Available in two- or four-door body styles, Toyota's 2018 Yaris hatchback is ideal if you're looking for a reliable vehicle with easy-to-park dimensions and a very affordable price. But for that price, you do have to make some sacrifices.
On the positive side, the Yaris' small overhangs and standard rearview camera make maneuvering in parking lots and parallel parking a breeze. It's also one of the few cars in its class to offer the latest in advanced driver safety aids, including lane departure warning, automatic high-beam activation, and forward collision warning and mitigation. All reinforce the Yaris' already good safety scores. Of course, the Yaris is also a hatchback, so you can fit more cargo than you could otherwise in a sedan.
And though the Yaris is functional, it's not particularly enjoyable to drive. The lack of a telescoping steering wheel means it's hard to find a comfortable driving position. The Yaris, with its 106-horsepower engine and four-speed automatic transmission lag, behind the competition, which offer more powerful engines and smoother-shifting six-speed transmissions. And while a touchscreen comes standard, you might be also dismayed at the lack of comprehensive smartphone integration via Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Overall, the Yaris is a perfectly usable subcompact. But with as much variety as there is in this segment, you may find there are better choices in the class if you want something more than basic transportation.
For 2018, Toyota has refreshed the Yaris' styling for a sportier look. The L and LE trims now share the same instrument panel with the SE.
While the base Yaris L's price tag is very attractive, it's worth spending a little more. Consider springing for the SE. The SE includes nicer upholstery, a leather-wrapped shifter and steering wheel, larger wheels and tires, and four-wheel disc brakes. The last two items give the Yaris an air of sportiness that the standard version lacks.
The 2018 Toyota Yaris is a compact hatchback that is available in two body styles, with just one engine and two transmissions. The Yaris L and LE are offered with two or four doors; the SE trim is offered only as a four-door. The two-door L and four-door SE are offered with a five-speed manual transmission, while a four-speed automatic is optional on those trims and standard on everything else. A 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine (106 horsepower, 103 pound-feet of torque) is standard across all trims and body styles.
Standard features on the L includes 15-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights and high-beam control, power door locks and windows, air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-only steering wheel, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, Bluetooth, a 6.1-inch touchscreen, and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio and a USB port. Lane departure warning and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking are also standard.
The LE adds or substitutes 15-inch alloy wheels, power side mirrors, remote locking and unlocking, cruise control and enhanced interior trim.
For a more premium Yaris, go with the SE trim. It's only available as a four-door, and you'll get 16-inch alloy wheels, projector-beam headlights, LED running lights, foglights, special exterior styling elements, four-wheel disc brakes, a larger 7-inch touchscreen, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and upgraded cloth upholstery.
Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions, although trim levels share many aspects. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2015 Toyota Yaris SE Four-Door Hatchback (1.5L inline-4 | 5-speed manual | FWD).
The Yaris' acceleration, braking, steering, and handling behavior would land it slightly above most of its competitors, but then there's the outdated four-speed automatic. This gearbox magnifies an already low engine output, and its clumsy shifts add needless jolts to the commute.
While many subcompacts have meager engine output, the Yaris' four-speed transmission means acceleration requires patience. It takes 18 seconds to reach freeway speeds under the best circumstances, which translates to stress on short on-ramps and difficult passing maneuvers on two-lane roads.
The pedal is light and easy to modulate, making braking applications smooth and predictable. In simulated-emergency tests, the Yaris emitted a buzzing noise that might make a real evasive action more alarming, though overall performance remained adequate over multiple full ABS stops.
The wheel feels accurate so that you rarely have to correct steering inputs. This precision also helps mitigate the nervousness that sometimes afflicts small vehicles at freeway speeds. Some other steering systems relay more feel and enjoyment, but this one gets the job done.
The small size makes it easy to park and fit in small openings, and it imbues the Yaris with lightness and nimbleness without ever feeling skittish. Reasonable tires and accurate steering make for an adept driving experience that's better than most, though more engaging alternatives exist.
The four-speed automatic is outdated by the segment standards. It frequently changes between gears when climbing a hill at a constant speed, shocking the interior with each shift. Cruise control holds speed when traveling downhill by downshifting, but the shifts again jolt the interior.
You'll find yourself needing to adjust the seat as the drive goes on, and the absence of center armrests will be a source of annoyance. The prevalent engine, wind, tire, and road noise is tiring on the freeway, though the climate control system isn't too loud on its lowest settings.
Larger occupants might need to change their position frequently since the seat can create pressure points on longer drives. Recline, height and fore/aft manual adjustments provide decent range. The doors have padded armrests, but there is no center armrest in either row.
As in many vehicles in this segment, you'll notice most bumps and other road imperfections, but they are seldom hard enough to make you complain. Rather the frequency of the impacts can become tiring. Some competitors provide more supple experiences.
Noise & vibration5.5
The engine makes an unpleasing rattle at idle and can grow loud when you're on the gas, which you have to do often to keep up with traffic. Some wind, road and tire noise is expected, but it can be fatiguing if your commute involves extended freeway use.
It's easy to position the air vents and control the flow. Like its competitors, the Yaris doesn't have an automatic setting, but the dials and buttons couldn't be simpler. The fan is quiet on the lower settings relative to the wind and engine noise, but it blows loudly on the higher settings.
The Yaris earns points for its large and easy-to-access doors, big windows and simple physical controls. The absence of a telescoping adjustment on the steering wheel puts average-size drivers in an awkward position. Those with long legs or short arms will struggle to find a place for their knees.
Ease of use7.5
The simple nature of the Yaris translates into an easily understandable interior. We appreciate the prevalence of physical controls that are easy to locate, and you can figure out all functions without having to refer to the owner's manual.
Getting in/getting out8.0
A tall roof and big doors make for a large opening that's easy to climb through. You only have to duck down slightly to avoid the roof. The same goes for the rear seat, where the legroom makes it easy for occupants of most sizes to slide in.
Instrumentation falls easily into view, and the seat adjustments should satisfy most body types. Alas, the steering wheel tilts but does not telescope, limiting the fit and comfort. Drivers with long legs might find their knees in constant contact with the dash and driver's door.
The front seats have plenty of headroom, but the driver's knees may not have enough room. On the other hand, rear headroom is tight even for average-size adults, but the flat floor gives the impression of extra space. The middle rear seat is useless if you need to put two adults back there.
The rear-seat headrests encroach on rear visibility, but not enough to obstruct your view. Since it's a small car with a tall roof and consequently big windows, visibility is not a problem. The windshield pillars can occasionally block taillights and turn signals of vehicles in the adjacent lane.
The Yaris is disappointing, even among inexpensive subcompacts. Mismatched interior plastics, a panel gap directly ahead of the passenger seat, and the tinny, hollow sound the roof makes when you flip the visor up give this vehicle a decidedly cheap feeling. Most competitors do better.
The tall ceiling makes for cargo capacity that looks good on paper, though a small grocery store haul will consume much of the floor space. Interior storage options are lacking, consisting of just pockets on the front doors, three cupholders, and a cubby for a phone or two.
The absence of a center console limits your options. The door pockets accommodate water bottles, while the front cupholders are too small for sports bottles. A cubby in the front can hold a phone or two. Rear passengers have zero storage outside of a single oversize cupholder.
At 15.6 cubic feet, the Yaris' trunk is among the smallest of its class. Much of that space is vertical, due to the tall roof. There's still enough room to handle the weekly haul from the grocery store for a two-person family. A cargo cover comes standard.
Child safety seat accommodation6.0
You have to dig to access the lower LATCH anchors, but not too far. Reaching for the seatback tether anchors requires removing the cargo cover, which can be a nuisance. The wide door openings mean there's plenty of space for loading or unloading. The narrow width prohibits three car seats.
Though the entertainment system's simple and easy to operate, its features pale in comparison to most offerings in the segment. Phone integration is similarly disappointing. We appreciate the inclusion of driver aids such as collision mitigation, but blind-spot monitoring is not available.
Audio & navigation3.5
The screen has a logical layout and reacts quickly to inputs, though it locks out some controls when moving, which can be annoying. Even worse: Not only does the screen disappear in direct sunlight, but it also reflects light into your eyes, so you sometimes have to cover it with your hand.
You have one USB port and Bluetooth. Toyota touts support for one navigation phone app, but it doesn't work as well as what you can get from competitors. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are not available. Ultimately, you're better off connecting via Bluetooth and mounting your phone on the dash.
Though the Yaris features a rearview camera with guidance lines, lane keeping alert, collision alert and mitigation, and auto high beams, it is not available with blind-spot monitoring or proximity sensors, which you can find on many of its competitors.
You'll need to use specific prompts with some variation to adjust the stereo or make a call, which is about all you can get done with the limited set of features. The system had no difficulty understanding commands, even without going through the lengthy calibration process.
Edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.