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.
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).
Although the Toyota Yaris may not deliver class-leading driving engagement, it doesn't disappoint either. And it is indeed competent. Note that this rating applies to the manual-transmission Yaris. The four-speed automatic hampers acceleration and drivability, and we don't recommend it.
The 1.5-liter inline-four's 106 hp is quite low for the segment, yet its zero-to-60-mph time of 9.5 seconds (with the manual transmission) is close to average. That said, the engine's lack of guts makes it feel slower than rivals out on the road.
The Yaris needed 123 feet to stop from 60 mph, which is average for subcompact cars. But its stopping distances were more consistent than those of most rivals, showing a resistance to fade that is rare for the segment.
The steering is responsive, direct and precise. It's still not as good as the spot-on feedback and effort provided by the Ford Fiesta, but it has elevated itself above mere appliance expectations.
Beyond the Yaris' inherent nimbleness of its diminutive dimensions and light weight, its excellent steering and reasonable grip make it a confident and adept handler.
The five-speed manual transmission features a light effort with easy-to-find gears and an intuitive clutch take-up. This is a much better choice than the outdated, optional four-speed automatic that is ill-suited to the modestly powered engine.
As an urban runabout, the Toyota Yaris is acceptable. But if frequent highway travel is in the cards, the uncomfortable seats and ride quality become liabilities.
Several Edmunds drivers found it difficult to get comfortable in the Yaris' driver seat, particularly on long drives. The non-telescoping steering wheel causes tall drivers to hunch over. The Yaris also lacks a center armrest.
The Yaris lacks the suppleness provided by the Ford Fiesta and Honda Fit, and that's why it is a less agreeable choice for highway driving.
Noise & vibration
The Yaris is a subcompact, so there is considerable wind, road and engine noise. But the amount of noise is fairly typical for the segment.
The Yaris' interior build quality and generally unappealing interior design are its primary detriments. We don't expect Lexus-like materials in this price class, but the Yaris is particularly melancholy. Passenger space and interior controls are acceptable, and the cabin is reasonably roomy.
Ease of use
The Entune touchscreen interface works reasonably well, though some of its icons are difficult to press. The climate controls couldn't be simpler.
Getting in/getting out
The big front doors, a tallish roof and a relatively high hip point make getting into the Yaris easy. The rear doors are decently sized as well, and relatively generous legroom means you shouldn't have to squeeze yourself in.
The backseat headroom is restricted by the sloping headliner that meets the hatchback, but the rear legroom is above average. Two adults should fit quite comfortably. The driver's seat adjusts sufficiently even for tall drivers.
There's excellent forward visibility thanks to the expansive windshield and tall front side windows. Big rear head restraints and chunky rear-quarter pillars impede rearward vision. Unlike in most competitors, there's no rearview camera available.
The Yaris' cabin is a rather dreary place with plastic bits seemingly everywhere. Most competitors provide a more premium look and feel for similar money.
Cargo space isn't exactly abundant in the subcompact hatch class, but even the Yaris stumbles. Most competitors offer more cubic feet, and even the Ford Fiesta, which has less space on paper, is more useful because the tall rear seatbacks are more effective at concealing luggage.
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.