2020 Toyota Yaris XLE Sedan Review - Fare Thee Well

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
Fast Facts

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.
2020 toyota yaris xle sedan review fare thee well

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.

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.

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.

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]

Join the conversation
4 of 17 comments
  • Theonlydt Theonlydt on Aug 07, 2020

    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.

  • PandaBear PandaBear on Aug 10, 2020

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

    • See 1 previous
    • Tankinbeans Tankinbeans on Aug 11, 2020

      @PrincipalDan Could always be an Aston Martin Cygnet.

  • EBFlex Chrysler has the best infotainment by far. The older uConnect system was bulletproof and never had issues. The newer one based on android auto is a big step backward but it's still very good. Nothing else comes close to Chrysler's infotainment.
  • EBFlex People don't want compromises. They want a vehicle that will match what they have now with ICE which includes very short refueling times, long range, and batteries that don't degrade over a rather short time. In the midwest, people don't live on top of each other. People like their space and are spread out. 30+ mile commutes are common. So is outdoor living which includes towing.Government cars make sense for the coasts where people love to live on top of each other and everything is within walking distance. They don't make sense in areas where it's cold and 40% of your range could be lost. Government cars are just not viable right now for the majority of people and the sales reflect it.
  • MaintenanceCosts There are a lot of lifestyles outside of urban America that don't work well yet with EVs. I live in Seattle and would face minimal (if any) inconvenience from driving only EVs. We are in fact planning to replace our big family car with an EV in 2024. But my relatives in small-town Texas would have to change some things they do unless/until there is a complete fast charging network along rural I-20. That network is coming, but it will be a few more years.
  • VoGhost Five years ago, Tesla was ten years ahead of the competition. I haven't seen anything to suggest that's changed.
  • Varezhka They cheapened out on the hardware side too, so we'll see how much they can improve with the software updates. I know they're using faster processors with some of their newer vehicles, but not sure how much faster.