Looking for an inexpensive, entry-level new car at a Toyota dealership? In years past, you would've likely walked right by the Yaris' oddly proportioned predecessor, the Echo, and opted to shop for one of its worthy subcompact competitors. Thankfully, the Toyota Yaris is a better vehicle in just about every way.
Still, the first-generation of the Yaris was passable at best in what has become an increasingly competitive subcompact segment, as rivals offered more refinement, greater utility and a more enjoyable drive. But the latest version of Toyota's entry-level car boasts improvements in those key areas that, although still not making it a class leader, at least put it in the hunt. Further bolstered by Toyota's solid reputation for low ownership costs and stellar long-term reliability, the latest Yaris should prove appealing to those looking for practical and economical transportation.
Current Toyota Yaris
Toyota offers the subcompact Yaris as either a two- or four-door hatchback. There is no sedan version. Base L and uplevel LE trims are offered in either body style, while a sporty SE trim is offered only on the four-door. Standard highlights on the L include power door locks, air-conditioning, four-way-adjustable front seats, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, a CD player, USB/iPod connectivity and satellite radio. The LE adds power windows, remote keyless entry, a six-way-adjustable driver seat, a 60/40-split fold-down rear seat and an upgraded sound system. The SE trim gets a sport-tuned suspension, 16-inch alloy wheels, four-wheel disc brakes, a unique grille, foglamps, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and upgraded cloth upholstery.
For power, the Yaris comes with a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine good for 106 horsepower and 103 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard and a four-speed automatic is optional. Fuel economy, while not class-leading, is still very frugal.
In reviews, we've found the new Yaris easy to like. Although its four-speed automatic would seem to be a major downside alongside some rivals' six-speed units, it manages not to feel archaic. With its timely gearchanges it makes the most of the available power while merging onto fast-moving freeways or dicing with city traffic. Handling is also respectable, with a reassuringly composed demeanor when tackling a twisty road. The SE provides a sporty feel with its quicker steering and additional grip. However, its ride quality isn't as good, and its turning circle is noticeably wider as well.
Used Toyota Yaris Model
The current second-generation Toyota Yaris debuted in the 2012 model year. Compared to the first-generation model, the latest Yaris is about 3 inches longer, and that stretch has been utilized to provide more luggage space. With this Yaris you also get a restyled interior, improved driving feel and additional convenience and safety features. Since that 2012 debut, only minor changes to feature content have taken place.
The first-generation (U.S. market) Toyota Yaris was sold from 2007-'11. It came as a two-door hatchback, a four-door hatchback or a four-door sedan. Toyota made a serious effort to differentiate the sedan from the hatchbacks. As such, it features a different instrument panel, was almost 20 inches longer and has a longer wheelbase. This meant more room for rear passengers, though the hatchbacks did offer an optional adjustable rear seat, which slid fore and aft to increase passenger or cargo space as needed.
All these Yaris models were powered by a 1.5-liter, 106-hp four-cylinder engine that drove the front wheels through either a five-speed manual or an optional four-speed automatic. Either way, the Yaris delivered excellent fuel economy. Apart from air-conditioning, standard equipment was fairly sparse. Option highlights included a Sport package that added styling tweaks, 15-inch wheels, foglights, iPod integration and sport seats.
These Yaris models offered an adequate driving experience. The steering was light for easy parking maneuvers, and the turning circle was tight. The engine was peppy enough, though off-the-line acceleration can be sluggish with the automatic transmission.
Changes throughout the years were very minimal in terms of styling, features and powertrains. But anyone considering a used Yaris should note that models prior to '09 may not feature side curtain airbags and antilock brakes, as they were optional for the first two years. For 2010, stability control became standard and the S trim level was eliminated in favor of the optional Sport package.