2014 Toyota Yaris Hatchback (1.5L 4-cyl. 4-speed Automatic)
Driven On 7/8/2014
Once a top-performing econobox, Toyota's Yaris has fallen behind the competition. Between its choppy ride, thrashy engine and dinosaur-tech 4-speed automatic transmission, others do it better for similar cash. Build quality remains top-level, though, and fuel economy is impressive.
PerformanceCapable steering and handling keep some life in the old Yaris, but the weak engine and old-school transmission bring it back down. Make sure you have plenty of room when pulling out into fast traffic. Doesn't stop as quickly as you'd think, either.
Little punch from the 106-hp 1.5-liter 4-cylinder. It labors up steep hills; the four-speed automatic transmission needs to constantly downshift in an effort to find some power. We hit 60 mph in 10.7 sec., which is slow for the class.
The brake pedal has a solid, reassuring feel, but we found the Yaris squirming side-to-side during heavy braking on the road. At our test track it stopped from 60 mph in 126 feet, which is one of the longest distances in the segment.
Nice and precise, the Yaris goes where you point it. The electric power steering reacts intuitively with just the right amount of assist. It's light around town but firms up with good weighting at speed.
The Yaris is nimble and feels sporty through turns. It's precise despite a significant amount of lean. Grip limits are low, and the stability control system can be intrusive through corners even when you're not driving aggressively.
The Yaris' slow acceleration hurts driveability. You can't pop out into fast-moving traffic, yet the gas pedal can be jumpy leaving a stoplight. During anything like brisk acceleration, the antiquated 4-sp transmission makes abrupt upshifts.
ComfortThe soft, well-made cloth fabric helps to make the Yaris' seats comfy for all-day travel, but the jittery ride and loud four-cylinder engine conspire to make it less than an ideal choice for long road trips.
Front seats are comfortable enough; they even have some lateral bolstering, but no center armrest. Cloth covering is soft and grippy. Rear seats are comfy, but you sit more on them than in them. Hard plastic door armrests.
The ride is pretty choppy, can be harsh. The bigger the bump, the bigger the bounce. The short wheelbase is part of the problem, but most competitors do a better job smoothing things out than this Yaris. Passengers will notice.
Minimal sound deadening; tire and road noise are prevalent. The tires thump over any road imperfection or seam, considerable hum over coarse surfaces. Definite wind noise from the side mirrors and the huge, single windshield wiper.
InteriorThe original center-dash speedo has been gone for several years, replaced with more standard gauges. The controls are easy to use but they're looking pretty old. And what's with the music ports in the glovebox? Beyond that, this is an easy daily car, with good room and entry/exit.
The controls are decidedly dated-looking, but they're large and easy to use, simple radio is easy to figure out. Phone paired quickly. The USB port and aux-in jack are hidden (and out of reach) in the glovebox, odd for these modern times.
The front doors open pretty wide and are large enough for easy entry/exit, aided by a tall roof. Rear doors open less wide, yet there's still a pretty large entryway. Only have to duck slightly to keep from bumping head into roof.
Tons of front headroom, cramped door-side elbow room but center console doesn't protrude into driver's right knee. Rear headroom will be tight for anyone average height and above, but knee room is good. Door-side elbow room is tight.
Windshield pillars are long and thick, hard to look through corners even with a semi-triangular extra window. Overall, outward view isn't bad, minimal over-the-shoulder blind spots. Reasonably large rear window, but no backup camera.
Plenty of small cubby areas. No center armrest, no center bin, but a slot for wallets. Door pockets are slim. Rear seats fold down easily in a 60/40 split. There's 15.6 cu-ft behind the second row, which is about average for the class.
ValueThe Yaris maintains its reputation as a cheap car that doesn't feel cheap. Several soft-touch trim pieces, good build quality and an overall solid feel. We were impressed with the real-world fuel economy we achieved on our evaluation loop, considering the four-speed automatic.
Build Quality (vs. $)
The Yaris' interior doesn't look great but feels pretty solid. There's some soft-touch on the door sills, part of the dash. Steering wheel isn't leather but feels good in your hands. We really liked the soft feel of the cloth seats.
Our $17,285 5-door LE came with air conditioning, power windows with driver's side auto-down, cruise control, tilt steering wheel with audio controls, Bluetooth and a 6-speaker CD audio system with aux-in/USB ports.
Base Yaris L 2-door with a 5-speed manual begins at $15,225, the L 4-door with a 4-sp automatic starts at $16,250, the LE 4-door starts at $17,285. Not the cheapest in the class, but also not the most expensive.
The EPA rates the Yaris 5-door with a 4-sp automatic at 32 mpg Combined (30 City/36 Highway). About even with the Ford Fiesta and Hyundai Accent, well below the Honda Fit. We averaged 29.9 mpg overall, 35.6 mpg on our evaluation loop.
Toyota covers the basic warranty for 3 years/36,000 miles and the drivetrain for 5 years/60,000 miles. Chevy covers the Sonic's drivetrain for 100,000 miles, while the Hyundai Accent's warranties top the industry.
The Yaris comes with roadside assistance and free maintenance for 2 years/25,000 miles. That's better than most in the segment, although the Chevy Sonic's coverage is slightly stronger.
Fun To DriveHandling is tuned on the sporty side for this segment, it's fun to get aggressive within its low limits. But the stability control cuts in early, even with only minor verve on public roads.
The crude transmission and weak, rather loud engine mar the Yaris' driving experience. On the bright side, the seats are comfortable, which somewhat makes up for the rough ride. Decent fuel economy means few stops at the pump.
Unlike many cars in this class, the Yaris' sharp steering and forgiving handling mean it's not afraid of a turn. It can fit into tight parking spaces with ease, and its styling still gives off some of that Euro-esque runabout vibe.
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