By on August 18, 2011

When Toyota built the first generation of its Vitz subcompact in 1998, the firm had no plans to sell it in the US under the Yaris nameplate (as it was called in Europe). Instead it sold a four-door and two-door version of the Platz, which was mechanically identical but had unique sheetmetal (except for the front doors), as the Echo. The Echo fell into a pattern that seems to have repeated itself several times in Toyota’s recent subcompact past: a year of growth, and then a drop. Eventually, Toyota brought the Yaris nameplate to the US, with a hatchback option in tow, and found its strongest performer in this class since the Tercel.

Now, with the hatchback bodystyle back in vogue, Toyota’s dropping the Yaris sedan altogether for the new generation, debuting later this year. It’s not the JDM/Euro Yaris/Vitz which Bertel showed us back in December, but it is being built at the revolutionary Sendai plant he visited in Fbruary. And without a sedan counterpoint, it will definitely mark an entirely new approach for Toyota’s US-market subcompact strategy.

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26 Comments on “Toyota Smells The Hatchback Comeback, Drops Yaris Sedan...”


  • avatar
    NormSV650

    The four year old Chevy Aveo at least has sequential fuel injection and not port injected like th Yaris since 2007. With Yaris’ torsion rear axle and variable valve timing only on the intake, they better watch watch out for the new Chevy Sonic.

    Can’t believe they are still selling cars like this today.

    • 0 avatar

      While on the whole I do agree with you, there are plenty of people for whom simplistic, remarkably reliable transportation is all they ask.

      As much as I dislike the idea of owning a Corolla, for instance, there are plenty of people who ask for nothing more than great fuel economy, a decent ride, and reliability. Would it be nice if the Corolla, or any Toyota for that matter, did all of that and also handled like a BMW? Of course, but it seems like that isn’t a huge selling point to anyone but enthusiasts, who are also more willing to put up with finicky electronics and sometimes problematic fancy drivetrains.

  • avatar
    geo

    Ford should never have done the Fiesta sedan, while nixing the coupe. Undoubtedly the corporate spreadsheet-whizzes decreed that Americans Don’t Like Hatchbacks. Same goes for the Civic hatch, one of the coolest cars of the late-eighties/early nineties. Compared to hatches, sedans are almost useless. I don’t care what the golf club index is.

    • 0 avatar
      steeringwithmyknees

      they nixed the fiesta coupe?? are you talking about the 5-door/hatchback? When will this happen? We are thinking about doubling the size of our fleet and that car has definitely made it into the Elite 8 of the competition.

      That’d be a shame.

      Right before the new Fiestas came out, I saw a promotional “Fiesta Challenge” one parked on my block. I was really thinking highly of Ford then because they were gonna bring us some cool, yet practical rides from exotic lands where most people drive using 3 pedals
      Then the car was released and I found myself looking at exciting car pics online and then i saw the sedan, i thought “ah… that’s the one for the merkins”

      Just like the previous generation merkin focus which was WAY different than the Euro focus. Actually the first generation focus (in the US 2000-2004) had something like that too. Although they introduced that car to the states after a couple of successful years in Europe, my understanding of it was that they needed to do something to it for the merkins. The car from Europe was the hatchback. They added the trunk and rear doors, split it into several trims (organized by presence/absence of 115hp and 130hp motors and presence/absence of steel 15s and alloy 16s) and made it difficult to find a manual transmission. by the time FordUSA was finished, the hatchback with it 130 and alloys was the budget buy and about equal to the low-grade merkin with 115 and steelies, price-wise. of course the merkin outsold the hatchback.

      by now there are many examples around, but the first that comes to mind is the merkin jetta and the volkswagen golf.

      I also understand we got the merkin cruze with no option for the hatchback.

    • 0 avatar
      ciddyguy

      Where did you hear that they are nixing the fiesta coupe? I never even knew they were building a coupe, just a 4 door sedan and a 5door hatchback.

      The 5door hatch is selling very well, at least out here in Seattle and it also looks to be a trend elsewhere too.

      The Yaris is the ONLY 3 door hatchback available outside of the VW Golf practically these days. Even the Accent and the Rio are now I think 5 door hatchbacks.

      I DO agree that once you get below a C segment car, the sedan is really useless.

  • avatar

    I’m so glad to see the return of hatchbacks in this country. Next up is a station wagon revival, I hope.

    • 0 avatar
      steeringwithmyknees

      id say thats well underway, but they are called CUVs. A few of the refreshed and new generations of CUVs coming out recently have been dropping the high ground clearance (baby steps, i know) and other things unnecessary for driving on interstates and in parking lots, rounding square edges, and adding third rows. They have suspension components from cars. They have gearing ratios to optimize gas mileage and cruising and especially lately have been more focused on delivering a more car-like driving experience. The Venza and Outback are damn close to being traditional station wagons (if they arent already) and things like the Crosstour and ZDX are not far off.

      I think CUVs are on the whole, much much closer to being wagons than SUVs. They’re TallWagons.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    I’m driving a Yaris as a company car in New Zealand, and I actually like it a lot. As a complete package it’s better than most rental cars I’ve had, especially regarding throttle tip-in.

    And yes, I was surprised to like it. I haven’t liked Toyotas for a very long time.

  • avatar

    About time.
    The Yaris sedan always looked useless IMHO along with the Versa, Fiesta, Aero, Swift varients.
    They were designed to be hatchbacks, why anyone prefers a trunk over a hatch is beyond me.
    Good to see the resurgence of the hatch in the US.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Too bad. I think that sometimes sedans look better; other times hatchbacks look better. For the upcoming 2012 Kia Rio, I much prefer the sedan.

    Hatchbacks are usually louder inside without the back seat to help isolate road noise.

    To me, that chart is less reflective of “sedan vs hatchback” than it is of Toyota’s marketing and design problems with its smallest cars. I notice the xB2 isn’t shown, presumably because it graduated to the next volume class when it was transformed from the smaller xB1 in 2008.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    A hatchback on a B-segment, sub compact makes for easier ingress and egress of large items that otherwise would not fit through the limited trunk opening on a small car – and – yes there is more road noise in the cabin.

    The front end treatment on this revamped Yaris isn’t as clean or cute as its predecessor. Kudos to Toyota for moving the instrument pod over to the drivers side. Also, unless they can squeeze a 1.8L with 5 speed into the engine bay as they do on a Scion xD, a 3 door hatch really isn’t necessary. The 5 door will do.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    Can somebody tell me why the xB1 was axed again?

  • avatar
    jaje

    So I’m so behind this revival of package efficient vehicles with utility built in.

  • avatar
    Robert Fahey

    The Yaris sedan, like the Echo that preceded it, was a hard sell over a Corolla. For a little more money, you could get much more car. Now the (milder) redundancy is the Yaris and the Scion XD.

  • avatar
    obruni

    I just had a Yaris hatchback as a rental for a business trip in Virginia/DC.

    horrible, horrible, horrible. poor seat comfort, dead steering, crappy sound system, and lots of engine and wind noise above 60mph.

    on the plus side, the ride was compliant and it was useful for parking in DC.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Glad to see a 2 door hatchback, however its a boring little Toyota. Call me when the Civic Si hatchback returns… on second thought forget it, Honda is lost these days. Maybe Nissan can help? Why didn’t they make the Altima Coupe into a hatchback? I guess we got the Veloster to look forward to. Oh well I got my hot hatch (Volvo C30).

  • avatar
    MrBostn

    I like the HB idea. Now add awd/4wd, and a few more inches of ground clearance with fold flat rear seats, and good “5 O’clock” views. Or bring back the Corolla wagon, or remake the Stanza wagon.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    So…are insurance premiums higher for hatchbacks(not suburban utility vehicles or child utility vehicles)? I’ve never owned one so I wouldn’t know. I hear they are, but don’t have first-hand experience.

    Perhaps this is part of the reason for the dislike of hatchbacks.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      naaaahhh…the big reason for the dislike here in America for hatches is the perception that small hatchbacks are crappy tinbox econo-cars. I rather like the look and utility of them myself, but then again, I didn’t grow up in the land of the free roaming behemoth (aka SUV).

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Nope a lot of it goes back to the crappy cars of the 70′s and 80′s when the bulk of “economy cars” were hatchbacks. So small car = hatchback = economy car = car you bought because you couldn’t afford a better one. So Hatchback = car you buy because you can’t afford a real proper car with a trunk.

      • 0 avatar
        tankinbeans

        @Scout and Threeer

        You’re both probably correct. Like I’ve said my interest in cars hasn’t really been up to enthusiast status…well…ever. I enjoy reading about them and talking about them with my limited knowledge, but would be unable to make credible arguments for or against any major part (engine, transmission, suspension, RWD v. FWD v. AWD – and its varients). Also, I’m still young in the grandest scheme of things. As such I have no honest recollection of how many of the older cars were regarded, except what I’d heard from family about their experiences.


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