By on November 25, 2013

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Yaris: It’s A Car! If you go to the Toyota website to learn about the logical successor to the original, and fabulous, Corolla Tercel, that is the slogan with which you’ll be confronted.

Yaris: It’s A Car!

What you won’t find is any mention of how much power the Yaris makes (106 horsepower) or the specific type of transmission fitted to the vehicle (the venerable Toyota transverse four-speed automatic). Nor will you be tremendously impressed by the listed EPA mileage (37mpg highway). This isn’t an oversight on the part of the Toyota hivemind. It’s a way of qualifying customers. If your expectations for the Yaris are that it will, in fact, be a car, and that it will get about 37 miles per gallon on the highway, then strap yourself down, my friend, because your expectations are about to be met!

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In the days when Michael Karesh regularly contributed to this site, he was deservedly famous for both his relentlessly data-driven approach to automobiles and for his shockingly poor cellphone photos of said automobiles. Mr. Karesh had a Craiglister’s approach to vehicular photography — but with the image floating above these words, I believe I’ve topped him. This is what happens when you run out of light and your SLR’s sitting on your desk at home, ninety miles away. At that point, it’s “Enter The Samsung”.

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I rented a 2013 Yaris LE with a sticker price of $16,490 from Enterprise this past weekend. My goal was to drive to Brownsburg, IN to meet young tube-amp savant Bobby Getchell and take delivery of my Paul Cochrane-built Heritage Patriot amp, which Mr. Getchell had refitted with NOS Mullard and Sylvania tubes at some nontrivial expense. This would give me the chance to put four hundred or so miles on the Yaris in the course of a single day. I also used the little Toyota to take a friend to dinner, said friend being a young lady approaching six feet tall and possessed of a thirty-six-inch inseam. Remember that, it’s relevant later, I promise. Finally, I tossed the car seat in the back and obtained my son’s opinion on the thing.

Oddly enough, both my four-year-old son and six-footer friend said the same thing about the Yaris: it’s not roomy. The two of them wouldn’t have been able to coexist in the thing; moving the passenger seat far enough forward for my scion (as opposed to the Scion, which this Yaris emphatically is not) to be able to fit his legs between the end of the child seat’s thigh support and the back of the front seat would have rendered said front seat completely uninhabitable for the Dutch girl. But even with the front seat moved all the way back, it was impossible for Miss Thirty Six Inch Inseam to cross her legs in the car. She was forced to sit flat-footed and upright in the thing. “Not,” she pronounced, “as roomy as my Civic.” Well, that’s okay, it’s a class below the Civic.

What might be more relevant is that the Yaris doesn’t feel as roomy as the Fit, to say nothing of the dearly missed previous-generation Nissan Versa, which was sort of the class champion in many respects. Only Fiesta drivers will consider the Yaris a spacious place in which to do business. The Yaris before this one felt airier up front. It also possessed a sort of joie de vivre that this one completely lacks.

From the moment you hear that most despised of automotive sound signatures — a lackluster four-cylinder spinning up against a loose torque converter — you’ll know that the map of Yaris World has no room for Funtasyland. Oh, how it groans to move this relatively upright box around. How it moans on the freeway, where the relatively short fourth gear consigns it to a rev level that is unknown due to Toyota’s refusal to make a tachometer part of the dashboard but it is certainly higher than it needs to be. Dipping into third for a quick pass feels approximately as mechanically sympathetic as roping the rear bumper to a tree and making it do a prolonged one-tire burnout. “It’s so loud!” my clone said, “I can’t hear the song about how you should come back home on your own.” It’s true: the Yaris is the loudest car I’ve driven in some time. To put things into perspective, the day before my son and I had driven my leaky-roofed 560SL a hundred and ten miles from Columbus to Cincinnati and he didn’t bother to complain about the noise in that.

It doesn’t help that Toyota supplies the car with a stereo system that is nominally feature-complete (Bluetooth, iPod and 1/8″ plug compatible) but which cannot be heard on the freeway without being cranked to the point of distortion. Nor is wind noise well-controlled. If I drove the Yaris again for any length of time, I’d bring earplugs. I’m not kidding.

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On the positive side, the dynamic composure of the littlest Toyota is far better on the freeway than it was in any generation of Tercel or Echo. It’s on par with the outgoing Corolla in that regard, rarely wandering under wind pressure and demonstrating a remarkable felicity of ride. It’s only when I’m bouncing around the brick-paved streets of German Village in Columbus that I realize how they did it: the suspension is so soft that the Yaris will scrape its nose on wavy pavement. This proved to be so amusing — setting the little car up to oscillate at forty MPH or so and letting it repeatedly bang its snout on the bricks — that it took the sound of a rattling Mullard tube from behind me to make me stop.

“I wasn’t going to say anything about the amplifier,” my passenger smirked, “because you were clearly so pleased with yourself.”

That I was. But should potential Yaris buyers be as pleased with the ownership experience as I was with the nose-grinding? To be truthful, this is not a car that I can recommend to anyone. The extra money that would be required to upgrade from this to a Corolla would be money well spent and it would almost certainly be returned to the customer upon the sale of the vehicle. The Yaris is inferior to the Corolla in every possible way. Even the fuel economy is less than brilliant, the overwhelmed 1.6/four-speed combo yielding about thirty five miles to the gallon, give or take a little measuring error, during a long trip in which I consciously laid off the throttle. At twelve grand, the Yaris makes a case for itself. At sixteen and a half, which places it just a grand south of a similarly equipped Corolla, it’s…

Well, it’s a car.

But it’s a car without a point.

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The venue for these photographs was the old Brookville BMX track just east of the Ohio-Indiana border. Your humble author enjoyed dozens of races there from 1984 to 2004 and misses it dearly.

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123 Comments on “Rental Review: Toyota Yaris LE...”


  • avatar
    Charlie84

    Here’s an observation about a choice I just now made: Apparently, I’d read a Yaris review written by Jack rather than a 996 GT3 review written by someone who is not Jack.

    And I LOVE the 911 GT3.

  • avatar

    And here’s proof positive why buying used isn’t such a bad idea. You’ll get a far better car compared to…this.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Consumer Reports came to the same conclusion several years ago, when they reviewed several econoboxes. They ended that report with a list of two and three year old bigger cars with better equipment, available for the same price.

      As Jack points out, this econobox has a much better sorted out ride for freeway driving, and is probably MUCH safer than the old Tercels, but the creature comforts are still notable by their absence.

      • 0 avatar
        Volt 230

        I’d take a 3 yr old Corolla over a new one of these any day, BTW used Yarii cost the same as used Corollas of the same year and condition, I guess there are more Corollas available and people are looking for better mpg’s.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      For the last couple years buying new has generally beat buying used, but conditions are changing.

      First, the used car market is finally getting built up again after the financial disaster.

      Second, the federal regulations requiring side airbags and ABS have been around for a few years (I believe it was either 2010 or 2011), so late model used cars will have those.

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      Someone correct me if I’m wrong but wouldn’t a Tercel of 25 years ago run circles around this in terms of MPG? Don’t have the exact numbers but 37 highway seems much lower than the Tercels of the 80s were advertising.

      Note – Looked it up. A 1988 Tercel EZ was rated at exactly 37 mpg highway. Guess we haven’t advanced much.

      • 0 avatar

        I remember the ads of the 1980s with some subcompact cars claiming as much as 50 mpg, but I always figured that was a rather creative interpretation of the fuel economy stats.

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        Cars have gotten larger, heavier and more powerful.

        Even the lowest grade Yaris has 28 more HP and 325 more pounds than the Tercel EZ.

        And the Yaris is not in any way cutting edge. The Prius C, basically a Yaris with cutting edge technology, gets significantly better mileage than the old Tercel EZ.

        The Mitsubishi Mirage. Probably the only car on the market with similar power and weight to the old Tercel EZ, gets 42 MPG highway, compared to the Tercel’s 37.

        http://autos.msn.com/research/compare/default.aspx?c=0&i=0&ph1=t0&ph2=t0&tb=0&dt=0&v=t10980&v=t116881&v=t117228&v=t119523

        The Tercel EZ’s $6,148 is $12,137.28 today, so even the Mitsubishi Mirage’s pricing is consistent. Despite MUCH better content (power windows, power locks, six aibags, ABS, CD stereo with AUX, four doors, mirrors on both sides, body color bumpers).

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        1) Different test cycle based on a country with a max 55 MPH speed limit and less overall congestion
        2) Much lighter curb weights due to far less safety equipment and accident survivability requirements
        3) Lowest common denominator no season 80 profile tires on 13″ steel rims – maybe 165 mm wide
        4) No AC, heck in some cases like my 85 Ford EXP not even power steering to add load and lower MPG – and the MPG test cycle assumed no AC at the time
        5) No mandated ethanol in gas hurting real world MPG (and current MPG test cycle stupidly assumes that the cycle is run on pure gas, so the current standard is fantasy)
        6) Smaller vehicles period – the current Civic is bigger than an early 80′s Accord, etc etc etc

        It’s not even apples and oranges.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        As an ex-owner of an ’89 Tercel DX 2-door hatch, it might’ve gotten 30 mpg with its three speed automatic, no ac, but in other respects the Yaris is the better car all things considered.

      • 0 avatar
        threeer

        I’d rather take my son’s 1997 Tercel back. And it has over 200k on the odometer. The interior quality of the old girl is miles ahead (even now) of the Yaris. And my son regularly gets put-near 40 MPG in the Tercel, so he’s in no hurry to give it up (not that he looks particularly, um, studly when he pulls up to the flight line in his Air Force flight suit in a 16-year old econobox).

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          Stylistically I always found Tercels to be a bit more “neutral”, Yaris’s always struck me as a bit effeminate.

          I can’t vouch for your ’97, but I know that the interior of my ’89 felt more solid and pleasing than the ’13 Corolla I had as a rental, its clear that once the 90′s went out Toyota’s quality went with it.

          Also, my Tercel had better steering input and a more responsive gas pedal. I could practically floor the Corollas only to rev the engine, not actually move the car.

          I’d rather take a ’94 Corolla overall.

    • 0 avatar
      Flybrian

      Wasn’t Roger Smith or someone high-up at GM once quoted as answering “what is the best $15k car” by saying “a two-year-old Buick or Oldsmobile?”

      Same holds true today.

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      I’ve always bought used. The best car I’ve ever owned is a 1995 Buick LeSabre that cost $700. For the price of a new Yaris, I could buy roughly 21 LeSabre’s. The one I had went 30,000 miles without a failure, so that multiplied by the 21 cars would yield 631k usable miles. When a Yaris does this, let me know.

      If old Buick’s aren’t your taste, you can get a nicer car. For the same price, I could purchase two Audi A6 wagons. One for me is plenty, though.

      Even with the mechanic bills on the Buick’s or the Audi’s, I would much rather own either of the used choices.

      The Buick LeSabre- It’s a car too!

  • avatar

    Do the Fit! The Fit!

    • 0 avatar
      Jellodyne

      He’s not going to find a Fit at a rental counter.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Don’t say not, Avis offers me Hondas fairly consistently on the left coast. I have seen Fits on the rental lot in Sacramento. It is rare, Honda may not do much fleet, but there is “fleetail”

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Hertz certainly has no shortage of Fits, nor does my local Enterprise outlet.

          I’ve had a Yaris as a rental as well – perfectly adequate car spoiled by having an automatic and a price that is too high. Do they actually sell for anywhere near MSRP?

          • 0 avatar
            SilverBullett

            The Yaris (and previous Tercel, Echo) rarely have any incentives. I have been to various Toyota car lots in my lifetime. The reason given to me each time is that the Yaris is shipped from Japan (cost) and the fact there are typically not many on the car lot. So therefore are sold very close to MSRP.

            Most of the salesmen would always try to upsell the Corolla due the close price. Rightfully so, much better car for just a few bucks more. My favorites were my 97 and 2004.

            I will admit that I had a 95 Tercel brand new and liked the car a lot. After that, the Echo was too “bubbly” and the 1st gen Yaris was far to loud, rough and uncomfortable.

  • avatar
    Tomifobia

    Maybe leaving the parking lights on would have added a bit of artistic flair to the pics. In any case, they’re certainly no worse than the crap I see on Instagram.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Not sure why they don’t make all subcompact cars kammbacks to improve fuel efficiency. I mean, if there’s not going to be any space anyway, might as well make them cheaper to drive.

    The Yaris has the distinction of being one of the very few brand-new cars you can buy in the U.S. that you can acquire in three-door hatchback form. For that reason and that reason alone, I considered taking a look at one prior to my last car purchase.

    Three major issues eliminated it from contention: it’s overpriced and didn’t come with a sunroof. This review makes me glad I didn’t bother test-driving one. As I age I’m less inclined to tolerate a brand new car that manages to accurately emulate the experience of a 1990′s penalty box.

    • 0 avatar

      Sunroofs are awful, deal breaker for me right there. They always rob the car of absolutely critical inches of headroom. I suppose shorties may like sunroofs in cars, but not me.

      • 0 avatar
        ash78

        I’m 6’2″ and haven’t had a headroom issue in my cars, but I keep the seat all the way down whenever possible. But as far as unexpected leaks, expensive (usually non-crucial) repairs, and general uselessness, sunroofs are near the top of my list.

        But they’re almost mandatory for most option packages. What a waste.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          It’s very difficult to get a $30k+ car and NOT have a sunroof.

          That being said, I wonder what the ” difference is in headroom -lost- between a glass panel which goes into the roof, and one which goes above it. The trend seems to be inside the roof these days. It always looks better.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            The manufacturers package the moonroof with wheels or upgraded radio all the time. Ford loved itself the “Moon & Tune” package a couple years ago. Upgraded Sony branded stereo and a moonroof. It worked well into the lease residuals. If you priced out a Fusion SEL without the moon & tune, it was more expensive in the lease.

        • 0 avatar
          Dan

          Dropping the seat solves the headroom problem but it gives you a thigh support problem instead. Pretty much everything that isn’t a pickup truck has seat cushions proportioned for 5 feet and change women. They suck sitting upright and they suck even more dropped to the floorpan with your knees sticking up in the air.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Some have been better in recent years, but in general I agree. I just drove a Malibu with a sunroof, and it was an awful experience for me. At least I didn’t have a passenger behind me.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        6’3″. All my cars have had sunfoofs; none have posed a headroom issue for me at least. Life is too short to not have a sunroof.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          Our car has a panoramic roof—which moves along the exterior of the car—so headroom doesn’t seem to be an issue. Then again, none of us is over 6 feet tall…

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          All depends on how you are built. I am just under 6′ 1″, but I only have a 29″ inseam. I don’t fit in much of ANYTHING with a sunroof. Not helped by the fact that most cars move the seat UP as it moves forward – by the time my little legs can reach the pedals, the seat is higher than it needs to be. I have about 1/4″ between my scalp and the headliner in my 3-series, and I have NOTHING between scalp and headliner in my Range Rover with the seat as low as it will go. In fact, I plan to shave an inch or so off the seat cushion in the truck. I can’t even drive a FIAT 500 with a sunroof, though without one I have just enough headroom to wear a helmet. Luckily a sunroof is not mandatory in a car as cheap as an Abarth, as a helmet is mandatory when autocrossing it.

      • 0 avatar
        philadlj

        I’m 6’0″ and it’s fine. I just avoid wearing tall hats.

        Realize that I grew up really really wanting a sunroof in the car for no good reason other than you can look up and see the sky…and the fact that none of my parents cars’ ever had one, except for a ’91 Camry rent-a-wreck.

        I just have to be careful at two-way creek fords…

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        I’m the complete opposite. NOT having a sunroof or T-Tops (yeah, I know it dates me a bit) makes for a deal breaker for me. I’m 6’1″ and my ’08 Astra with the near full length sunroof fits me perfectly, even with the 5spd manual (the European small feet and too close together clutch/brake/accelerator is a much different story). I abhore driving in what feels like a gloomy coffin, rolling like a fungus in the absense of sunlight, especially in this new trend of car design where the belt is raised and the windows are chopped.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    This car was made for cellphone pics. Deserves nothing more.

    Driving a Yaris 5 years ago was a reminder that even the mightiest suffer an occasional shart.

  • avatar
    Alexdi

    This was hilarious. I think I was a little too hard on the Focus. Good lord.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Why do they still make this!? I have not seen a brand new Yaris in quite some time. I see more old Echos and/or Matrix(es) than I do this model.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      I see a few around, but they are fairly uncommon compared to the previous model. I think the current Yaris is squeezed by the respectable competitors in the segment, and by the Prius C. This might be why the next Yaris is supposedly going to be a rebadged next-gen Madza2.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      Toyota is not going to abandon the growing US b-segment, just because its current entrant is an also-ran.

      This car is a disaster because it is made in Japan, so even as cost cut to hell as it is, it still probably either breaks even or sells at a loss.

      The next one will be a rebadged next-generation, Mexican made Mazda 2, a massive step forward.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      I see Fit’s all over. The Yaris had a few sales when the stupid ad with the fuel pump came out and then… poof.

  • avatar
    krayzie

    A flat bottom steering wheel in a Yaris? What is this sports package?

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      I think that’s just so your legs aren’t constantly hitting the bottom of the wheel. There’s no room in there.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        There’s plenty of room in there. But Toyota somehow thinks that 2 inches of vertical travel counts as a “tilt wheel” so you can never get it high enough if you are approaching 6 feet. Doesn’t telescope either, so you will be sitting way too close to those pedals in order to reach it.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    This is the kind of car that a buyer has to get stick in. With stick this would be a decent car, with the four speed automatic it is a disaster.

    Whether a 7 speed DCT or well programmed 8 speed planetary gear set/torque converter transmission beats a conventional 6 or 7 speed manual when paired to a high power engine is a different question than whether a 5 speed manual beats a poorly and heavily economy tuned 4 speed torque converter laden automatic transmission when paired with a week inline-4.

    Both stick and auto buyers are going to be better off with the Kia Soul or Nissan Versa Note.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Damn, Jack, you need a new cell phone.

  • avatar
    The Soul of Wit

    JB….be sure and let us know when Ms. 39-inch-inseam acquires a more Vodka-esque new moniker….

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    84Cressida is going to have a stroke when he/she reads this review.

    Basically the same conclusion, but seeing how Toyota could only move 755 of these in October – it says a lot.

    What kind of insane world is this:

    1) Noisy, buzzy, coarse engine – check
    2) Antiquated 4-speed automatic not well mated to engine? Check
    3) Craptastic stereo in an utterly decontented bean counter driven interior? Check
    4) Spongy soft suspension that is acceptable on the highway and awful otherwise? Check
    5) Rear drum brakes? Check

    So Toyota has successful built a B-Class base model Chevy Cavalier as a successor to the venerated Tercel.

    Oh that’s right, it says Toyota. Of course one could always drop $16K on a Scion iQ sitting on the same lot.

    The iQ was mercifully euthanized, as noted for the same Cheddar or a tiny slice more, buy a Corolla LE and be happy, Hell, if you don’t care about drum brakes and 4-speeds but the Corolla L.

    *snicker*

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Sales of the Yaris are down, but even during the year of the tsunami, over 50% of Yaris sales went to rental fleet (so much for supply issues).

      Toyota’s car lineup – the Yaris, Corolla and Camry sell ever increasingly on price; the problem is, the Yaris is least competitive in the price/space quotient, esp. against the likes of the Nissan Versa.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      “Antiquated 4-speed automatic not well mated to engine? Check”

      What isn’t there to like about doing this little number every time you want a downshift: Stomp!-3-2-1-shift-RAAAWWWRRRR!

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        LOL – back in the 90s I had an employee who was seriously into body building, He drove a Cavalier at the time with an auto. He described when he had a couple of his barbell buddies in it with him that flooring it resulted in the sound similar to imminent engine explosion. Oh the Cavalier never really went any faster, it just made a lot of sound and fury.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      5) Who cares?

      Look, the rest of those are real things.

      But real, competitive, serious small cars have rear drums (e.g. look at the Civil and Corolla and Mazda2/3, etc., etc.).

      Rear drums just aren’t a Problem in a small Not-Pretending-To-Be-A-Racecar passenger car; the fronts do all the work.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Bringing up an economy car having drum brakes needs to die. They work just fine, and will probably not need servicing over the life of the vehicle. I’ve had more issues with rear calipers sticking due to the slave cylinder rusting in its bore than with anything having to do with brake drums.

      • 0 avatar

        Fit has rear drums too. They work great, and the parking brake holds much better, too. A street car drivers with the front wheels anyway, it does not need rear discs outside of a racetrack.

        • 0 avatar
          Drewlssix

          Poor reasoning. A street car relies on its rear brakes for about 30% of its braking work. The same car with disc rears typically stops noticeably shorter than its drum braked twin. Sometimes just a few feet other times much more. If you think a foot or two is trivial remember all the times you managed to stop a car mere inches from something or someone.

          And just try driving a car with no rear brakes. Even at modest speeds it can be pretty scary. For that matter drive a late 80s Chevy pickup with faulty single channel ABS that provides no pressure to the rear end. Pickup rears typically do even less than your average sedan rears but when you lack even that seemingly minor assist things get hairy fast.

  • avatar
    3Deuce27

    Discernment!

    Why, I ask as I click to read this article, am I bothering to read an article about a Yaris when time would be better spent getting that old rotary out of the RX7 so we can clean up the engine compartment for the LS transplant… Becuzz JB wrote it? Seems.

    Damn! I’m mad at myself. Will never get that time back, and now I have wasted more. Reminds me of the expanding rings of concentric molecular disturbance when a rock is thrown in a lake. Jack threw a pebble in a lake and created a degree of amplitude and we all are effected, well some of us.

    What I don’t get, is how do you charge $16,000 for an $8,000 car?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The Yaris drivetrain is the same one used in my former 2005 xB1 (and its xA brother). And that drivetrain was used (I think) in Corollas before dinosaurs ruled the earth.

    In 2005 it was OK; today it’s not. At the time, I test-drove the automatic (same 4-speed) and found it wanting. In western PA’s hilly terrain, it was never happy. So I bought the 5M and had good luck with it. But the entire package was noisy, and more than 2 hours in the car were painful – literally. Nevertheless, it was the best car I ever had.

    When the Yaris came out, I thought it would be a refreshed version of my Scion. Instead, I was appalled at how primitive it was, stripped of all the amenities that came standard on the Scion. Worse, it was substantially smaller inside.

    In conclusion, I don’t know why anyone buys this car. A Hyundai Accent or Kia Rio are much nicer.

    • 0 avatar
      bill mcgee

      I drive a 2006 xB and I really don’t find the lack of power to be a problem , and the drivetrain has certainly been durable . Of course mine has the 5-speed and I was mainly looking for a delivery vehicle with decent mileage and it always seems to average over 30 m.p.g. ,every tankful. If I were replacing it with a new vehicle I would go for the Kia Soul or maybe a Fit , again with a manual .

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Dare I mention that we owned a Yaris sedan until earlier this year? Leave me alone, we bought it under tight finances at the end of grad school as an aging 1993 Civic was crapping the bed. Compared to that Civic the Yaris was a remarkable upgrade in every way except steering feel. Compared to a Fit it was quiet and cheap. Compared to the lightly-used car market we SHOULD have been shopping in that price range, it sucked.

    We kept it 5 years and abandoned it for a 2 year old Altima that cost less than the new MSRP of that Yaris. It’s amazing how big of an upgrade 2 years of depreciation will buy you. Lesson learned.

    The Yaris wasn’t a bad car in 2008; the B-segment was really lousy prior to that. But everyone else improved and Toyota left this car to rot. Toyota didn’t improve any of the previous gen’s faults, didn’t amplify any of its strengths, and now they have a little crapcan that is rightfully mocked both here and in the marketplace.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Not a Belta/Yaris sedan owner here, but a frequent borrower of one owned by relatives. It has its virtues:
      - Reliable as the sun, though I suppose reliability is the rule rather than the exception these days
      - Good build quality, albeit with inexpensive materials. The one I drive is 5+ years old, has been driven mostly on bad city streets in stop-and-go traffic, and has no squeaks or rattles.
      - Great packaging by 2013 standards; can accommodate four people of 5’10″ or less without any crazy contortions. It’s also nice to see a car with a perfectly flat rear floor – none of this “got to create room for the AWD hardware” nonsense.
      - Terrific gas mileage. I’ve gotten as much as 44 mpg highway. Typically I see 31 – 34 city and 38 – 42 highway. And that’s with the auto, not the manual. I’m not sure if the newer generation is heavier; I suspect Baruth was either caning it or fudging on his math to make the car look worse than it is.

      The steering feel is disappointing compared to ’90s compacts and subcompacts. Am I correct in thinking this was one of the first cars on the US market with electric power steering?

      The used car comparison with something from a larger class is, as always, a bit unfair. A subcompact can be a the best option for someone living in the city-proper in New York, Chicago, Boston, DC, or San Francisco. In exurbia, its virtues become less important.

      • 0 avatar
        cheeseTHEmac

        Ok, after years of reading TTAC, this article motivated me to create a login. To put my input into context my second car is a VW Sportwagen TDI.

        In 2009, Toyota for the first time offered 0% Financing. I bought a Yaris/Belta Sedan with manual 5-speed. It was the only car at this price point to get a rated 36mpg. In reality, I never have received 36mpg. I always get in the low 40s. On one tank I did some heavy hyper-miling and got 50mpg.

        My largest complaint is how the friction point requires so much gas from a stop, but other than that I truly enjoy the car.

        I almost have 100k now. The only maintenance has been rotating the tires, replacing oil, filters and changing oil. All easily done by myself.

        I find the Yaris Sedan roomier than the Fit, plus in 2009 the Yaris got better rated MPG.

        Now, I upgraded the stereo to one most audiophiles would appreciate. In addition, added some simple sound deadening. The end result is a comfortable, inexpensive commuter, fun to drive and has a awesome audio system. All for less than $16.5k total.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          What are your thoughts on the driving position? I liked the firm seat, but without a telescoping wheel I either had to sit scrunched to the pedals to reach the wheel comfortably, or grip the wheel with arms bolt outright to comfortably work the pedals.

          The Yaris sedan was fine for its time. But the segment moved ahead very quickly and this new one Jack drove didn’t move with it.

          • 0 avatar
            Featherston

            @30-mile fetch & cheeseTHEmac, driving position is probably my biggest criticism. I have long arms relative to my height, and even I find the steering wheel far away relative to the pedals. I’m also not a huge fan of the height/tilt/rake adjustments on the seat. I sometimes feel like I’m *just* off from an ideal position. It’s not terrible in an absolute sense, but it seems like it could’ve been better given a smidge more effort on Toyota’s part.

            Amusing: I believe this car could be ordered from the dealer with a host of TRD suspension changes. I’m not sure I’d want to stiffen the ride of a daily driver, but it could be fun for autocrossing.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Most of our dissatifaction centered on our need to use it as a kid hauler and highway car. It’s not happy on the highway. And neither are you when you’r in it. It’s not Honda loud but it is still loud, the driving position is off, and any headwind or speeds above 70mph murdered the gas mileage. I pulled 44mpg out of a tank, but it was a 55-60 mph climb and descent of the Cascades on twisty two-lanes.

        Great city car, it has a tiny turning radius that feels like the car is pivoting on a center axis when the wheel is cranked. Zips up to city speeds well enough and visibility is great.

        I think the Yaris was a fairly early adopter of EPS. The steering was quick and precise, but was the perfect example of the oft-used analogy of arcade game steering. Not the slightest hint of being connected to the front wheels.

        And the interior packaging is pretty good; one look at the backseat of the longer Fiesta will drive that home.

        I had a hard time actually disliking that car. It was well built, did its job, contained some pretty thoughtful details, and would continue doing its job cheaply for years. But I couldn’t muster any real affinity for it either.

        • 0 avatar
          cheeseTHEmac

          Yes, it took sometime to find a seat position.

          I am just over 6 feet tall. This was the first car that had a vertical seat adjustment (not to mention rear heat ducts ;) ) . Ultimately I ended up with a compromise of “meh” seat positions.

          After driving it 12 hours to Mt. Rushmore I wasn’t in any abnormal discomfort.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    I think our next car is most likely going to be small and really cheap to replace the aging Jetta that’s a ticking time bomb.

    I’m thinking Chevy spark with a manual, but ONLY if they come out with the 3cylinder engine. Seems to be pretty roomy/comfortable. Haven’t driven one yet, probably don’t want too. I drove a Fiesta, it was terrible, but a lot of that was because it felt too cramped; and I’m not a large person either.

    I like the Fiat 500, but the money is just too much, and I think a Chevy would be easier/cheaper to keep going to 250,000miles than a Fiat.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      The Spark is very roomy for its footprint. However, hooked up to the automatic anyway, the engine completely falls on its face around 45mph.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        This – describes the Spark perfectly. The interior is very roomy (or seems roomy) but beyond urban canyon carving or suburban grocery runs, forget it. Also the MPG is on the middling side, I believe it is also saddled with an antiquated 4-speed auto if you don’t row your own.

        In the B-segment I would look at Hyundai or the Chevy Sonic. With a new Fit right around the corner I would pass today, but I’ve always liked the little Honda.

        The Yaris competitor is the Sonic, the Spark is an A-Segment car (do a search on TTAC as the gods here say the same thing before stomping your foot and insisting its B-Segment – not directed at ajia) competing with the Fiat 500, the defunct iQ, and the smartfortwo. Considering the mission and competition, the Spark isn’t that bad, but it is still by any definition a penalty box on wheels.

        • 0 avatar
          alexndr333

          The Spark to consider is the EV (if you’re in California or Oregon). Faster to 30 than just about anything, and a relatively tight chassis for its class. If you live in the other 48 states, complain to Chevy that they’re holding out on one of the best small cars being made.

        • 0 avatar
          Flybrian

          Problem with the Fit is – unless things have changed recently – that Honda refuses to equip anything but the Sport model with cruise. No cruise plus those dump-ass poverty wheel covers = no-go.

          • 0 avatar
            rudiger

            Agree that the lack of cruise control on the base Fit was a problem, but I think it became standard with the last redo.

            Now if they’d only fix the goofy styling…

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            “Now if they’d only fix the goofy styling”

            Preview photos of the next generation came out awhile ago. It looks worse. It’d be nice if they did something about the mad carnival of cheap contrasting plastics that make up the dashboard.

      • 0 avatar
        AMC_CJ

        That’s why I would have to get a manual, and would only buy one if they come out with a decent 3cyl engine with a broad torque curve like the one in the Fiesta. I get that Fiesta is a nice little runner with that tiny Ecoboost, and the mileage is awesome, but it was so uncomfortable and cramped inside.

        I know the Spark is suppose to be a city car, but it’s roomy enough inside I think I could use it as a commute. I would really have to stretch one out on the interstate. Plus, it would be nice to have a car I could run to our families homestead in the mountains for like 5gals of gas each way.

  • avatar
    TorontoSkeptic

    The problem is that the Toyota Matrix exists, it’s about 10-12% more expensive and a ton more roomy. Yes it has the same transmission and dull interior but it’s a legitimate small family car, whereas the Yaris is just an overpriced subcompact.

    I think they’re getting rid of the Matrix soon which I guess should help the Yaris, but it sounds like it’s really living on its reputation. Subcompacts used to be a pretty niche thing, now you see Chevy Sonics and Kia Rios all over the place, plus those pseudo-sub-compacts like the Kia Soul/Nissan Juke that at least have a weird unique aesthetic.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    This is the car you buy your kid when they go to college if you are one of those people who has to buy their kid a NEW car. Otherwise a test drive in one of these has likely been the easiest way to sell a Corolla since 2005.

  • avatar
    69firebird

    I’d rather have the amp in the back.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    But this Yaris is a Scion. Actually, Scions are this Yaris, or the Echo that predated the Yaris, seeing how the first gen xB and xB shared the same chassis and drivetrain that this Yaris does.

    The 1.5 liter mill and the 4 speed auto are somewhat antiquated, but are perfectly suited for oft neglected rental fleets, or perhaps buyers who want a cheap no frills car and don’t plan on doing any/much maintenance on it.

    Mated to a 5 speed manual, this car livens up a bit, as do most underpowered penalty boxes.

  • avatar
    jco

    i once rented a Yaris. it was the shortest period I’d ever used a rental car for: 48 minutes.

    i left O’Hare on a 8am flight, and was to meet my friends (and ride home to Charlotte) at Lake Lanier just outside of Atlanta. i played around with the logistics as much as possible, but in order to go the 49 miles from Atlanta-Hartsfield to my pickup point at the lake, renting a car worked out to be the cheapest. since I would be leaving town the next afternoon, I would have to return the car the same day. and the location i’d chosen to return it to closest to the lake would close at 12p. well, by the time I’d landed, got to the rental counter, and had the keys in my hand, it was already 11:10. i spent my entire rental period with that little gray Yaris with my right foot as close to the floor as I could keep it. while planning all of this, I was aware that if any one segment of that trip went even 5 minutes over i’d have been screwed. fortunately the Yaris did it’s part quite easily.

    i suppose driving a slow car fast is fun.. and i can report that amidst all of this i was able to successfully pair my phone with the radio and listen to music without too much effort. it was indeed, a car.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    German Village has certainly punished better cars than the Yaris. Hope you had a chance to stop at the Book Loft.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      And Schmidt’s FTW!

      (I think Jack lives in the greater Buckeye-town area.)

      Also would like to try the eating challenge at Thurmond’s; probably wouldn’t be able to do it, but I could take lots of leftovers back to Toledo.

  • avatar
    DevilsRotary86

    Awesome post. My brother actually owns one of these. In specific, a base level 2007 manual transmission 3-door hatch. Bought late 06, it was one of the early ones with the hard rubber “accordion” shift boot (later models had a vinyl-fake-leather bag for a boot).

    I remember it being me, my dad, my mom, and my brother all in the car one get together. My mom actually said the back seat wasn’t bad for room (it was pretty bad, but I don’t argue with my mom).

    I guess it’s been about 7 years now since he bought it and I don’t think he is giving it up soon. It’s not what I would pick. It works for him though.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      A colleague who happens to be a principal as well owns one like you describe in the shade of blue of Jack’s rental. He could have of course afforded something much nicer and more expensive but he wanted something disposable and reliable for his commute. He tried to give it to his daughter around the time of her high school graduation because he wanted her to have a cheap college commuter car and he argued with her that given its manual transmission she’d never have to loan it to anyone because they wouldn’t be able to drive it.

      She didn’t want it and one of the major reasons was having to drive it from Gallup, NM to Los Cruces, NM whenever she wanted to go from home to college or college to home. Based on Jack’s review I wouldn’t want to drive it 300+ miles either.

      • 0 avatar
        DevilsRotary86

        When my brother bought his, after seeing his income the dealer tried to sell him into a Camry instead. But my brother is like me and my wife; he doesn’t like big cars.

        Late he has been considering getting something nicer but about the same size as a Yaris. I wound up getting him to look into MINI Cooper S’s.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I’m not one to bash Toyota, but gee…for $16K, you could have *the new* 2014 Kia Soul, which does everything much better than the Yaris, and is far more stylish. There are several brand new ones in my area that are priced under $16,100. These barebones cars are great when they’re much cheaper than everything else. When they can’t even excel on price, there’s an issue. $16K will get you into pretty much every other mainstream subcompact or compact hatch on the market, too. If you know where to go, you can get a new Focus SE hatchback for under $14K…without discounts! Why would you pay this kind of money for a Yaris? I’m pretty sure no one does, and that these are selling way under MSRP…

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      I’ve seen V-6 Mustangs in my area for under $17K, brand new.

    • 0 avatar
      jcp12385

      Stylish?! Bleagh…

      Yaris has its faults for sure, but I’d rather be flogged to death with chicken feathers than be caught driving an Xb, element, soul, cube, etc.

      I maintain the Echo was a better car than the yaris. Softer ride. Plus lighter weight made the engine almost feel sporty and it yields 40 mpg even with a slushbox trans. Handling is sloppy but crap, with only 2065lbs to hustle, it has enough grip even on poverty tyres.

  • avatar
    taxman100

    Cannot be much different than our 2000 Corolla. My wife bought it brand new before we were married, and now that we have kids, I use it as my beater commuter car.

    14 years and 178,000 miles from a 1.8 liter/4 speed auto. Once it dies, I’m looking hard at a Mitbushi Mirage, as I want something simple, cheap, and will get 45 mpg on my commute. Dealers are already selling the version with the CVT for under invoice.

    My rule of thumb is if I can get 10,000 miles for every $1,000 spent excluding trade-in/sale/salvage income at the end, I’m okay. We paid around $13,000 for the Corolla, so we are in the black.

  • avatar
    zeus01

    As a proponent of durable, reliable and fuel-efficient Japanese B-segment cars it pains me to see Toyota thrust such a backwards-trending vehicle on us. Sure, it’s bound to last forever. But, considering the traits outlined by Jack, if this car were gifted to me I’d actually WANT it to die. It’s the diametric opposite of my ’09 Fit Sport MT, a car that meets (actually exceeds) all the reliability, utility and economical requirements of a B, but is actually fun to drive. After over five years of ownership it’s approaching 160,000 kms (100,000 miles) and feels as tight as it did on October 10th, 2008. Meanwhile my ex-wife’s 2008 Yaris (bought around that same time) didn’t survive its first year before being peppered by hail stones in Calgary the size of baseballs. It was likely patched up as required and is still tooling around in the slow lane.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    If you want an updated drivetrain, buy the Prius C.

  • avatar
    Zekele Ibo

    I tried one of these, the driving position was just awful, my arms were stretched out fully. The interior was crap too.

    I went for a Mazda2 with the 5-speed stick-shift instead, far cheaper than the Yaris when you take into account the incentives (in Canada at least) and a much much better car.

  • avatar
    3Deuce27

    My views on the Yaris are colored by the fact that I think it is dangerous in an accident avoidance situation.

    When Oregon Raceway Park opened, a friend followed us out to the park in his Yaris. For qiggles we decided to do a few laps in the Yaris to get a look at the brand new track. On the third lap I went for the fast lines at speed and on one uphill slightly off camber turn, the Yaris went up high on two wheels, and only years of experience driving a Bug on two wheels saved the day. We almost made history by being the first vehicle to turn turtle on the new track.

    Not something I would want my wife or children to drive in a swerving, avoidance situation.

    http://oregonraceway.com/

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Was it a newer model with the softened suspension or an earlier one?

      • 0 avatar
        3Deuce27

        First year Yaris. We saw them at the Portland Auto Show, and he thought it would be a good little urban scoot. It is, but not much else.

        Despite my best efforts at putting him into a new FRS, he now drives a new ‘TC’. He won’t own anything that isn’t a Toyota. His first was a 70′s Crown.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    For $16k I could get a lightly used Volvo C30 R-Spec, better equipment all around, safer, practical, and despite Volvos rep at the time better quality.

    While the Yaris is at the least reliable economical transportation, owning its older counterpart, a FWD Tercel, taught me that theres nothing wrong with demanding a little more space, a little more quality, a little more power, a little more practicality (these things were tiny!), I always felt that it was simply a car built just for the dealers to convince shoppers “For a little more you can have the superior Corolla!”.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    When in France midway through this year I rented a 1.4 litre diesel Yaris.

    It returned over 47mpg, surprising FE. This included driving on autoroutes, villages, cities, open road (if you want to call it that), etc.

    I even went into Spain (not many F-150s;) via the Pryenees with 3 adults on board. The engine managed much better than I could have anticipated, myself a small diesel owner.

    I’m 6’1″ tall, so the ingress and egress from the vehicle was tight. But once in it was surprisingly comfortable. The rear passenger sat over the rear axle, so it wouldn’t have been their best ride.

    I read a comment about the handling of the Yaris. Well, I found it to be acceptable, remembering the Euro suspension tuning probable is a little more sportier than the ‘plush’ US view on vehicle suspension tuning.

    These aren’t designed as a performance car. They are designed as a daily driver.

    For two people, the diesel Yaris is ideal to traverse Europe for a couple of weeks.

    Maybe one day the US will get a 47mpg (that’s average) Yaris. Why would you buy a Prius?

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Baruth visited my town, unbeknownst to me. In a Yaris of all things.
    I’ve queried the local gendarmes, they report no traces left.
    Please signal ahead next time, we can have the street dept throw up a few “Welcome Back Jack” signs on the fast food strip.

  • avatar

    Firstly, let me say that I did not believe that ‘Yaris; It’s a car!” could possibly be the official slogan that Toyota surely paid millions for some ad agency to come up with so I had to go see for myself. I’m still in shock.

    However the fact that the Yaris is even on Toyota’s website surprises me because I seem to recall reading in a magazine somewhere that this generation was going to be a rental-only offering. Maybe I read wrong but then again, it might explain the general lack of information or any sort of refinement that comes from selling cars to people, not just faceless corporations providing cars to people who just need transportation.

    I was thinking about Toyota on my route today and I’ve come to the conclusion that Toyota vehicles have always been bland appliances but there was a time when they were refined, well-made and packed enough value for people to overlook their criminal levels of vanilla flavoring. Those days are gone.

  • avatar
    zamoti

    Have you ever spotted the guy at work who wears unbranded black sneakers? Not dress shoes, but black cheap sneakers that probably came from Payless. Have you ever tried on a pair? While I have not, I can presume that they’re reasonably comfortable and get the job done from day to day. A Yaris is the automotive equivalent of Payless black sneakers.
    This summer, I rented a Yaris (though red) to make a trip between Pittsburgh and Columbus. As my wife and I have a lot of a family in Pitts, we frequently visit and have made the trip many, many times. We’ve also tried a few different routes to over the years and the primary paths we take are 70 to 79 or if we’re in less of a hurry, 70 to 77 to 22. Route 22 on the western end toward 77 is a fantastic ride with plenty of challenges–if you are ever in the area I highly recommend it. The only risk is that a semi may join you and there are very few passing zones once the twisties pick up.
    That aside, for my rental journey, it was the rare occasion where I was not bringing any family along so I could drive like a horse’s ass and be free of the customary admonishment that I can typically expect on such a drive. When I picked up the Yaris, I was immediately of the mindset “Oh for the love of Christ, they gave me a fucking Yaris?!” Leaving Pittsburgh airport I immediately hated all over the minuscule gas pedal with the intent of extracting Mr. T levels of PAIN from the half-pint shitbox. In return I was treated to a cacophony of what I presumed was the sound of an internal combustion engine but more honestly resembled the stylings of a Jamba Juice blender symphony after the yoga class next door let out.
    “What a fucking turd” I exclaimed without actually hearing the words over the din.
    The trip on the highway was uneventful, the radio was crappy, I had no passengers save a duffel, the seats are gray and blah blah blah, it’s a cheap rental.
    However, once I was upon my way and hit the bendy bits of 22, I was blissfully free of semis and there were few other cars anywhere in site. Twilight descended on a late August day, the air had become comfortably cool to the point where air conditioning was no longer required, and the sun was setting above the treeline. Perhaps it was the romance of the end of summer combined with freedom of driving solo but I had a shit-eating grin plastered on my face the entire was through that drive. I’m guessing it had everything to do with the fact that I introduced the back of the gas pedal to the carpet and maintained that posture for the vast majority of the drive. The Yaris is NOT a sports car, but when wrung out to 95%, it was an able and willing steed (miniature pony?). All of the typical front wheel drive economy car castmembers were present, understeer, tepid feedback, acceleration and noise that are generously described as directly proportional, noise being the victor, etc. Understanding what a Yaris cannot do, allows you to take a moment to appreciate what it can do and it carved up a back road at a far greater pace than I though possible. For all the shit that people spout about the four-speed AT, I feel that it is well suited to the engine. In fact it very uncharacteristically held a lower gear after a downshift before it stepped up to the next gear. The loooooong shiftlever allowed you to pop it to the left and grab 3rd where it produced a satisfying plasticy *snikt* sound/feel each time you wagged it. It’s no manual, but at least it’s not trying to fool anyone with wheel paddles. Hard cornering produced no surprises, the lack of insulation allowed me to hear the sound of tire scrubbing which heralded impending oversteer and dial it back accordingly. Though pushed hard, I never felt out of control, nor did I feel that the chassis was overwhelmed to the point of misbehaving.
    Would I buy this car? Absolutely not, I actually have some self esteem. I cannot imagine an adult male driving this car regularly without a healthy dose of shame. While I’m sure there are guys that do it, they’re probably the same guys that buy black sneakers at Payless, not because they like them, but because they live for a deal.

    You’re welcome.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    Jack, I realize that these are cell pics; however that driver’s side photo clearly shows what looks like to me as your standard transmission poking out in front of the Jimmy Choo purse. Is it the parking brake poking up like morning wood or is it Toyota’s attempt to involve the driver more with their antiquated four speed?

  • avatar
    Slave2anMG

    Just another miserable dull transportation appliance from Toyota. I’d expect nothing less.

  • avatar
    saabaru

    My dad rented a Yaris just like this one when he came to visit me in CA a few weeks ago. He had and intermediate car reservation and this is what enterprise gave him, telling him it was an I-car(and charging him accordingly). As a former employee, I’m not surprised at all…I had told him, “just don’t let them give ya a damn CorollA!” Well, you can do worse than a Corolla after all.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    Yaris! It’s a Trap!!

  • avatar
    Oren Weizman

    Paul C Made an Amp ? I collect Timmies and Tims so thats an amazing fact for me !

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    I paid almost 500 bucks less for my lightly used 2013 red jewel Impala LT with 300 HP and a moon roof! It shares the rental car image with this thing but gives me a big trunk, plenty of interior space, a smooth quiet ride, over 30 MPG on trips and gobs of power. And the free scheduled service and 5/100 power train are value pluses not offered on this car. 5 MPG is not worth suffering with all these issues.

  • avatar
    cheeseTHEmac

    Really! That isn’t even apples to apples. Getting over 30mpg on trips doesn’t equal over 40mpg day to day, no matter if you are city or on highway. That is exactly what I get with my 5-speed Yaris.

    Issues?!? Its an econobox. Does it start? Does it get high MPG? does it cost little to own? is it a chore to drive?

    If the answers are Yes, Yes, Yes and NO..then its an Econobox. No one dings a Corvette because it can’t haul the family.

  • avatar
    DrGastro997

    The Yaris is built by Daihatsu actually… FYI

  • avatar
    jcp12385

    Ok, I`’ll weigh in here. As the (not so) proud owner of an `00 Echo, it seems to me the Yaris has never really evolved. Well, duh, you say, it`s the exact same powertrain. It still lags behind competitors. In fact, I daresay that the Echo was in some respects a better car. It was lighter, curb weight not even hitting 2100lbs with an automatic transmission like mine. The little car feels lively when not hauling around all the extra pork. It is also very supremely efficient…around 40mpg on my commute with a light hypermiling touch, around 47mpg pure freeway with said driving style. Softly sprung, they at least left enough travel that this might be the only car I have never bottomed or topped out the suspension in.

    But at least they fixed the awful lack of stability and those hideous centre-mount gauges.


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