There’s a certain type of driver who values qualities like efficiency and reliability above all else. It’s this type of driver you’re likely to see in the Toyota dealership, checking out the subcompact Yaris.
The Yaris is a highly efficient piece of machinery on several levels, beginning with the modest price of admission: $14,370 for the base L model. Thanks to its tall profile and hatchback design, the 4-door version seats four adults comfortably, five in a pinch — with easy access and egress. The luggage compartment swallows 15.6 cubic feet of luggage. Lower both sides of the split back seat and the Yaris becomes a 2-seater with 25.7 cubic feet of cargo room. And it delivers as much as 38 mpg on the highway, or 35 with the optional 4-speed automatic transmission.
Other strengths include exceptional reliability, high marks for crash protection, and Toyota’s massive dealer network.
Compared with major competitors like the Hyundai Accent, Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta and Honda Fit, the Yaris is less powerful and less athletic. All Yarises are equipped with a 1.5-liter, 106-horsepower, 4-cylinder engine. There are two transmission choices: the 4-speed automatic in the Yaris we test-drove, and a 5-speed stick shift.
For young people buying their first new car, the Yaris may not be the first choice because of its class-trailing horsepower rating and its transmission alternatives, which fall short of the 5- and 6-speed gearboxes offered by Hyundai and others.
The archaic transmissions also limit the Yaris’s fuel-economy potential to 30/35, and 30/38 with the stick shift. Still, the Yaris’s mileage is the same or better than other low-priced subcompacts.
Toyota also isn’t in the habit of loading up its cars with standard features at a low price, as is the practice of Hyundai and Kia.
Still, the Yaris is a pleasant enough driver if one doesn’t expect excitement or pampering. The ride is composed and quiet, the engine unobtrusive except under hard acceleration, when it becomes loud and buzzy. While the Yaris is a true subcompact, it feels fairly roomy inside, and even rear-seat passengers don’t feel cramped. (Our 6-foot driver did find himself wishing for another inch or two of leg room. This was not a problem in the 2012 Hyundai Accent we test-drove in 2011.)
Our Blazing Blue Pearl Yaris was the midlevel LE version, with a sticker price of $15,955 plus $795 destination fee. Its standard features included power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, cruise control and audio controls on the steering wheel. Few options are offered. They range in price from $26 for an ashtray kit to $395 for paint-protection film.
No longer available in sedan trim, the Yaris is available as a 2-door or 4-door hatchback. It is rated much better than average in reliability, according to Consumer Reports magazine owner surveys. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ranked the Yaris a Top Safety Pick.
Steven Macoy (email@example.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
Engine: 1.5-liter inline Four, 106 horsepower, 103 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Weight: 2,315 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear
Wheels: 15-in. steel
Tires: P175/65R15 88H
Luggage capacity: 15.6 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 25.7 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 11.1 gal.
Fuel economy: 30 mpg city, 35 highway
Fuel type: Regular unleaded gasoline