2012 Toyota Yaris SE 5-DR Hatchback (1.5L 4-cyl. w/opt 4-speed Automatic)
Driven On 8/7/2012
This rating has been carried forward from a prior year because the newer model has no substantial differences.
Certain aspects of the Yaris are outdated, like the four-speed automatic, which hurts fuel economy and drivability, and the noisy engine. But there's plenty of room inside the well-made interior, and it takes to corners like a champ. You can do worse.
PerformanceThe good: Intuitive, sporty steering and a well-tuned suspension deliver handling on the enthusiast side. The bad: Weak acceleration and an outdated four-speed automatic.
Yep, it's slow. There's little power to speak of at low revs, and the antiquated four-speed automatic saps whatever's left. Too much space between gears.
The panic braking distances were unimpressive, especially for such a little and lilghtweight car. But the pedal is firm and linear and we experienced zero fade.
Nice and precise, the Yaris goes where you point it. The steering is intuitively quick with just the right amount of power assist.
Skid-pad numbers were low, mostly due to the lack of grip from the tires, but the Yaris is nimble and feels sporty through turns. Pretty precise despite significant body roll.
Brakes and throttle delivery are linear. But the gears of the four-speed automatic are too widely spaced, making for slow acceleration. Horrible turning radius for such a tiny car.
ComfortIf you're thinking Camry comfort, think again. Yes, the Yaris seats are fine for long days, and we especially like the cloth fabric, but the short wheelbase gives a jittery ride and the four-cylinder engine is loud and thrashy.
The front seats are comfortable and have some lateral support, too. Score one for the quality cloth fabric. No rear center armrest, and rear seats lean in toward the middle.
The result of a short wheelbase and a suspension tuned for some semblance of handling? A pretty jiggly ride on the highway.
More than your average amount of tire and wind noise, at least for a Toyota. The little engine seems to always be thrumming along since it has to work so hard.
InteriorUnlike the original Yaris with its center-dash speedo, the interior is now straightforward, with large, easy-to-use controls. But the iPod jacks are hidden way up in the glovebox. Still, there's good people space inside.
The aux-in and USB jacks are effectively hidden in the glovebox. Otherwise, most controls are large and easy to use. But stereo tuning should be a knob, not a button.
Very easy to get in/out of front seats. Rear doors don't open very wide, but for such a small car ingress/egress is above average.
Front headroom is quite generous. More surprising is that width is decent, too. Rear headroom is tight for anyone over average height, although foot and knee room are good.
You can't see the stubby little hood, but outward vision is barely obstructed by the small A- and B-pillars. The thick C-pillar forms a blind spot but the rear window is large.
The cupholders don't hold water (bottles), as they are too wide and slippery. Interior storage isn't as plentiful as old Yaris. Limited trunk space, but rear seats do fold down.
ValueHere's a cheap car that doesn't feel cheap. Numerous soft-touch trim pieces, nice build qualilty, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Fuel economy is decent but not ground-breaking. Our real-world mpg was on the low side.
Build Quality (vs. $)
Between plenty of soft-touch items and high-quality cloth seats, this cheap car does not feel cheap. Feels well put together.
Some decent features here for the money, including leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. But without question this car has the most confusing Bluetooth phone pairing ever.
The four-speed automatic tacks on $800 over the five-speed manual, bringing the Yaris SE base price to $17,200. Not a small amount for such a small car. But it doesn't feel cheap.
The EPA rates the Yaris four-speed automatic at 30 city/35 highway/32 combined mpg. We averaged 27 mpg.
The basic warranty is 3 years/36,000 miles, along with 5 years/60,000 miles for the drivetrain. The Chevrolet Sonic's drivetrain coverage goes to 100,000 miles.
Aside from the expectedly high Toyota build quality, the Yaris boasts free maintenance and roadside assistance for 2 years/25,000 miles.
Fun To DriveIf the Yaris had a slightly more powerful and less thrashy engine, just think how much fun it would be. Because its sporty handling begs you to take corners at higher-than-econobox speeds. It needs a modern automatic, too.
We like the comfort level here, but the weak power, outdated automatic and poor turning radius mar the driving experience. We would've liked to see better fuel economy, too.
Unlilke many econoboxes, the Yaris SE isn't afraid of a turn. It can fit into tight parking spaces, despite its poor lock-to-lock turning ability.