By on February 18, 2012

Remember the legendary Toyota Tercel? Sorry, trick question—there was no legendary Toyota Tercel. Between 1980 and 2000 five generations of tiny Toyotas came and went, leaving nary a trace in car guy lore. Toyota followed up the Tercel with the Echo. The new car was memorable…for ridiculous Gen Y marketing, an ugly exterior, a cheap interior, bobbly handling, and a harsh ride. All but admitting failure, Toyota not only let the Echo die on the vine as a “special order only” car but, taking a page from the GM playbook, euthanized the nameplate as well. A Yaris successor succeeded in that it continued the Tercel tradition of utter unmemorability. Emboldened by this success, Toyota has not only retained the Yaris nameplate for a second generation, but is pitching an SE variant at people who actually like to drive. Will we remember this one, and for the right reasons?

Drooling over this photo? Then your medication has at least one unpleasant side effect. Still, I must admit a fondness for the car’s exterior. The look is current, with the wheels pushed all the way out to aero-friendly crisp corners. Seeking swoopy insectoid styling? Look elsewhere. The SE tweaks (aggressive front facia, gunmetal gray eight-spoke 16-inch rims) work well, effectively communicating the car’s sporting ambitions. Prefer the three-door body style? Then no SE for you. It’s only available with the five-door. (The sedan was dropped with the redesign.)

Interior design high points include intriguingly patterned blue cloth and some squishy surfaces (the light gray bits). But the instrument panel suffers from the odd design details and clumsy attempts at coherence that have afflicted too many Toyota interiors over the past decade. Round vents, or rectangular ones? Why not both! Then mirror both shapes with an open storage cubby northwest of the instruments (for easy viewing by passers by) and a prominent circular surround overlapping the left side of the audio system’s thick bezel. The latter houses an unhappily cohabiting hazard button and passenger airbag indicator light—because you might have trouble finding them otherwise. Then there’s the audio system, with a tiny power button tucked away in the top right corner (and so beyond easy reach due to the system’s rightward displacement by the hazard button surround) and sound quality adjustments so buried even my kids failed to locate them.

Just drive the car at night, and everything is good. The steering wheel isn’t too thickly padded and is invitingly shaped. The seats are both comfortable and supportive. The side windows are generously sized, especially by current standards. The windshield, not so much. Like many lately, the instrument panel is tall, perhaps to lend the impression that the Yaris is larger and more substantial than it actually is. Or to avoid the minivanish driving position of the Honda Fit. It succeeds on both counts. The rear seat is roomier than the segment average. Adults of average size will fit with perhaps an entire inch to spare. Cargo volume is at best average, meaning the Honda Fit is the clear winner.

SE notwithstanding, the horsepower war hasn’t yet made it to the Yaris. A 1.5-liter four-cylinder good for a mere 106 horses at 6,000 rpm remains the only available engine. But the Yaris also hasn’t packed on pounds the way most competitors have, and still checks in south of 2,300 (about 300 fewer than a Fiesta or Sonic). Hitched to a five-speed manual, the engine feels peppy. Unlike the Mazda2, each shift doesn’t sink the engine into a torque-free zone from which it struggles to emerge. More of an issue than power: when revved the four produces a soft wheezy buzz. If it weren’t a brand new Toyota, I’d have hunted for a small exhaust leak. Shift feel is okay, neither as good as the Honda Fit’s nor as craptastic as the Hyundai Accent’s.

With a small engine and low curb weight, the Yaris SE’s fuel economy ought to be stellar. Unfortunately, it bumps against the same invisible ceiling as every other car in the segment, and so rates “only” 30 city and 38 highway from the EPA—about the same as the larger, heavier, and more powerful cars from the next class up. In suburban driving, the trip computer usually reported numbers in the low to mid 30s. Despite its higher curb weight and much more powerful engine, the Chevrolet Sonic 1.4T (29/40, reviewed last week) tends to do a little better, especially at higher speeds where its sixth gear comes into play.

Toyota’s recent efforts at sport variants of its small cars have been nothing more than appearance packages. Thankfully, it went further with the Yaris SE, tweaking the steering and suspension. Aided by the thinly-padded wheel and a modest level of power assist, the steering is more communicative than most. The SE’s chassis, far more poised than that of the misbegotten Echo, compares well to those of competitors. Add in the low curb weight and compact dimensions even by segment standards (a Hyundai Accent is 8.5 inches longer), and the Yaris SE vies with the Mazda2 for the class title of “most tossable.” Unlike the systems in the three Koreans, the stability control doesn’t kill the joy by cutting in too early. The car’s handling is so safe that it doesn’t need to cut in at all. The price for this agile handling: a slightly harsh (but still livable) ride and traditional levels of wind and road noise.

Contrary to conventional wisdom (well, at least that before the UA scare), all Toyotas are not equally reliable. In general, as with most other manufacturers, the smaller and simpler they are the fewer problems they have. And the Yaris is the smallest, simplest car in the line. It’s too soon to have any reliability stats on the 2012 car, but the first-generation Yaris has consistently been among the most reliable models in TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey.

This justified reputation for reliability has long enabled Toyota to charge more. With floormats, the Yaris SE lists for $17,310. An Accent SE stickers for $16,650. In the past people would gladly pay $660 more for a smaller, less powerful, less stylish Toyota.

By conventional measures, the Toyota Yaris isn’t very competitive. It’s smaller, less powerful, and less lavishly equipped than most competitors, but doesn’t cost less or go farther on a gallon of gas. The redesigned exterior is attractive, at least in SE spec, but others are arguably more stylish. About the interior enough has been said already. Yet I think I’ll remember my time with this small Toyota, as it offers something most competitors no longer do. Imposing instrument panel aside, the Yaris is a small car that’s okay with being a small car. Though unlikely to curry favor with the typical non-SE buyer, this isn’t entirely a bad thing for car guys. There’s a directness to the controls and an agility to the chassis you won’t find in subcompact hatches with loftier aspirations.Unlike its predecessors, the Yaris is a fun car to drive, minimally competent powertrain notwithstanding. And if Toyota did manage to field a powertrain fully competitive with that in the Hyundai? I’d definitely remember that car.

Toyota provided the car with insurance and a tank of gas.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, an online provider of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

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116 Comments on “2012 Toyota Yaris SE...”


  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Actually the Tercel is somewhat mwmorable, whenever you hear of one its someone saying “Ahh that was a reliable car”.

    My question is, will the Yaris turn out to be reliable and simple too?

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      All these Toyota subcompacts have been bullet proof, perhaps they stumbled with the ugly Echo, they should have left the Tercel alone (with minor tweaks) till the Yaris came out

      • 0 avatar
        EchoChamberJDM

        Ugly Echo? Ha, the styling has aged quite well, mine is a 2000MY with a sports package, most people think its a gen 1 Prius. I have had people come up to me and say “nice car”, which they never did in my new Celica or Avalon. 180k+ miles with only oil changed and brakes. Original clutch, motor, and the interior looks brand new. Some complain about the soft chassis but a change of tires works wonders. Oh yeah, the Yaris Gen 1 and Gen 2 is the same platform, and same motor. Pick up a used Echo for $2500 and put the other $15000 in oil futures and laugh when gas gets to $5 bucks per gallon this summer. Party like a 1%-er!

      • 0 avatar
        icemilkcoffee

        The 2003+ Echo was not ugly. The Echo hatchback available in Canada was actualy quite good looking.

    • 0 avatar

      As noted in the review, the Yaris has been extremely reliable so far. The average odometer on the 2007s in TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey is 74k.

      The highest–198,000 miles, with no repairs so far aside from a recall to remove some insulation. The average odometer tends to be high for these because they’re often bought by people who drive a lot of miles who are interested in minimizing the total cost per mile driven.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Thats good, what really impresses me is the room under the hood.

        In todays engines that are at times impossible to even look at, its nice to see a car with some room under the hood, even more impressive is its a compact.

        A car that’ll go a long ways is great, a car that can be kept going is a rarity.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    It’s not surprising that Toyota dropped the sedan- it would have been almost as big as the Corolla. I parked next to a 1st-gen Yaris sedan last week, and it was huge next to my ’92 Sentra.

    It occurs to me that this Yaris is basically a Prius c minus the HSD system. Should be interesting to see how sales of each turn out.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      I thought the same thing but, according to the pre-production Prius c reviewed elsewhere on TTAC, the Yaris and Prius c share few parts.

      Were I in the market, I might go for the simularly sized (but more fuel efficient) Prius c instead of the Yaris, and consider the extra cost a hedge against higher gas prices.

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      Disagree, half of all Yaris sold were sedans, many people just will not buy a hatch, I suspect the Versa sedan will fill in the void left with the demise of the Yaris Sedan and Toyota WILL regret it.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    $17300 for THAT? That is Corolla LE territory.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      That’s in very nicely loaded up Chevy Sonic territory, Ford Fiesta territory, Mazda2 territory, stripper Chevy Cruze territory, nice Hyundai Elantra territory, Kia Forte territory, Honda Fit territory, Ford Focus territory, shoot you might be able to beat up a Ford dealer for a stripper Fusion for $17,300. $17,300 buys an awful lot of Kia Soul.

      Don’t worry, the non-cross shopping spawning salmon will return to the Toyota showroom and plunk down their money with a big smile on their face.

      • 0 avatar

        To be specific, $17,145 will get you a Soul+, which is aggressively priced. But if you’re spending the extra money for the sport trim on the Yaris, then you’ll likely want the same on the Soul, and then you’ll be spending more.

        For quick, thorough price comparisons:

        http://www.truedelta.com/prices.php

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Michael – true the Kia Soul + doesn`t directly compare equipment wise to the Yaris SE, but it does have a more powerful engine, is larger inside and has a longer warranty. Certainly some positives.

        Credit to Toyota for offering a sporty version and it not just being an appearance pack but some suspension/steering work. I always like to see more sporty versions offered of mainstream cars.

      • 0 avatar
        Volt 230

        Well, reliability has its merits as well as snappy handling or styling.

      • 0 avatar
        Volt 230

        Spoke to a long time Toyota technician who told me that pound for money, the Tercel was the best car Toyota had ever made. I still see tons of them running around even though the last ones sold here were in 1997 and those last ones must have had a limited production, cause not many were sold.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Volt – you are correct reliability has it value. Along with all those other attributes f a car – size, price, quality of materials, driving dynamics, styling etc. It is upto the consumer to weigh those. However since the quality gap is shrinking that starts to erode Toyota’s advantage on that score.

      • 0 avatar
        replica

        A Mazda2 is about $1,000 cheaper than this here Yaris.

  • avatar
    87CE 95PV Type Я

    Around here some people use their Yarises like Citroen 2CVs and I am surprised how well they drive across their farming fields. I forget how many chicken cages or hay bails can be hauled in a Yaris, but it is a few. I hear the Yaris has a squishier suspension which would explain why some people like them for driving on the roads of New York’s Southern Tier. I tend to see Fits with cracked bumper covers more than Yarises which is interesting, must be a clearance difference between the two. I have also seen an occasional Echo Hatchback around here which is a grey import from Canada.

    One of my classmates in high school got a Yaris from their parents and she chose the sedan which I thought was a bit silly, but she did not like hearing that. Neither did her boyfriend with an Intrepid.

  • avatar
    dglynn

    Essentially a micro Matrix. Looks simple in that engine bay photo, so probably cheap to run for lots of miles in the history of Toyota’s tractor engineering of past.

    But that price puts it right up against the Fit, if I’m not mistaken. And that is tough competition in that class. The Fit is currently the most traditionally Honda type car that Honda sells here.

    We replaced our manual 2007 Fit with an ’09 Jetta TDI wagon, due to the fact that our percentage of highway miles driven increased a great deal, but the Fit was a great little car for it’s purposes.

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    If all people would buy a car for practical reasons, this would be the car to buy.
    Economical? Yes.
    Exciting or interesting it is NOT.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      I don’t know if 17k is economical for a subcompact.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      If all people bought cars for practical reasons for $17,300 and middling MPG they would run from the Toyota dealer as fast as they can.

      For the money there are much better options with more room, more performance, better MPG, and versatility to carry more.

      As someone else noted for $17,300 you’re into a Corolla for starters – and when you look at the MPG, the Corolla is only fractionally worse.

      Part of a “practical” decision is maximizing your investment to make every dollar count.

      If I had to spend $17,300 and I had to be 100% practical?

      Helllllllllllllllllllllllllllllo Kia Soul.

  • avatar
    dave-the-rave

    Meh. Buy something larger, more powerful, and more comfortable used.

  • avatar
    tparkit

    The last Yaris was a styling success as a chick car. Just as cute as it could be. This new one not so much, so it may need to compete on other grounds. That might be a problem, because it does seem to have been left behind in several ways.

    (Sure, a guy might drive one… if he works at the university, or in the arts, or at a coffee house or bookstore.)

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      Pam Beesely from The Office driving one would seem to lend credence to the theory that the Yaris falls into the category of being a ‘secretary special’.

    • 0 avatar
      ciddyguy

      Where are you getting that idea? I see as many men driving the previous yarii as I do chicks, same goes for Fiat 500′s and any number of other cars that were supposedly chick cars.

      At least out here in Seattle that’s been the case and most of the Yarii hatchbacks I see are the lower priced 3 door units.

    • 0 avatar

      much better looking than the fit, although not exactly a good looking car. The old one looked a bit like a ’54 Chevy; they should have accentuated that, but it doesn’t work with the hatch.

      I do like the idea of an agile, peppy subcompact with a stick. the fit, the obvious choice, is just too damn ugly. I drive a Civic with a stick.

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      I see more men driving these cars than women. Most women would not be caught dead in an econobox like this. A man driving a Yaris makes a statement. A statement that says “I count all my pennies. You will never make one cent off of me. You can laugh now, but I always get the last laugh.”

      Whether that’s a statement you want to project, is up to you.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        I live in a town with a Toyota dealer and the one I see driven most prominently around town is owned by a local elementary school principal who happens to be male. For him it is merely a commuter car something to rack up the miles on that then can be disposed of once it has outlived its purpose.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Do you still have to pop-up the rear seat headrests for adult passengers? I noticed the center dash pod is gone. I’d hope for more than a 4-speed auto with this little motor and rear discs would be nice with the SE.

    And you know, on a basic horse like Yaris [non SE] I wouldn’t mind Rubbermaid flooring and cargo area Toyota. Just offer me one more slush cog.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    Well I wanted an appliance and I have one. Mine is a Nissan Cube. Hasn’t missed a beat in almost 40k of pretty much ignoring it. This car looks like I would be just as happy driving it.

    If you are into labeling something as a chick car you just haven’t spent enough miles driving the macho things foisted on the United States for the past 50 years. I don’t want gas bills or repair bills and I am not nearly so capable of fixing my own as I used to be.

    This (and my own car) seem to be this generations equivalent of the VW beetles we clung to in the 50′s and 60′s. I’m all for it.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    This has the same drivetrain as my 05 xB, which cost me $15200 then ($17,600 in today’s dollars).

    In keeping with MK’s findings about smaller, lighter cars, my xB is super reliable. But it has a lot more interior room than any Yaris, plus the cult car appeal.

    If I was shopping today, the Yaris wouldn’t be on the list, unfortunately. It’s just too small.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      The Yaris is built in Japan. On exchange rates alone $15,200 USD in 2005 is $21,000 today.

      $15,200 in gold in 2005 is $60,000 today.

      $15,200 in retail gasoline in 2005 is $23,500 today.

      $15,200 in wheat in 2005 is $30,000 today.

      Federal claims of 2.2% inflation are as credible as the tooth fairy.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        I wonder how much the average house has “increased” in value since 2005! Or the average DVD player or laptop.

      • 0 avatar
        redrum

        “Federal claims of 2.2% inflation are as credible as the tooth fairy.”

        It’s not like the Consumer Price Index is a proprietary secret. You can easily Google it and see how it’s calculated. Besides, typical consumers are hardly buying gold and wheat. Only the end product is relevant in calculating inflation.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        Do you spend 25 (yes, twenty five) times as much money on food and drink as you do on your health insurance?

        The CPI basket does.

    • 0 avatar
      arbnpx

      Yes, this is the 1.5L 1NZ-FE engine, which is a bit of a workhorse engine now, considering that it’s been in the Vitz / Yaris, ist / xA, bB / xB, and numerous other subcompact Toyota cars. It’s not the most fuel efficient up against some of the newer engines from competitors, and it’s definitely not the smoothest engine (no balance shafts, if I recall correctly; where would there be room for balance shafts?), but it’s a nice, solid little engine with a power curve that begs for a 5-speed manual transmission. I only wish there was more aftermarket tuning support for it (after a quick look, there are some intakes and exhausts, but not much beyond that).

      I had a chance to rent a Yaris for a day while getting work done on my tC. Once you get comfortable with the Spartan controls, it’s a nice little car. I was even downshifting the automatic transmission to get more speed; definitely not the fastest thing on the road, but fun when getting into the power band. The steering felt pretty good, though soft due to the stock squishy transmission and fat tires. I thought to myself, “It would be so awesome to try one of these with lower-profile wheels, a stiffer suspension, a 5-speed manual transmission, and a steering-wheel-mounted instrument cluster.”

      For more power in the same platform, there’s the xD, which is based on the 2nd-generation Yaris, but has the 1.8L 2ZR-FE engine. It’s heavier at 2665 lbs, but the engine has 130 HP, and the body is longer (but with the same wheelbase). It’s also slightly cheaper than the Yaris SE, but might not have a suspension tuning as stiff as the SE (worth a comparison test drive).

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    New Yaris? This would explain why I see so many Yarises (presumably last gen version) at the National Rental lots.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    And taking another page from the GM playbook, Toyota starts slapping the SE label on cars they don’t deserve an SE label.

    Compared to the rest of the B-Segment, the Yaris is a mess and other than price I don’t understand why anyone would buy one over the Fit, Sonic, Fiesta, Accent, Rio, 500…

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      Who buys a Yaris? Probably people who want reliability and a low total cost of ownership, and intend to keep the car a long time.

      Would someone have to be a masochist to want a Yaris? Perhaps.

      Any subcompact is probably fine for keeping within the warranty. They all have their merits. But…

      More likely, Yaris buyers don’t want to turn into masochists after the warranty ends.

      I wonder where all those other subcompacts with “high-tech” transmissions or costly parts that have to be imported from Italy will be in a decade. Will the owners want to pay the repair bills, or will they be the topics of “Down on the Junkyard” with Murilee Martin?

      On the other hand, we know that the humble 1.5L engine and its transmissions will still be on the roads in a decade – because they have already been around for more than a decade. “Cockroaches of the Road” (copyright Geozinger).

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        That must be why Toyota just carpet bombed the rental agencies last month with all of those “desirable” Yarii.

      • 0 avatar
        Marko

        Don’t get me wrong, there are a number of subcompacts I would probably prefer to the Yaris, driving-wise. But the people I know who buy Yari tend to have an almost irrational sense of frugality.

      • 0 avatar
        ciddyguy

        Any subcompact is probably fine for keeping within the warranty. They all have their merits. But…

        More likely, Yaris buyers don’t want to turn into masochists after the warranty ends.

        Why do you say that? Unless very basic in accouterments, seats marginally comfortable, wheezy motor etc, then yes, but most of today’s small cars are MUCH better than that now. Often they are much more quiet than in previous iterations, have enough power (usually) to get out of their own way and keep up with traffic etc, all while providing great gas mileage – and lastly, have enough equipment to be comfortable on long journeys and be able to carry loads of stuff when called upon.

        And some of these small cars DO drive very nice and beg you to toss them around on curvy roads should the mood strike.

        Plus, I’d wager they are as reliable if not more so than some larger models.

      • 0 avatar
        Marko

        @ ciddyguy

        I might have been unclear in my phrasing. What I meant is that a counterargument for those calling the Yaris powertrain “dated” or “uncompetitive” is that it is a known quantity. It has been proven over the years in the Echo, xB/xA, and Yaris.

        Compare that to the yet-unknown reliability of direct-injection engines and “automated manual” transmissions.

        The Yaris buyers I know all want to keep their cars for many years and even hand it down to their children.

        In terms of driving dynamics, comfort, etc., ANY of the new subcompacts are much better than any given subcompact of even three years ago. They are finally not just for cheapskates. I completely agree with you.

        The “masochists” was my attempt at an allusion to those who say, “Why do you want to stick with Toyota when you can have such-and-such more powerful, more efficient, etc. competitor?” They would probably respond, “Because I want a car I can drive for 300,000 miles – my (hypothetical) 1995 Corolla kept running past that mileage – and don’t want car payments for many more years.”

        In other words, different buyers have different priorities. For a 500 buyer, it might be design, for a Fiesta buyer, it might be the big car feel, and for a Yaris buyer, it’s that they know what they’re getting.

        But I agree with everything you said.

      • 0 avatar
        ciddyguy

        Marko,

        What you are saying is very true. But the thing is, why stick the car with a 4 cog slushbox when the very same slushbox now comes in either a 5 or 6 spd unit, even with a sport shift (yes, a conventional slushbox can become a shift it yourself unit).

        That said, most of what’s out there that’s more up to date has already proven itself to be as reliable as anything out there. A case in point, DI. It’s been around in diesels for decades and I think it works more or less the same way, but with gas instead of oil. There comes a point where you need to replace aging technology with fresh designs, even if based on proven, but newer technologies.

        Still in all, I would rather see at least a 5spd in the Yaris to help with mileage #’s. As it is right now, you end up with fairly wide gears when using a 4spd and it may not be able to allow for a tall enough top gear to help with the mileage #’s while on the highway.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      “SE” On a Yaris is better than “SS” on an HHR.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        ???

        It was legit 260HP machine using the same Cobalt SS goodies on the turbo version, including the option to upgrade to 300HP.

        The SS label got you almost 100 HP, over 100 pound feet of torque, Brembo brakes, a greatly improved suspension, 18″ rims and tires, upgraded transmission, and I believe Recaro seats IIRC.

        Now if you want to say the SS label on the Malibu MAXX was a joke, you’ll get no argument here.

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      Sonic, 500 ???? Really! There is no comparison here, the Sonic is an unproven Daewoo designed and engineered Pandora’s box and the 500, well it’s a Fiat, enough said!

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Toyoda san called, your check is in the mail.

        4-speed automatic in a North American distributed car in 2012?

        Reeeeeeeeeeeeally?

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        Volt230: “Sonic, 500 ???? Really! There is no comparison here, the Sonic is an unproven Daewoo designed and engineered Pandora’s box and the 500, well it’s a Fiat, enough said!”

        I’m trying to figure out who the “winner” is in that comparison…

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Building it here might help keep the price low (or the profitability up).

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Cue the “$x for THAT?! Why, for $x+$x/10 I could get a $larger_car, or even a $ten_year_old_luxury_car_that_would_cost_a_mint_to_keep”

    Yes. We know. Small cars get uncompetitive highway mileage and you can get more acres of sheetmetal for less by buying someone’s sloppy-thirds S-Class.

    Meanwhile, you could get a new Yaris (Fit, possibly an Accent, Fiesta etc) that’s fully warrantied, easy to drive, easy to park, cheap to keep and has at least ten years of useful, cheap life ahead of it. A lot of people find the prospect of owning a car they won’t need to worry about for a decade a good thing.

  • avatar

    I liked the central cluster.

  • avatar
    wmba

    http://http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/toyota%E2%80%99s-secret-weapon-low-cost-car-factories/

    Another Bertel Schmitt informative factory tour from February last year. Remember, this plant was not far from the tsunami at Sendai, and had a few problems post earthquake. Presumably, the low cost manufacturing facilities did not take a fortune to reconstitute.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    Michael – I’m interested in hearing more comparisons of the Yaris vs the Fit, rather than the Accent. I’ve always had the impression that the Fit is the benchmark for this segment, and both times you mentioned the Fit it had superior traits to both the Yaris and Accent (cargo room and shifter feel).

    Is the Fit that much more expensive that the Accent was a more appropriate comparison for your conclusion?

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      nope, right around the same price. You can go a little higher with the Fit if you opt for nav., but the Fit sport is right in the $17k range.

    • 0 avatar

      The Accent is a closer match in terms of size and packaging. The Fit is a unique car, as much MPV as hatchback. As a result, it has more space inside, especially for cargo. But I personally dislike the minivan-like driving position. Others will of course have a different opinion. But I think everyone can agree that the Fit is something of an orange amongst apples.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    I like this and I liked the exterior styling of the previous gen Yaris, though the center cluster pod? Not so much, glad they went with a more conventional layout here, though I would agree, it needs work to be more cohesive looking.

    That said, from the side, and judging by the rear door glass, kind of reminds me of the previous gen Versa in that regard, but it looks much better. The previous gen Versa (2007) didn’t impress me much, though I now understand what the blue temp light is for, to let you know when the car is fully warmed up (when it goes out) after running for a few minutes. Still, it just didn’t impress. The Rio5 (2009) with automatic was preferable to the Versa in every way except for engine noise and the highway drone.

    This car is a little over 10″ longer than the Fiat, about 20″ shorter than my 2003 Mazda Protege5, anything larger than my ’5 or the Mazda3 gets into bigger territory and the car really doesn’t feel as nimble as it could be and begins to become a liability if you have to fend for scraps of parking spaces on the street, smaller IS indeed, in this case, preferred (read, better).

    Even with some overlapping of prices at the upper trim levels of cars like this, at least you get a car with much more gear standard and are not buying the base version of the next model up so unless you can afford more than 18K or so for a car, by all means, move up. But there comes a point where the small size really DOES matter and you have to weight that in your considerations for a car.

    That said, I’d be skeptical of the EPA ratings as some cars, such as the Fiat 500 actually get better mileage than that, the fiat itself I think averages closer to 35-36mpg combined when the city mileage is closer to 32mpg, highway closer to 40-42 in regular driving.

    As a small car, this looks promising, in at least the top flight trim as a car that does, at least somewhat cater to those of us who enjoy driving, but at a very budget friendly price.

    • 0 avatar

      I still have a 2003 Protege5 as well. Of the current crop of B- and C-segment cars, only the Mazda2 and Yaris approach the Protege5 in agility. If I go a few weeks without driving my Mazda other cars start feeling more agile, and I wonder if the difference is really significant. Then I drive the P5 again and the difference is once again clear.

      The P5 isn’t actually a light car, at about 2,700 pounds. But it drives like a 2,200-pound car somehow.

      • 0 avatar
        ciddyguy

        Michael,

        Nice to know the Mazda P5 really brings home how good it is after driving other cars. :-)

        Would not mind if it actually got better mileage but at the end of the day, it’s a fantastic car.

        Mind you, I just bought it 3 weeks or so ago to replace my dying Ford Ranger (1992) with the gas hungry 4.0L V6 so even though the mileage for this type of car could be better, it’s better than the truck.

      • 0 avatar
        replica

        The Mazda3 didn’t feel anything like the Protege5 I used to own. The Mazda2 gets damn close.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Fuelly seems to confirm that the Yaris does better than the ratings indicate. The bell curve centers right around 37mpg. Other, heavier compacts have their bell curve around the lower 30mpg area.

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    With the exception of possibly the FJ Cruiser, this had got to be one of the ugliest instrument panels in any modern vehicle. I don’t see how one could stand looking at it through the term of a lease or while making payments on it.

    • 0 avatar

      As the review notes, the interior looks much better at night! Car companies usually have different teams design the exterior and the interior, which might explain how the exterior is so much more cohesive than the interior. I wouldn’t be surprised if the designer of the exterior is as disgusted as we are by the interior design.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      “this had got to be one of the ugliest instrument panels in any modern vehicle.”

      Add the Honda Fit to that list. Seriously. Ugliest, most disjointed dashboard I’ve ever laid eyes on, and it is made of really cheap plastics. Too bad Toyota went the same direction here; the previous Yaris sedan had better materials & design.

      • 0 avatar
        tedward

        30-mile fetch

        As a person who likes our family car Fit….I completely agree. There is no getting around the overwrought dashboards and crappy Mc_hitstain light grey plastics you find on a lot of the less expensive Japanese imports. There are other cheap materials which aren’t nearly as offensive, and a simpler dash would age much better.

        Personally I thought the last Yaris had the worst dash of the group, but that’s totally subjective. Haven’t driven the new one, but I also thought the last car had worst steering feel, a blah suspension, a blah gearbox and wasn’t available with a tachometer for less than Fit Sport money… The Fit was better in every respect meanwhile. The only positive was its low weight, which gave it a measure of fun-to-drive by default. The problem was that low weight isn’t unique to Yarii.

        I simply cannot believe they are shipping this out with a 4-speed.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        The current Fit is a great car and improved on a number of the problems we had with the first generation Fit. We chose a Yaris sedan over that first-gen car largely because the Yaris had much less road noise (an absolute must for me), better ride quality, and dealers actually had them in stock, so similarly equipped it was several grand less than the Fit. We didn’t need Magic Seats at that point in time and the Fit’s powertrain was really no better than the one in the Yaris. Things have changed; I would choose the current Fit, freak-show dashboard and all over this Yaris in a heartbeat.

        Never have liked the Yaris hatch, to my eye it’s interior looked and felt lousy compared to the sedan. No cargo space. The sedan and hatch feel like two different cars marketed to two different demographics, which was probably intentional.

      • 0 avatar
        84Cressida

        Um, no. The new Yaris absolutely spanks the old Yaris in design and materials. There are more padded surfaces in the new one and the instrument cluster is now where it belongs in the new one.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        “Um, no. The new Yaris absolutely spanks the old Yaris in design and materials”

        A squishy bit surrounding the radio doesn’t strike me as a spanking. I can’t recall if the door armrests padded on the new one, but every other material is a lateral move. And for me, you need to distinguish between the old sedan and old hatch; the sedan looked and felt less juvenile.

        The central gauges haven’t bugged me in the least.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The biggest problem I had with recent small Toyotas was the centrally placed speedometer. I’m not sure what is supposed to be objectionable about this one. At least it doesn’t look to have been copied from a circa 1994 JVC boombox, like the mess in the Ford Fiesta.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        The centrally placed gauges? 5 minutes of adaptation behind the wheel and I’ve been good for the rest of the ownership. The gauges are large and clear, so I don’t think it takes any more effort or time for me to read them compared to a traditional layout. The current xB is another matter.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Then call it an aesthetic judgement. There’s no way this properly designed dashboard can look as bad as the plain expanse of plastic that greets me when I get in a Toyota or Scion with a centrally mounted speedometer. Doesn’t moving away from it in the xD and now the Yaris look like an admission of guilt for playing around in a pathologically stupid design fad?

        I drove a 2003 Mini Cooper for about a year that had the biggest centrally mounted speedometer you can imagine. It wasn’t as offensive as some cars with the gimmick, as the tach was in front of you and the speedometer was as big as a dinner plate. It was still a poor substitute for a dashboard that prioritized function over style.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        “Doesn’t moving away from it…look like an admission of guilt ”

        Depends on who was complaining. Car reviewers who spend little time in it and market their opinions as scripture, or owners who actually should have some say in the matter. This owner is fine with it.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’d be correct to think that Scion xD is the superior interstate car with its higher weight and displacemnt?

    • 0 avatar

      It should be. But, now that you mention it, I’ve never driven an xD. At this point I should probably just wait for the next one. And, since the xD has achieved no more recognition than the xA, perhaps they’ll have yet another name for the car.

      I do prefer the exterior styling of the Yaris SE.

      The xD is priced a little lower, but Scion dealers don’t haggle, so you’ll probably pay about the same for either. Dimensionally the two cars are very close. As you note, the xD has a larger engine but also weighs more (specifically, 300 pounds more) so acceleration should be similar.

  • avatar
    TheHammer

    What a zero! Yet another stumble by Toyota. The interior pictures look like only the seats are in color while the rest is black and white. Sheesh

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    Like Gslippy I own a first-gen Xb, a 2006 with the stick bought well used. With 125K its given me no problems, so far. Some friends bought a new Echo a while back, no doubt reliable but ugly and ungainly and lacking the room and versatility of the Xb. My only complaint is the thin sheetmetal. For me I don’t think it would have enough power with an automatic. If I were shopping new at this point I’d probably go for a Fit or the Soul, the Yaris seems too small.I did test drive a 2011 Soul , it was ok but a little cheesy inside though it was tne top of the line Sport version and the drivetrain seemed a bit agricultural.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      I test-drove an automatic xB in 05 with the 18-inch wheels.

      On western Pennsylvania’s hilly terrain, I found that the 4-spd automatic was quieter at high speeds (longer gearing), but in commuting it shifted a lot, leading to a noisier experience when driven around town.

      Likewise, I was put off by the harsh ride of the low-profile wheels, and stuck with the steelies and MT.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    As someone who has a 2008 Yaris sedan in the household driveway, I think Toyota screwed up royally on this redesign almost as badly as Nissan wrecked the Versa. They improved the seats but failed to provide a badly needed telescoping wheel. Carryover decade-old powertrain. Useable rear seats but worthless cargo space. Interior feels cheaper than our sedan. This car didn’t advance.

    When we bought ours in 2007, it was competitive and had several stand-out attributes. Everyone else has since leaped ahead and left this thing in the dust. It’s roomy enough, but so are the Accent, Fit and Sonic. The SE drives well, but so do the Fit, Fiesta, and Sonic.

    It will be abnormally reliable, but if you don’t like owning it, how much of an asset is that?

    • 0 avatar
      Dynasty

      “It will be abnormally reliable, but if you don’t like owning it, how much of an asset is that?”

      Depends on how unreliable of a vehicle it is replaced with.

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      “decade-old powertrain” could also be construed as ‘tried and true winner’. Don’t fix what’s not broken.

      You have a point with the non-telescoping steering wheel though. I have a 04 Scion xB with the same mechanicals as the Yaris- and the non telescoping wheel is definitely a drawback also.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        “decade-old powertrain” could also be construed as ‘tried and true winner’.

        I agree with this to an extent; I considered it a plus when we bought one in 2007. I knew it would be reliable. But that was almost 5 years ago and I expect a huge profitable company like Toyota would be able to engineer a reliable replacement for this powertrain by now. The manual tranny sounds fine, but that auto needs 2 more gears. This engine/tranny combo will be 15 years old by the time the Yaris is redesigned again.

        I’m guessing profit margins on the Yaris are so low they do not want to throw much development money at it.

      • 0 avatar
        replica

        30 mile

        What does it matter if it’s a decade old engine? Can you “feel” the technology of something more recently engineered? These are entry level economy cars. Perhaps I’m not as discriminate, but I can’t feel much of a difference between a late 80′s Corolla engine and the one in the Yaris.

  • avatar
    obruni

    it is nice to see that Toyota is trying to sell a car that is fun to drive. especially under their own nameplate.

    i don’t think I would get one over a Mazda2, however. this is also the same price as a Fiat 500 Sport, but I doubt many Yaris drivers would care.

    i know people on here generally don’t care for automatics, so allow me to speak for the other 90% of American car drivers: Shame on Toyota for keeping the 4-speed automatic from the last gen car (and before).

    • 0 avatar
      Hogun

      “i don’t think I would get one over a Mazda2, however.”

      Amen! $3k more for a similar driving experience and marginally more interior room? I don’t think so. Not to mention that the $<20k subcompact bracket is already a crowded segment. I can see this selling decently only because it's a Toyota and people still associate that with reliability. If it was $2,000 less, Toyota would probably have a hit* on their hands.

      *By subcompact standards. It's still not a very big segment in the US.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    Checked out the Toyota website for the Kansas City post code and found to my surprise that the SE can only be had with a 4 spd automatic. Were they supposed to have the 5 spd manual at the time of this story and went GM on us at the last second?

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Toyota’s build your own is set up to where it only allows you to build what you will commonly find on the lot. Whatever is listed on the spec page can be ordered or found in other regions. My understanding is that it is set up that way so that people don’t build wonky configurations and get annoyed when they show up at the local dealer and the dealer doesn’t have anything near it.

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        I hear what you’re saying Quentin; however, doesn’t it defeat the purpose of offering ‘build-your-own’ if you can’t, well, build your own? I get that the local dealer may not carry the SE model that I would want to buy after checking the blocks of what I wanted, but another dealer may have or worse yet, I wait for it to be delivered from the factory as I built-it-my-own.

        Also, its curious that Michael Karesh was specifically told by the Toyota rep that this model will only come as 5 spd manual and the website specifically states it will only be ordered as a 4 spd auto. Something isn’t jiving in the Toyota marketing department.

      • 0 avatar

        Sounds like you’ve misread the review. I had no conversations with a Toyota rep concerning the Yaris, and the review does not say that the car is ONLY available with a manual. It does say that the only available engine is the 1.5.

        The way Toyota handles build combinations and programs their configurator is unique and often frustrating. Very odd for such a large company. I’ve largely given up trying to figure out which configurations are actually available–and it’s my job to know these things.

  • avatar
    xantia10000

    Thanks for the great review of an interesting car. But no mention of the feature I noticed first: that gigantic single windshield wiper!

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Just went on a Sonic owner’s forum and people are complaining about the less than stellar MPG’s and how it does not approach the EPA numbers

  • avatar
    gmrn

    “A 1.5-liter four-cylinder good for a mere 106 horses”.
    My old FX-16 GTS had a 1.6 (granted, it was the 4A-GE) with 112hp.
    This seems like glacial progress.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    I’m surprised Mr. Karesh didn’t mention that the SE version of the Yaris is equipped with 4 wheel disc brakes. I think it is the only vehicle in this class that has them.

    • 0 avatar
      Hogun

      At 2300 lbs, do you really need 4 wheel disc brakes? After some quick poking around on the Internet, it doesn’t look like the Yaris SE’s stopping distance is appreciably shorter than other subcompacts (all of them stop from 60 MPH in about 120 feet). In this case, I don’t see what advantage 4 wheel disc brakes confers to the Yaris SE over other subcompacts.

      • 0 avatar

        Another thing I’d like to have mentioned, but we’re once again trying to keep the length of our reviews under control. Rear discs won’t help in a single hard stop. Where they should help is when there are frequent hard brake applications–i.e. racing. Discs are much more fade resistant. They might also improve brake feel, and perhaps I would have noticed a difference if I had driven the car back-to-back with a drum-equipped competitor.

        For what it’s worth, the Accent and Rio also have rear discs.

      • 0 avatar
        replica

        Drums have a longer service life and are lighter. I was bummed to see them on the Mazda2, but after a few quick stomps, I stopped caring. Good enough.

      • 0 avatar
        supersleuth

        Rear discs are ridiculous in an economy car, and would be a negative on my shopping list. Their higher maintenance costs go against the whole “economy” thing, and nobody is going to race a Yaris.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    I just went to the Toyota site and if you build it and want a manual, you are stuck with the 3 door L model,the BASE model at that, even though the car in other trims, including the SE CAN come with a manual, just that none is available on the lots.

    I wonder if you can SPECIAL order it at the dealer WITH a manual in the trim, (SE 5 door) instead.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Jaeger

      We can configure a Yaris SE with a manual on Toyota’s Canadian site, no problem.

      It would be surprising if you could only get this configuration with four speed automatic. Surely if the manual is available on any model, this should be the one that has it.

  • avatar
    pfingst

    “Drooling over this photo? Then your medication has at least one unpleasant side effect.”

    Heh!

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Always thought the Yaris was one ugly hatch with it’s gaping getting ready to puke stance, it’s comical little tires and exhaust and it’s silly tiny center mounted dash. The black featureless cheap seat material is a constant reminder that this car is built to a lower standard. The new one fixes the dash mess but is still forgettable, slow and not very competitve MPG wise with some models rated at only 35 highway when 40 is the norm. The fact that Toyota is trying to pitch this as something vaguely sport is a good April fools joke.

    • 0 avatar
      replica

      40 MPG the norm? Since when? In this price bracket? Seems the average is about 35mpg. If the extra 3-4 mpg is a dealbreaker for a new car, I’d suspect the buyer has bigger financial issues than the MPG of their car and shouldn’t be buying one in the first place.

  • avatar
    willbodine

    How does the 5 door compare to the 1st Gen Scion XA? I recently had to dispose of one of those as executor of an estate. A 2005 with 22K miles. Retailed for like $13k in 2005. I got $9000 for it! Some people like these things. The XA’s light weight showed itself in the high noise levels and flexy, rattly body structure. Does the Yaris suffer from this also?


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