By on August 6, 2020

2020 Toyota Yaris XLE sedan

2020 Toyota Yaris XLE Sedan Fast Facts

1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (106 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 103 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm)

Six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive

32 city / 40 highway / 35 combined (EPA Estimated Rating, MPG)

N/A city, N/A highway, N/A combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

Base Price: $18,750 (U.S) / N/A (Canada)

As Tested: $19,680 (U.S.) / N/A (Canada)

Prices include $930 destination charge in the United States. The Yaris is only sold as a hatchback in Canada, so we did not include Canadian specs for the sedan.

Just when Toyota’s Yaris finally adorned the name of a fun car, the brand kills it.

It was once the Scion iA, but a couple years ago, Toyota bestowed it with the Yaris moniker after retiring the Scion brand. Once attached to underwhelming subcompacts, the name was now slapped on the side of a more-fun small car.

It’s not shocking that the brand killed the Mazda 2-based Yaris sedan. The culprits? Slow sales and new regulations.

Slow sales is a big story in the subcompact class, and in 2019 the Yaris was down 5,000 units from the year before. Coronavirus may have ushered the Yaris out the door, too, since Toyota planned to limit North American production to adjust to the difficulties posed by the pandemic.

I didn’t know any of this at the time I had a Yaris in for evaluation, as the car arrived before Covid struck in earnest — and before the June announcement of discontinuation. Yes, I am reviewing a car that’s technically dead, but a quick Google shows there are still plenty of 2020s out there on lots as of this writing. So don’t @ me about that, mmmkay?

All I knew is that by sampling heavily from Mazda, Toyota had a value buy with elements of fun-to-drive verve.

Rough around the edges, sure – the Yaris was a bit noisy, especially in terms of engine noise, and most materials were a little too appropriate for the price point. But the Yaris offered up handling not often seen in this class, with engaging steering. Once again, the Mazda touch.

2020 Toyota Yaris XLE sedan

There is a sport mode that helps liven things up a bit. You can also get a six-speed stick to really increase your enthusiast cred – well, you could, anyway. My tester came with the six-speed auto instead.

Despite the buzziness, the 1.5-liter four-cylinder doesn’t provoke fantasies of the Mulsanne Straight, not with just 106 horsepower and 103 lb-ft of torque on hand. At least the peak torque is available at a reasonable 4,000 rpm. Plan your passes, people.

[Get Toyota Yaris pricing here!]

Sportiness comes with a price sometimes, and here it’s a firm, though not punishing, ride.

Awkward styling spoils some of the fun – the car looks like a pissed-off catfish. For that, you can thank a large, gaping front grille/fascia, slanted headlights, slanted sheetmetal lines slicing in the opposite direction, and a thin opening above the grille/fascia area.

The rear is subtler and much more pleasing to the eye, at least.

2020 Toyota Yaris XLE sedan

Inside, the Toyota badging does nothing to hide the Mazda roots, but that’s not a problem unless you’re such a Toyota fanboy that you’d be up in arms. Material quality aside, the design is clean and simple, and the big HVAC controls are nice and easy to use, though the tacked-on infotainment screen that comes from Mazda still rankles. A two-tone black and tan/cream trim gave the cockpit a slightly upscale look, if not feel.

The features list on my loaner was short, but it included low-speed pre-collision system, leatherette interior, rain-sensing wipers, rear spoiler, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, auxiliary port, two USB ports, Bluetooth, keyless entry, push-button start, automatic climate control, and tilt/telescope steering wheel.

There were no options. Total price, including D and D: $19,680.

It’s easy to say the crossover killed this subcompact – especially since Toyota’s lone subcompact offering now will be the C-HR – but as noted above, it was about sales and unspecified regulations, and possibly pandemic production challenges.

2020 Toyota Yaris XLE sedan

Too bad, since this version of the Yaris was more fun than what came before. And it’s a fuel sipper, to boot (up to 40 mpg highway). Not to mention that stepping a size up won’t help you find cheap fun – the Corolla is improved, but doesn’t offer much joy, at least not in hybrid form. The Corolla hatch is better, but not for the sedan intender.

Of course, more sedan intenders shopping in this class might’ve to keep the Yaris alive.

Instead, we wave goodbye to this Mazda 2-inspired value buy. If you want fun on a budget, you have one fewer choice.

[Images © 2020 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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17 Comments on “2020 Toyota Yaris XLE Sedan Review – Fare Thee Well...”

  • avatar

    Until the very end, the Mazda Yaris was only offered as a sedan. I’m no huge fan of sedans in general, but subcompact sedans are the dumbest variant of the genre. See also: Toyota Echo.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, it was available as a hatch for the 2020 model year. Auto only and still stuck with the big Toyota maw, but nevertheless.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, it’s not like the old, 155-160 inch long subcompacts of the past. At 172 inches, it’s just 9 inches shorter than my old 1995 compact Altima sedan, and it’s so well packaged, the rear leg room is the same as the Altima. That came at the expense of trunk space, but the Yaris’ rear seats fold down, while the Altima seats didn’t.

  • avatar
    Old Scold

    Slow car fast, with a stick shift. Breaks the 40 mpg EPA highway, with a stick shift. Just enough tech to seem up-to-date. Large trunk, considering, at the expense of rear leg room, but I don’t sit back there. The 2016 suited me, there were big discounts because of the nameplate switch from iA to Yaris, and I plan to keep it.

    Nice run, Mazda2. Too bad there are fewer and fewer fun yet sensible cars anymore. If I had to replace it a Kia Soul would be high on the list.

    • 0 avatar

      @OldScold: My son has version with the six-speed manual and it’s a blast to drive. He isn’t giving his up anytime soon either. He scored a huge discount on it as well. Especially after I told the dealer that since it was a manual, he’d be clearing snow off of it all winter if he didn’t sell it to my son. His first new car and he owns it free and clear already.

  • avatar

    Someone check the spec box at the top – it lists this as turbo’d when it’s naturally aspirated.

    Other than that, it’s a good car in search of a buyer. When most consumers buy by the pound, a used Corolla seems more appealing and the idea of “driving engagement” is more foreign than hitting the speed of traffic before trying to merge.

  • avatar

    Leave it up to Toyota to “uglify” a Mazda.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    This thing will contribute to the “death of Sedans”.

  • avatar

    Is this car a plebeian version of premium Mazda3?

  • avatar

    Apples and pineapples here, but aren’t those fuel economy numbers pretty much identical to the Camry? Also I’m pretty sure this was not turbocharged, unless it was a very mild turbo.

    I know I’d achieved 39 mixed in my Mazda6 with 34-36 being fairly common when I had a longer commute.

  • avatar

    Way too many cylinders, Toyota.

  • avatar

    “Inside, the Toyota badging does nothing to hide the Mazda roots” Those Mazda roots happen to be the only redeeming aspect of this car!

  • avatar

    The decision to cheap-out on the engine from Mazda (removing variable valve timing from one cam), de-tuning and de-rating was disappointing. There’s a high efficiency version of this engine offered in the 2 in other markets with 115bhp, and they could even have dropped the 130bhp from the mx-5 in as an “XSE” option. Car this light, with a 6 speed it would have been properly fun. Best as a hatchback…

    I’ll miss this car. I almost bought one, but with two kids and wanting a hatchback/wagon I passed on a cracking deal. In hindsight a good thing as my partner won’t drive manual.

  • avatar

    Yaris and XLE doesn’t belong in the same model, just like you wouldn’t make a Lexus with CE or DX trim.

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