing.
Otherwise, the interior is arranged in a thoughtful manner. Radio and climate controls are large, clearly marked, and easy for both driver and passenger to operate. Window, lock, and mirror switches are conveniently located.
The front seats are typical subcompact fare, meaning they are slightly undersized for American tastes and a little short on overall comfort. Still, they do provide a modicum of support and are comfortable enough on short trips.
NHTSA Crash-Test Results, 2009 Toyota Yaris 4-door hatch
|Front Impact, Driver ||4 Stars|
|Front Impact, Passenger ||4 Stars|
|Side Impact, Driver ||4 Stars|
|Side Impact, Rear Passenger ||4 Stars|
|Rollover Resistance ||4 Stars|
Toyota omitted a center armrest, which adds to driver discomfort on longer trips. Front-seat head room is good, but taller drivers and passengers will want a bit more seat travel and might feel that the pedals are too close. Visibility is great to all directions.
Rear-seat room is better than expected for a subcompact. Hatchbacks have seats that move fore and aft to increase leg room or cargo space. Though tight, you can sit three children in the back with enough comfort that they won't complain.
Cargo space on hatchback models is quite limited--unless you drop the rear seats. Sedan models have a decent-size trunk though the trunk hinges intrude on cargo space. Interior storage is quite impressive with twin glove boxes and numerous open storage bins.
Bottom Line As with other subcompacts, Yaris was built to a price point. Still, Yaris feels a bit more refined than most competitors and that's a good thing. It's also very fuel efficient while still providing adequate performance.
Base prices are quite reasonable and Yaris comes with Toyota's reputation for quality and reliability. In addition, Toyota offers three different body styles to meet a wide range of consumer needs. If you are in the market for a frugal small car, then make sure you give Yaris a test drive before you buy.