I bought this car a week ago to replace a 2007 Kia Rio sedan. First positive impressions: nice dark grey color and body style, motor sounds better and back passenger spaces is roomier than some other economy cars test driven. Initial negative impressions: Speedometer only indicates 20-40-60 with numerical markings, 10-30-50 with hashes, and no markings at all on the fives. The side mirrors are so small and poorly shaped that if they are the slightest bit out of adjustment (or if the driver leans forward an inch) rear view is severely compromised which is made worse by the fact that the center rear view is mostly blocked by huge back seat head rests. In the Molded Places to Put Stuff category, the Yaris is an utter failure. The glove box barely holds the owners manual (and doesn't lock), the cup holders...well, take your pick--you can have two sixteen-ounce water bottles, or you can have one foam cup, or you can have a phone charger in the socket above the cup holder. Other seemingly random misshapen pits--two above the glove box, one to the left of the instrument panel, and one behind the cup holder--have proven as useless as they appear to be. The single front wiper is annoying in the beginning but doesn't seem so bad after a few rains. Despite these shortcomings which were apparent during the test drive, I chose the car for reputed reliability, price, and MPG. After 400 miles of mostly city driving I've found a few more things to like and even love. It handles well. The cargo capacity utterly amazed on a trip to the local wholesale club. We bought the usual list and the kids did not have to ride home with their feet resting on a bag of cat food or case of V-8 and assorted bags and trays piled high on their laps as before in the Rio, and there was spare room for a few more cases of water. The worst of the worst so far is that at least this particular Yaris isn't living up to its MPG rating. Not even close. As a semi-dedicated hypermiler, I usually got a little better than the Rio was rated at, even with the A/C running and even after 100,000 miles. Between the first and second fill-ups this car averaged a very disappointing 26.6 MPG. Would I choose something else knowing what I know today? Yeah, maybe.
DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, variable intake-valve timing
Compression ration (x:1)
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
106 @ 6,000
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)
103 @ 4,200
Transmission and axle ratios (x:1)
Even with the meager power this engine has, the Yaris with the manual transmission has the ability to chirp the tires and elicit a pretty aggressive traction-control moment. The gear ratio change between 1st and 2nd gears drops the engine way down the rev range and as a result, it struggles to get back up into the more energetic part of the engine's power band. Temporarily overriding traction control (only defeatable below 30 mph) will allow the car to accelerate without the electronic shackle holding it back. Done properly, acceleration to 60 mph improves by almost a full second. The clutch pedal operates intuitively and positively when it engages. The shifter is light and reasonably precise sliding between gears, but the gear ratios seem odd. Even at 70 mph in top (5th) gear, the engine is quite busy (at 3,000) and noisy at nearly 70 dB.
The SE's disc brakes don't feel very different (from the other Yaris' rear drum brakes) through the medium-firm pedal; however, the behavior they produce is different. There's far less ABS buzzing or fussiness coming into the cabin and there wasn't one bit of wiggle or wander during simulated panic stops from 60 mph. Also, the SE's stopping distances were measurably shorter, most likely due to the wider tires' contact patches. The better cooling afforded by the disc brakes definitely contributed to the tight grouping of these stops, all varying by only a couple of feet, with the shortest stop occurring on the third of four total.
Without the ability to override the electronic stability control system (ESC), the handling tests somewhat become a test of what the car will allow -- which is quite a lot. The SE's steering is responsive, direct, and precise. The car transitions from side to side quite easily and without pause. The tires offer admirable grip, and the result of all of this is a confident and adept little handler. At some point, however, the ESC doesn't approve of all this fun and begins grabbing brakes to correct the car's heading, or it limits the throttle to bring the speed down.