A stubby back end gives Yaris a touch of sportiness
Yaris is offered in two and four-door versions and in L, LE and more spiffy SE trim that was tested. As the top line model, the SE came with 16 rather than 15-inch wheels plus projector beam headlights, LED fog lights, ABS with brake assist, sport-tuned electric power steering and front struts, rear disc brakes, power everything, Yaris Entune audio with user-friendly 6-inch touchscreen plus Bluetooth with voice recognition, driver’s knee airbag and much more.
All Yaris trim levels get their power from a standard 1.5-liter, 106-hp four-cylinder that generates 103 lb/ft of torque. A 5-speed manual is standard while a 4-speed automatic is optional. The combination garnered EPA mileage ratings of 30 city, 37-highway mpg.
While the power output appears meager, the engine and manual trans has been tested at 9.5 seconds for a 0-60 time. The little engine, however, takes some time to spool up to optimum power when merging into highway traffic and when passing an 18-wheeler.
Added to this, the notchy 5-speed manual transmission had a clutch that engaged at the end of travel. That makes it irritating when engaging on a hill stop and otherwise. An off-the-floor engagement is preferred. As such, it would appear the optional automatic would make the car even more enjoyable to drive with fuel economy advantage being a non-issue at 30/36 EPA mpgs.
Compared to last model year, the Yaris received an impressive interior upgrade with a spacious interior that includes longwearing and comfy front cloth bucket seats and a rear bench seat that could use a bit more padding. If the front seats aren’t racked too well rearward, two adults can sit nicely in the back seats. Easy ingress/egress is as well determined by front seat positions.
Trunk space is rated at 15.6 cubic feet, but more meaningful it measures 24 inches deep, 39.5 wide and 29 high. Flip the 60/40 rear seatbacks and depth extends to 48 inches.
The fuel gauge is large and centered to the driver’s view. It’s flanked by a tach on one side fuel gauge on the other. HVAC controls are simple rotary dials while the 6.1-inch display shows audio, Bluetooth and USB/iPod integration but, surprisingly, did not have a rearview camera. It did have the optional GPS nav for an extra $899. Smartphone GPS nav or portable OEM versions are less expensive.
Using all available space, Yaris engineers made a pocket of sorts into the soft touch dash that blended nicely with the overall dash contour. On the passenger side of the dash, they added two trays for small item storage.
One quirk was with the too tall rear headrests that block rear visibility somewhat. Low profile headrests would be better especially since the car didn’t have a rearview camera.
Ride wise, Yaris is relatively smooth on smooth roads but bumpy on pockmarked roads. But that’s to be expected from a short-wheelbase compact car. With my deteriorating lower back, I wouldn’t want to drive to Orlando in it. But for general around town driving and less than two-hour commutes, it’s perfect. Handling wise, the compact holds sharp turns like a larger car. Its sporty suspension helps here and a quick steering ratio makes parking in tight spots a breeze.
Now comes the best part. A handsomely equipped Yaris Liftback carries a base price of an affordable $16,820. Add to that the GPS for $899 and four season floor mats for $280, the bottom-line reflected $18,824 with delivery. Out of this compact class, only Nissan’s Versa is cheaper priced.
Yaris received four stars for overall safety score in the governments 5-star safety rating; five for driver frontal crash, four for passenger; five each for front/rear seat side crash and four for rollover. As such, Yaris makes the ideal second car, commuter car or college student car. It possesses all the necessary traits for those uses.