By on January 20, 2018

2017 Toyota Yaris iA - Image: Toyota

Three years ago, I stood in the Palais des congrès in Montreal as representatives from Mazda Canada introduced the next-generation Mazda 2, a model that never made it to either Canadian or American dealer lots. Well, not as a Mazda, anyway.

The 2015 Montreal International Auto Show debut of the KODO-ified little hatchback was hardly on the same level as, say, that of the next-gen Ram 1500 or Chevrolet Silverado or Ford Ranger we saw last week in Detroit. Still, the previous 2 endeared itself to buyers as a roomy, agile, and quirky little beast, and the redesigned model looked sharp. All good. Certainly, small cars weren’t nearly in as much danger from subcompact crossovers in 2015 as they are now.

So it was odd to see the model disappear from the future lineup on both sides of the border, only to return almost immediately as a Scion-badged sedan, the iA.

The one-car iA line, now sporting a Toyota badge, soldiers on alongside the existing three- and five-door Yaris — the Yaris that isn’t a Mazda — for the 2018 model year. But it’s in 2019 that things get confusing.

A VIN coding document sent to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from Mazda for the 2019 model year shows two Mexican-built iAs for the U.S. market — a four-door sedan and a five-door hatchback. In Puerto Rico, like in Canada, the Mazda 2 (aka Demio)-based sedan is known simply as the Yaris Sedan, positioned next to the Toyota-developed Yaris Hatchback. Neither jurisdiction sees iA badging.

Obviously, this raises a number of questions. Is Toyota planning to swap the existing five-door for one with a Mazda pedigree? Will the 2 hatch actually appear in North America (or at least the U.S.) four years after its launch? Surely, Toyota doesn’t plan to offer both hatchbacks in a  shrinking segment.

public domain

Sadly, VIN docs haven’t yet been sent to the NHTSA from Toyota, so we can’t peer into that automaker’s 2019 lineup just yet.

No automaker likes detailing future models, and Toyota’s no different. When contacted by TTAC, the company stayed mum on the possibility of a new model joining the stable, though Toyota Motor North America product communications specialist Nate Martinez did say in a late Friday email, “we can confirm there are no plans for the discontinuation of our current Yaris five-door.”

Confused yet? There’s a number of ways to interpret this statement, and we’ll update you as we glean more information. Certainly, it looks like the existing three-door Yaris is endangered. It’s also possible a Mazda-based hatch might appear only in a certain market, but that’s enough speculation for now.

The existing Yaris lineup performed well in the U.S. in 2017, though the same can’t be said for the non-iA hatchback. Yaris hatch sales sank 73.3 percent in December to just 203 vehicles, with year-to-date volume down 20.4 percent. The Yaris iA, however, enjoyed a 27.7 percent sales boost in 2017.

As the significantly higher-performing model in the lineup (35,727 sales versus the hatch’s 8,653), iA sales lifted the Yaris lineup to a 14.2 percent volume increase last year.

[Image: Toyota]

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46 Comments on “Is the Toyota Yaris iA Getting a (Formerly Rejected) Sibling?...”

  • avatar

    The AND statement to capture all the qualifiers for this car’s market goes on forever. Someone who wants a small car AND finds a CPO Toyota/Mazda/Honda too risky AND doesn’t want a subcompact crossover AND….

    All to yield meager profits after federalization and the rest. As the late great David Bowie coyishly crooned, “is it any wondaaaahhhhhh…” Of all the ways to spend $15K on a car something like this is the right solution for a very limited amount of people.

    • 0 avatar

      Worth noting that CPO doesn’t qualify for 0% financing until eternity (a pretty decent motivator in this price/size class). That said, the Yaris iA seems to be good for about 30k units a year, which sounds about right (it’s a hard sell against a Versa Note for most buyers).

      They’ve probably just figured since the car is already federalized, they might as well find a few more channels to move a few more units (maybe catch a few of the Fiesta buyers Ford has abandoned).

  • avatar

    Maybe Mazda plans to sell the 5 door version under its own badge?

    • 0 avatar

      That’s what I’m hoping. It would be nice to see a subcompact option that drives well and looks good too.

      All the subcompact options are so unappealing right now that my ex and I never even bothered test driving any when she bought her Mazda3 a couple years ago, despite a subcompact hatchback being the most suitable option for her needs. A new first-gen Versa or Fit would have been seriously considered if they were still making them.

      But it’s understandable if they can’t sell enough of them to make a profit here.

  • avatar

    Part of that yaris sales decrease has to be the fact that Toyota dealers don’t even stock that particular model. Our local dealer, who stocks 300-400 vehicles routinely, sees at most a handful of Yaris Hatchbacks every year.

    • 0 avatar

      This is true. The other problem is that Toyota charges way too much for the car. A mid-level LE trim sells for about $17,500 (give or take $500, depending on the market). In my opinion (based on a pretty obsessive knowledge about the subcompact and compact market), that’s about $2000 more than the car is worth in comparison to its competitors. It’s outdated and boring, but it’s also very reliable, reasonably attractive, reasonably efficient, and decently equipped. There would be a pretty good market for that kind of car if it were priced properly.

    • 0 avatar

      Up here it seems to be the opposite, most dealers have one Yaris hatchback but Yaris iAs/sedans are almost impossible to find on lots outside of the major cities. The sales manager of our local dealer kind of turned up his nose at us because they “aren’t real Toyotas”

    • 0 avatar

      That’s b/c the Yaris never sold well in comparison to the competition and even then, 50-60% of sales was to fleet.

  • avatar

    The marketplace is becoming more stratified. The average semiskilled worker is now, more than ever, afraid for his job and future. Meantime, the financiers, the money-changers, and government employees, are flush and are spending that money on PEAK TRUCK. The bigger, taller, louder, more-smoke-able (“Rolling Coal”) the better.

    New entry-level cars don’t make the cut. The former market is now looking at off-lease used; or beaters; or, in the extreme and more in the future…mass transit.

  • avatar

    To the move in question:

    As Nissan becomes Renault-ified; Toyota will get more Mazadized. That doesn’t bode well for product – what Toyota does well, that is, long-term durability…Mazda lacks. Especially in the area of rust protection.

    And Toyota is not infallible in that area. Their initial US minivan, the flat-front one, suffered major flaws in engin, cooling, and rust protection. I’d guess it’s just serendipity that most Toyotas are as they are; and to contaminate the mix with Mazda…may not be good.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, Mazda only gets an above average reliability brand rating from consumer reports (beating 24 of 31 brands), and has 100% of their models recommended (a feat only matched by Porsche and BMW). But I do hear a decade or so ago they had rust problems.

      • 0 avatar

        How far back do these wonderful ratings go?

        A 15-year-old Toyota is just well-broken-in (excepting the Tacoma, which will be a candidate for a Toyota-paid-for frame replacement, Google it…). A fifteen-year-old Mazda, still in service, is relatively rare.

        I take owners’ recommendations with a huge cube of salt. Fanboiz abide everywhere on the Web…the most horrid and abysmal products have their army of gratis cheerleaders. Subaru has a huge repeat-buyer cadre…but I’ve looked at them, and especially given their problems with head gaskets…they’re not overly impressive as long-term investments or used purchases.

        Time will tell. But every hugely-successful brand eventually loses their touch. Remember Troy-Bilt rototillers and snowblowers? Now a cheaper line of Ariens.

        This may be where Toyota hands the tiara, or has it snatched, by the Koreans.

        • 0 avatar

          That would be a true earthquake, you should see resale on certain Hyundais reliable or no. I was shocked when I saw MY16 Sonatas doing under 10 in MMR (these are 20K cars with auto like Corolla). For contrast, the Corollas were doing 12s (something like 11-14 range) and the Imprezas were pulling 16. Maybe Hyundai marks em down and sells em cheap I dunno but my jaw dropped when I happened to see them.

          • 0 avatar

            That seems to be the current trend.

            I have, as a work car, a 2009 Kia Spectra. I never in my wildest imaginings thought I’d own a Kia ANYTING; but the price-for-the-condition, and reports, led me to try it.

            It’s a Korean Toyota. 93,000 miles; former rental unit, and it uses NO oil and feels nice and tight. No costs other than oil and fuel in a year of owning it.

            Positive experiences like that, and favorable used pricing, will lead a lot of others to try one. And THAT will change minds.

        • 0 avatar

          A 15 year old Mazda is considerably less rare than a 10 year old Korean car. Even H/K’s current vehicles still don’t have true long term staying power.

        • 0 avatar

          Next to nobody keeps cars for 15 years. Even Toyota has scaled back the durability of its cars from its heyday. And Mazda has stepped its game up in that regard (as has pretty much everybody).

          Plus it’s not like Mazda and Toyota are working in silos. I’m sure Toyota will share its rustproofing tech with Mazda in the partnership. Wouldn’t help Toyota to sell Mazda branded cars that undermines its reliability reputation. Look at the NUMMI partnership for precedent.

          • 0 avatar

            Also, Toyota’s durability is in large part due to keeping power/drivtrains around longer than the competition.

            Honda/Acura’s recent dip in reliablity rankings has been do the slew of new transmissions and other tech – in time, the kinks will get worked out.

            Toyota’s GR V6 has a reputation for reliability, but that wasn’t the case at the beginning.

            CR didn’t recommend the V6 Camry for a couple of years until Toyota worked out the issues.

      • 0 avatar
        Peter Gazis

        Mazda doesn’t offer AppleCarPlay or AndroidAuto. Since most problems now reported have to do with Phone conectivity Mazda should have been last in Consumer Reports

    • 0 avatar

      Toyota is the dominant player in any collaboration, why would it get “Mazadized”?

      • 0 avatar

        It seems to frequently happen in automotive mergers and consolidations.

        Packard bought Studebaker and became Studebaker. Volkswagen bought NSU and basically moved in the NSU direction. The Golf was set to be released as an NSU model; but VW saw it as the future and their way out of the Beetle dilemma

        Chrysler bought AMC; but AMC management and technical directors took over Chrysler from within.

        So, I can see the uninspired Toyota leadership, now devoid of fresh ideas since the Prius…letting Mazda’s stylists and enthusiastic leadership, lead the way.

        In some ways that would be good. But the smart styling and road-manners of modern Mazdas, don’t always seem to be backed up with real-world resiliance.

        • 0 avatar

          I see this more as Toyota taking on a partner in a low-volume, not especially profitable market segment. Honestly, 35,000 of the “good” selling Yaris is pretty small volume. Certainly not enough to dump the cash required to develop a new model.

          • 0 avatar

            @ernest – This. Toyota has a “gap-filler” at the low end of its line of vehicles to generate floor traffic and up-selling in the showroom as well as getting access to rotary technology useful for constant-speed ICE electrical generation servicing “green” products under the Toyota corporate umbrella. Mazda gets a bit of cash infusion from Toyota to stay above water in the US market by slowing the bleeding from their shrinking sales and likely not much else.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve said this for a while, that Toyota is slowly taking over the Japanese car industry. All of the other major players have been eliminated or assimilated, with the exception of Nissan and Honda. I’m not talking about a “hard power” takeover like a merger. More like a “soft power” takeover, by joint venture agreements and slowly influencing the boards of these companies.

      Yota has agreements with Subaru and Mazda now and I suspect that down the road that the joint ventures will become deeper until those two get swallowed up and are just another division.

  • avatar

    I’d like to see the iA as a hatch, a configuration that usually makes more sense in a small car. I’d also like to see it as a Mazda 2 because (a) I tend to think Mazda dealers would be better at servicing a car their company made, and (b) the gaping mouth on the Toyota version is hideous; the Mazda grille is vastly better.

  • avatar

    sigh. Would that the right people at Mazda would breathe on the suspension and then maagically a hot rotary engine would appear in it…maybe hybridized…

    The world can never have enough hot hatches…

  • avatar
    Yaris Revenge

    Mazda should bring it here under their name. Looks like a fun baseline car. When buying new, I was wanting the perceived Toyota reliability not Mazda’s. I bought the ’17 Yaris 3 -door L and only complaint is stiff seats which a cushion and cover fixed. At 17k miles I know I can’t say anything about reliability. Would hate to see it go. It is a good old school baseline car. As some have already stated, the dealerships rarely stock these, especially with the L trim with the manual trans. The hatch segment is highly competitive right now in America.

  • avatar

    My greater surprise is how much each Scions sales has jumped by being badged Toyota. I figured there would be an increase (more dealerships etc) but get rid of the “youth brand” and suddenly I’m seeing the iA all over the place.

    • 0 avatar

      I think the “youth brand” backfired on them pretty much from the start. The xB and xA accidentally became popular with Boomers and tragic hipsters, with only the tC hitting it’s intended target.

  • avatar

    We looked long and hard at the iA when my girlfriend was car shopping, it was a dream, an interior as logical and appealing as my 3, Mazda driving dynamics, unique (since you see almost none on the road), incredible value, cheap insurance. There were just two sticking points, my longstanding disdain of sedans (which is only overshadowed by my hatred of crossovers) and the fact there wasn’t one to test drive within 300km. My girlfriend logically wouldn’t lease a car without even touching one in person, so she took a Fiesta hatch instead, despite it having an ancient interior, terrible transmission, and being a bit more expensive (the first two she can tolerate, and as she says you don’t notice the transmission at 90 km/h which she drives most of the time). It did come in Mint though which also helped sway her.

    As for why we didn’t look at used cars, we’re firmly in the “monthly payment people” category and didn’t see the point of paying more for 84 months for the same car used as you could get for less for 48 months new, not to mention the lower maintenance costs. The insurance benefit and no mileage limit aren’t big enough benefits to buy used at this point, for the first car she can call her own at age 34. We’re unlikely to keep something for more than 4 years anyway (even though she wants to keep the Mint Fiesta forever, I know how many Fiestas come through the shop on a weekly basis that that’s not a great choice).

  • avatar

    With Ford exiting the subcompact and potentially the mid size sedans markets that frees up tens/hundreds of thousands of sales which I am sure Mazda would like a share of.
    Are there plenty of smallish segments where a limited number of manufacturers compete in and succeed – minivans, pony cars etc. Sub compacts will be one of those segments.

  • avatar

    Maybe Toyota’s on to something here.

    2017 YTD *-33,819

  • avatar

    Relatively speaking, this segment is dead. 352,000 subcompacts sold in the US last year. The Versa and the Accent were over 50% of that volume- leaving everyone else to divide up what was left. Compare that number to the 2,000,000 compacts sold or the 1,800,000 mid-sizes sold.

  • avatar

    They’ve already been selling the hatch as the 2 in the US for years, but only in Puerto Rico.

    How did you mention that this Yaris iA is the Yaris sedan in PR and not notice that they actually sell the Mazda 2 there already? That would explain the VINs and this entire article, and you’re at least a year or two late.

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