Full 2013 Toyota Yaris Review
What's New for 2013
Other than some minor revisions to its standard features, the 2013 Toyota Yaris is unchanged.
If you're shopping for a car to provide pure driving excitement, chances are you're not looking at a subcompact. If you are shopping for a subcompact, you're probably more focused on a reasonable purchase price, excellent fuel economy and low operating costs. Some versatility and an iron-clad reputation for reliability wouldn't hurt either, would it? After last year's total redesign, the 2013 Toyota Yaris can check all of those boxes. It's the Toyota of economy cars, which is hard to ignore, and the recently re-engineered 2013 Yaris is vastly more competitive by almost any measure.
Once the doormat among a crop of very good, recently redesigned small cars, the Yaris now is one of the newest, offering a blend of attributes that makes it much more worthy of consideration. It's almost 3 inches longer, which translates to a noticeable difference for backseat occupants and creates more room in the cargo area. Meanwhile, the driving dynamics are sharper and the ride is refreshingly supple and free of the harshness of the previous model.
If you want a traditional sedan, however, the Yaris can't help; the lineup comprises only hatchbacks, with either two or four doors. The upside: This and Toyota's deliberate strategy to keep a lid on option combinations means that it's pretty easy to buy a Yaris. And the other plus of the downsized options menu means that there's a healthy amount of standard equipment for every Yaris.
True to Toyota's practice, the Yaris' engine isn't the raciest. The 1.5-liter four-cylinder's 106 horsepower is about class-average and falls well short of boisterous power plants such as the 2013 Hyundai Accent's 138-hp four-cylinder. But the Yaris still gets great fuel economy. We wish Toyota would cut loose the Yaris' dated four-speed automatic transmission, though, and can only wonder what kind of fuel economy is achievable with a six-speed automatic that's increasingly common among its contemporaries.
There are suddenly a lot of excellent subcompact cars worth considering. The 2013 Ford Fiesta is a favorite for those who prize sharp responses, and the 2013 Chevrolet Sonic is a versatile package, offering the options of a sedan body and an entertaining turbocharged engine. But after its recent redesign, the 2013 Toyota Yaris is an excellent all-around choice, particularly when you throw in the undeniable assets of Toyota reliability and resale value.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Toyota Yaris is a subcompact economy car available as either a two- or four-door hatchback. The L and LE trims are offered in both these configurations, while the sporty SE trim is offered only as a four-door.
Standard features on the L include 15-inch steel wheels, a rear windshield wiper, power door locks, air-conditioning, four-way-adjustable front seats, a tilt steering wheel, a trip computer, a fold-down rear bench seat, a cargo cover, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB/iPod interface.
With the LE, you also get power windows, remote keyless entry, cruise control, a six-way-adjustable driver seat, auxiliary steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, upgraded interior trim and a 60/40-split fold-down rear seat. Those who opt for the SE trim get a sport-tuned suspension, 16-inch alloy wheels, sportier tires, four-wheel disc brakes, a unique grille, foglamps, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and upgraded cloth upholstery.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive 2013 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. Edmunds tested a Yaris SE with the manual transmission and it required 9.3 seconds to reach 60 mph, a slightly quicker time than average for this class. An automatic-equipped car needs another second and a half to get to 60 mph from a standstill.
EPA estimates for the manual-equipped Yaris are 30 mpg city/37 mpg highway and 33 mpg combined; with the automatic, these numbers dip to 30/36/32 mpg. These numbers are solid, but not class-leading, as the Yaris lacks some of the more sophisticated drivetrain hardware that allows rivals to do better.
Standard safety features include antilock brakes (rear drums for all models except the SE, which gets four-wheel discs), traction and stability control, active front head restraints, front seat side airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag. In Edmunds brake testing, the Yaris stopped from 60 mph in 121 feet, an average distance for this segment.
In government crash testing, the Yaris four-door hatchback received four out of five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for total frontal-impact protection and five stars for total side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Yaris its highest possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Yaris' interior couldn't be simpler or easier to use; there are just a couple of gauges to read and most will appreciate that the large speedometer is placed directly in front of the driver, rather than in the center of the dash as in the previous Yaris. Those worried about a subcompact car affording a low view of the road will find the high-mounted front seats help provide fairly high sight lines, though the lack of a telescoping steering wheel can be a problem for taller drivers. The new-generation Yaris' extra length means there's a refreshing amount of rear-seat legroom, while even those of above-average height will find acceptable headroom in back.
Although the plastics and upholstery in the 2013 Toyota Yaris aren't exceptional, the materials are reasonably well-finished and assembled and look durable enough, even if that durability does come at the expense of some hardness to the touch. Toyota really upped this small car's game in terms of infotainment capability by including the complete suite of features from the Tech Audio package as standard. With the exception of navigation (unavailable at any price), the standard infotainment capability in the 2013 Yaris matches that of much pricier vehicles.
The hatchback body style always means extra versatility, but the split-folding rear seat of the LE and Sport trims helps make the hatchback particularly useful. And where the Yaris once trailed other subcompacts in terms of rear-seat and cargo room, there's now noticeably more of both: The four-door Yaris now has 15.6 cubic feet of cargo space, about the same as the Fiesta. But you'll find a good bit more in Honda's Fit (20.6 cubic feet) or the Hyundai Accent (21.2 cubic feet).
Given the expectations most people have for this class of car, the 2013 Toyota Yaris' 106 hp will probably be sufficient. Toyota's Yaris has enough gumption to deal with the cut-and-thrust of suburban traffic flow and has no problem holding common freeway speeds, though getting up to those speeds can take some patience. The four-speed automatic is OK, but the six-speed automatics or continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) in newer competitors are better at making the most of their associated small-displacement engines.
The standard electric power steering certainly takes all effort from the steering equation, but that's not always a bad thing in small cars mostly intended for running about town. The Yaris doesn't lean uncomfortably in corners and has a reasonably compliant ride. The SE trim's quicker steering calibration, stronger brakes and retuned suspension add a sporty aspect to the 2013 Yaris' mostly economy-oriented mission.