By on February 14, 2018

2018 Toyota Yaris

At the instant noodle end of the Toyota showroom, cars come in three flavors: Good, Better, and Mildly Spicy (L, LE, SE). Within these trims, few options are offered, unlike domestic truck manufacturers who very nearly allow their customers to order their rigs a la carte. Of course, there’s a lot more profit in trucks, so they’re worth the trouble.

The littlest Toyota, which definitely wins an award for Most Entertaining Windshield Wiper, is now packed to the gunwales compared to the cheap seats hawked by the manufacturer in past years.

In the ‘90s, many people stepping into a base Toyota expecting a junior Lexus were rudely awakened by crank windows, the lack of a passenger side mirror, and trunk caulking apparently applied with a shoe. All that has changed, because these days the Yaris (née Echo, née Tercel) is equipped with features once reserved for the snazziest machinery.

For their $15,635, base Yaris shoppers will find air conditioning, a tilt wheel with audio controls, and a backup camera. A natty touchscreen infotainment centre is on board, in which one finds a USB port, iPod connectivity, Bluetooth capability, and Geordi LaForge’s duty manuals for the starship Enterprise. You know what drivers of base Toyotas had as infotainment years ago? In most cases, absolutely nothing.

2018 Toyota Yaris

In fact, I remember helping a buddy install a new deck in his mid-90’s Corolla that had suffered some unusual body damage. “A mere matter of a moment’s inattention,” he explained. Anyway, when we were trying to find the car’s wires to hook up the rear speakers, we found the car in fact had no such units, causing my friend so much angst he did not attend his recreational hockey league that evening.

I grew up in a world where drivers of base Toyotas had to make do with only one sideview mirror, adjusted by rolling down a window and placing a greasy thumbprint on the reflective facing. Now, a rear wiper and defroster are standard equipment, as are power windows and an array of handy interior lights. Such decadence.

The 1.5-liter inline-four making 106 horsepower is standard across the board, so extra shekels do not bring you extra ponies if upgrading to a more expensive Yaris. That figure might not sound like much, but it is only charged with motivating a shade over 2300 pounds.

2018 Toyota Yaris

In this author’s first-hand experience, the four (yes, dear reader, your eyes do not deceive you – four) speed automatic is not worth the cash, as it simply hoovers what power the engine has to give and sounds like nails in a Cuisinart while doing so. Stick with the stick for maximum driving and financial satisfaction.

In 1992, a base Tercel made 82 horsepower and cost $8,488, which equals roughly $14,800 when converted to inflation-adjusted bucks. That’s less a stack of bills than today’s Ace of Base contender, which has added power accessories, more horses, better infotainment options than ‘90s kids could ever have dreamed of, and a cubic acre of safety equipment.

Packed to the gunwales, indeed.

[Images: Toyota]

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37 Comments on “Ace of Base: 2018 Toyota Yaris 3-Door L...”

  • avatar

    I like it, if for nothing it reminds me of our (recently departed after attempting to share the same space with a semi) 1997 Tercel. Basic? You betcha. Reliable? The most reliable car the family has ever owned. Period. It gave its all with over 260k on its original engine, transmission and clutch. Everything still worked to precision on it. Never left us stranded, and my son (an Air Force office who could easily afford better/newer) steadfastly refused to give it up (or give it back…with 40 MPG and the coldest A/C in any car we’ve owned, I really wanted it back). I’m likely looking for a commuter, and for some reason, a manual variant four-door of the Yaris speaks to me. I know instinctively there are better cars out there for that amount, but given our history with Toyotas, and our specific fondness of a certain ’97 Tercel, I still find myself thinking about one.

  • avatar

    For the price, how can u beat it? Plus… you know it goes the distance.

  • avatar

    I like comparing the price of car models with today’s content to the inflation-adjusted price of their forefathers from two or three decades ago.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    You just did this damned thing in May:

    Yesterday a recycled Jalopnik what-car-to-tornado-chase-in, today this. Does Sir care to explain? Doubt it, author interaction is minimal from this side of the staff.

  • avatar

    Good luck trying to find one of these on a dealer’s lot. The only time I see Yaris’s (plural) is in the rental car fleets.

  • avatar

    The windshield wiper alone could be reason to drive. Reminds me of a Subaru XT that my old flame drove.

    I thought older base Toyotas came with a songbook for infotainment!

    • 0 avatar

      My ’71 El Camino had one of those entertaining windshield wipers on the driver’s side. It would push accumulated snow straight off the edge of the windshield rather than pile it up in the lower corner. Sort of a cam action through parallel arms thing.

  • avatar

    Can someone please explain why anyone would buy this with the Yaris iA on the same showroom floor?

    By the way, good luck finding a three door with the manual transmission. I found five – in the entire United States of America.

  • avatar
    Jean-Pierre Sarti

    you guys are too hard on the 4sp Toyota transmissions. With a car like this who gives a damn how many gears it has. These things go hundreds of thousands of miles with no fuss, why the hate?

    sure one more gear or two will give it better mpg but i why mess with a proven formula on a car like this.

    • 0 avatar

      I happen to have a Toyota 4sp automatic with unknown mileage (speed sensor broke just north of 200k miles). With a fresh filter and clean fluid, it works just fine. The very first 1-2 shift after startup is delayed because the transmission has to remember to revert to mechanical mode (no electronic shift map without a speed sensor input). The first 3-4 shift is also delayed by about a minute, but this is mostly the transmission physically warming up.

      I don’t know how else to say it- “it’s a car.”

      • 0 avatar

        I recently watched a Russian offroad youtuber’s channel where they took their ZJ Grand Cherokee in for a transmission rebuild after smoking it offroad (basically whaling on it full throttle in the snow endlessly), and did an impromptu interview and failure analysis with the rebuilder. They asked “what are the most reliable automatics?” to which the rebuilder initially said there are just too many variables in terms of maintenance and use/abuse. When pressed again, he said: older 4spd Toyota automatics. In my experience with super-cheap high mileage beaters, I’d agree.

    • 0 avatar

      @ Jean-Pierre, JimC2, gtem – Agreed. Far from being a weak point, Toyota’s 1.5/4A is a good combo in real-world use. I say that as a frequent driver of a relative’s previous-gen Yaris sedan (Belta). It’s reliable as the sun and adequately peppy for the small cars in which it’s used. And I’ve gotten as high as a measured 44 mpg on the highway with it. The author’s “sounds like nails in a Cuisinart” quip is as false as it is snarky.

  • avatar

    Not nearly as cute with the Toyota corporate front and rear.
    I liked the computer mouse version better.

  • avatar

    No one buys these things when you look at the numbers (not the combined number with the Mazda based one sitting next to it). Fleet sales for the Yaris is over 50% (again, not the Mazda based one). Drum brakes, torsion beam suspension, 4-speed automatic, lawn mower engine that just makes noise when you put the skinny pedal down.

    Yes, it is built on boat anchor technology which means reliable, but cripes, people posting here were roasting the domestics on these pages in 2006 for still having 4-speed automatics.

    As for backup camera standard – no kidding – they are government mandated, which means a screen to support the backup camera is government mandated, so it is just cheaper to put a crappy infotainment system in at this point than a dedicated backup camera screen.

    • 0 avatar

      Lawnmowers have EFI, DOHC, four valves per cylinder, and VVT? Good to know. ;-)

      Within the US market, the Yaris is a niche vehicle. The two families I know that have them both live in cities proper. The Yaris is one of two cars in each case and tends to get chosen for the more thankless intra-city driving. (I’d call them second cars, but in actuality they rack up more miles than their stablemates.) Both families are really happy with them. They’re nimble in city traffic, very reliable, and have a low cost of ownership. Somewhat on topic, I’ll add that both of these families are on far sounder financial footing than the vast majority of their American peers.

      I like Mazdas, but my circle’s Mazdas have been less trouble-free than our Toyotas. If I were looking for a car for five years, I’d definitely look at the Yaris iA. If I were looking at something for 10+ years, I’d lean heavily toward the regular Yaris.

  • avatar

    How could you fail to mention that this is the only French-built car sold in the USA???

  • avatar

    As nice as this is, the design of the US Yaris is a boring joke when compared to the Toyota Yaris sold in Indonesia. Look how much more radical and nicer the one in Indonesia looks.

    With Toyota making more bold and radical designs it puzzles me why they just give the US Yaris a “melted sheet-metal” look instead of something more fun and attractive. It would definitely have better selling numbers and will actually give competition with the Honda Fit and the boring Nissan Versa.

  • avatar

    A 4-speed automatic…

    I had to read that twice to believe it.

  • avatar

    My 1982 base Tercel came with a piece of plastic where the radio was supposed to go; apparently even an AM-only cost too much. And sheet plastic on the floor, where one expects carpet. And a 4-speed stick, when other Tercels of that year came with a 5-speed. All resting on a set of 146/60R13 tires.

    It was absurdly reliable, however, although it would have been more durable if it hadn’t rusted so badly. And as compared with the 2018 Yaris, it had four doors and a full-service spare.

    I doubt that Toyota made a profit on these (even if they removed everything removable from it). Its purpose was so Toyota could advertise “Tercel- starting at $XXX!” to get people in the showrooms. Only to discover that if they wanted an automatic and a few amenities they’d have to pay at least $2,000. more.

    Is there still a market for “minimal but reliable transportation” cars? Well, yes; it’s a perennial. Because, any car at all is far, far better than no car at all (or even one that may not start, or may leave you stranded).

    Although these may not be profitable for the car maker.

  • avatar

    Brother in Law bought a new Tercel when he went off to college. About five grand, as I recall (I co-signed the note). Light Blue, no power robbing accessories whatsoever. But he drove the damned thing for ten years, sold it to a cousin who drove it for another five or so years. These days, he isn’t a starving college student anymore. His wife’s on her third Lexus LS… which i think was Toyota’s marketing plan all along when they marketed those base cars. They were cheap… but well made and reliable.

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