What's New for 2010
The 2010 Toyota Yaris includes stability and traction control as standard features, and a manual transmission is now offered on the five-door hatchback. Also, the S trim level has been eliminated in favor of an optional Sport package.
As far as economy cars go, the expectations are admittedly quite low. With frugality being the central focus, this segment has traditionally been saddled with unimpressive performance, cut-rate interiors and meager standard-features lists. As the class evolves, increasingly stiff competition has forced manufacturers to provide more consumer enticement. As such, many of today's entry-level cars offer relatively upscale features and conveniences, along with respectable refinement and performance.
The Toyota Yaris exemplifies this economy-car progression. Introduced a few years ago, it offers a stylish and roomy interior, decent performance and a features list that will likely satisfy most buyers shopping in this segment. For 2010, Toyota ups the ante just slightly, by including stability and traction control on all Yaris models. Other changes include the elimination of the S trim level for a simpler buying process, and the availability of a manual transmission on five-door hatchback models.
These improvements bolster the Yaris' standing as a solid economy-car choice. The 1.5-liter, 106-horsepower engine isn't going to wow you with quick acceleration, but its fuel economy -- up to 36 mpg on the highway -- just might. Other assets include a comfortable ride, easy-to-drive dynamics, the availability of three body styles (a sedan and two hatchbacks), moderate pricing, playful styling and Toyota's reputation for reliability.
Still, when stacked against rivals like the Honda Fit, Kia Rio, Nissan Versa and Scion xD, the Yaris is relegated to midpack status. The Yaris' cargo capacity pales in comparison to that offered by these competitors. The Toyota also lacks the Honda Fit's fun-to-drive nature and versatile cargo configurations, while the Scion holds more appeal to the younger crowd with its funky styling and youth-oriented features. In the end, the 2010 Toyota Yaris remains a sensible choice, but the competitive field holds the advantage.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Toyota Yaris is a subcompact economy car that is available as a three-door hatchback, five-door hatchback and four-door sedan. Standard features include 14-inch steel wheels, intermittent windshield wipers, air-conditioning, four-way-adjustable front seats and a tilt steering wheel. The sedan adds a few items over the hatchbacks, like a tachometer, a height-adjustable driver seat and a remote trunk release. Speakers are pre-wired, but a radio is not offered as standard equipment.
Most options are grouped into progressive packages with only a few stand-alone features available. The Convenience package adds 60/40-split rear seats (slide/recline for the hatchbacks), a rear window wiper for sedan models and a CD/MP3 player with auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio. The Power package includes the Convenience package items and tacks on power accessories and keyless entry. The Sport package adds to the Power package with exterior styling enhancements, 15-inch wheels, foglights, iPod integration, sport seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Stand-alone options include 15-inch alloy wheels, foglights and cruise control.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive 2010 Toyota Yaris is powered by a 1.5-liter inline-4 engine with an output of 106 hp and 103 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, with a four-speed automatic available as an option. In a recent test, a Yaris with an automatic transmission took a leisurely 10.7 seconds to reach 60 mph -- which is on the slow side, relative to the competition. The manual transmission offers just a bit more pep.
The Yaris' class-leading fuel economy is one of its strongest selling points. At an EPA-estimated 29 mpg city/36 mpg highway and 32 mpg combined, the manual-equipped Yaris sips less gas than most of the competition. Opting for the automatic drops these numbers to 29/25/31 mpg.
Standard safety features include antilock brakes and side curtain airbags, as well as traction and stability control. In government testing, the Yaris sedan scored four out of five stars for frontal- and side-impact protection for all occupants. In frontal crash tests, the three- and five-door hatchbacks scored five stars for driver protection and four stars for passenger protection; side-impact tests netted five stars for front passenger protection and three stars for those in the rear. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Yaris sedan its highest score of "Good" for frontal- and side-impact protection for all occupants.
Interior Design and Special Features
Both 2010 Toyota Yaris hatchbacks feature cramped rear seats, but the optional slide/recline function adds a bit more comfort to compensate. The sedan measures 20 inches longer than the hatchbacks, offering a reasonably spacious cabin for a subcompact. Styling differs slightly between the sedan and the hatchbacks, with the sedan being more sedate.
All Yaris models feature a center-mounted instrument panel that has drawn many complaints from our editors over the years. These gauges require a glance away from the road in order to read them, and legibility is further hampered by the fact that the faces are not angled toward the driver. Other faults include the lack of a telescoping steering wheel and driver seat height adjustment.
Relative to sedan models, Yaris hatchbacks offer certain advantages when it comes to design and storage capacity. They feature three gloveboxes to the sedan's single bin, and they also receive a chic, narrow center stack that tapers down almost to a point.
With the rear seats up, each of the two hatchbacks offers just 10 cubic feet of luggage space, about half of what a Fit can hold. Lowering the rear seats reveals 25.7 cubic feet of cargo room, which is again small for the hatchback class. The sedan offers 12.9 cubic feet of luggage capacity – less than competing sedans like the Ford Focus and Nissan Versa.
On the open road, the 2010 Toyota Yaris feels solid, while in the city, the light and quick steering makes parking lot maneuvers a breeze. The engine is quiet when driven gingerly, but it can become rather loud and buzzy when pushed harder. Power is adequate for merging and passing on the highway, but is not at all suited for more spirited driving (nor is the lack of steering feel). As a sensible daily commuter car, though, the Yaris should meet the needs of most drivers.