What's New for 2011
The Toyota Yaris sees only one minor change for 2011: an extension added to the sun visor.
Just a few years ago, you couldn't buy a small economy car without facing big shortcomings in areas like feature content and refinement. These days, many models offer stylish cabins, agreeable driving dynamics and upscale amenities like Bluetooth and satellite radio. The 2011 Toyota Yaris is a car that's in step with this trend, even though it falls short of leading it.
Budget-car shoppers are looking for a choice that's frugal to operate and easy to live with, and the Yaris delivers on both these fronts. While its 106-horsepower, 1.5-liter engine is no overachiever when it comes to performance, the four-cylinder boasts as much as 32 mpg EPA combined, and this marks the Yaris as a strong candidate for those who prefer inexpensive trips to the gas station. This small car also has a comfortable ride, and once you factor in its attractive interior, wide variety of body styles (the lineup consists of a sedan and two hatchbacks) and Toyota's reputation for reliability, it's easy to see why the Yaris is a worthy pick among economy-car alternatives.
Still, "worthy" isn't quite the same as "class-leading," and there are deficiencies that prevent the Yaris from setting the pace in its class. While acceleration is acceptable with the manual transmission, the car's volume-selling four-speed automatic is a poor match for its unambitious engine, resulting in performance that can feel decidedly sluggish in certain driving situations. Yaris hatchbacks also offer significantly less cargo capacity than some rivals.
With rivals like the Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Mazda 2, Nissan Versa and Suzuki SX4, the Toyota Yaris runs with a very talented pack. The Ford Fiesta and Mazda 2 are the front runners for drivers seeking the sportiest choice, with the Fiesta also managing to equal (with a manual transmission) and top (with an automatic) the Yaris in combined mileage. Drivers seeking the most utility will appreciate the Fit, along with the SX4 and Versa hatchbacks; the Fit and SX4 offer more than twice the cargo space of Yaris hatchbacks, with the Versa not too far behind. Overall, the Toyota Yaris boasts some sterling attributes, but given its competition, it ends up being lost in the crowd.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Toyota Yaris is a subcompact economy car that is available as a three-door hatchback, five-door hatchback and four-door sedan. Each body style comes in just one trim: base. 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), 15-inch wheels, a rear-window wiper for hatchback 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, iPod integration, sport seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Stand-alone options include foglights and cruise control.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive 2011 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 an Edmunds 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 superb fuel economy of the Toyota Yaris 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 29/35/31 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 2011 Toyota Yaris hatchbacks feature cramped rear seats, but the optional slide/recline function adds a bit more comfort to compensate. The sedan measures 18.7 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.
Every Yaris model features a center-mounted instrument panel. 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 negatives include the lack of a telescoping steering wheel and the fact that hatchback models don't offer 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.
With the rear seats up, each of the two hatchbacks offers just over 9 cubic feet of luggage space, less than half of what a Fit can hold. Lowering the rear seats reveals 26 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, Nissan Versa and Suzuki SX4.
On the open road, the 2011 Toyota Yaris feels solid, while in the city, the quick, light-effort 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. As a sensible daily commuter car, though, the Yaris should meet the needs of most drivers.