We were happy to hear the Toyota Yaris was going to be joining our fleet because we have plenty of first-hand knowledge of Toyota’s legendary quality, but we are curious how that holds up on the lowest rung of the ladder. The Yaris starts at about $15,000, and for that kind of cash we knew that there would be the quality materials from Toyota. But would there be enough compelling reasons to keeps us, if it were our money, from buying a late model used car?
There are three basic reasons not buy new as opposed to used in the automotive world. First is that new cars have the best warranty. Second is that the history is known about a new car (there are not that many grannies who only drive on Sundays out there.) Last is selection. Even in the days of internet searches, its still easiest to get the ideal car by buying new instead of used.
So basically for the Yaris to win us over, it not only had to be dependable, but it also had to have charm. To accomplish this, a Toyota dropped a five-door Yaris S with enough goodies to push the price up to $19,244.
The Yaris is small and is not out to try and hide it. The overall look with the tall body and small hatch is designed to give maximum room in minimal space. Toyota claims the Yaris as its own, but it could just as easily fit in with the youth-marketed Scion brand.
The Yaris is an economy car, but it does a good job at disguising it. Our S trim model had a body kit and optional 17” alloy wheels on low-profile Pirelli tires. The overall gives the exterior the look of a classic hot hatch .
Although the interior is mostly black, that isn’t the whole story. One of Toyota’s hallmark items is using plastics with different textures to break up the monotony of one single color. It works well on our Yaris. While it still doesn’t feel like a Lexus, the feeling is not too far off a Camry or Corolla.
One really nice touch is the amount of storage available in the Yaris. It not only has pockets everywhere for items, but it also has three closeable gloveboxes and two large side storage containers. One of these gloveboxes is directly in front of the driver in the space normally reserved for gauges. For many of us on the staff that meant wallets, cell phones, pocket change and any other bulky items we usually carried in our pockets was now in storage and out of sight of prying eyes.
The sacrifice for all this space is that the dials have now been moved to the center of the car. It takes a little getting used to, but it’s not big deal. In fact with the dials in the center, it gives the Yaris a cool symmetrical look to the entire dash panel. It’s almost as if Toyota designed half of the interior and just used a mirror to complete the design.
Small hatches usually appeal to two types of drivers: people looking to have cash left over to customize the car, and people who live in or commute to urban areas. In both case tight handling is a must. We’re happy to say that the Yaris is not only nimble, but because of its size, we had no trouble feeling the road conditions through the wheel.
The 1.5-liter four cylinder engine isn’t the largest of the group, but it does make a surprising 106 hp. For those just looking for the Yaris to be a commuter car, the Yaris can keep up with most traffic because the engine also has dual overhead camshafts and on variable valve timing, both of which are designed to get the most out of the engine no matter the speed.
We drove the Yaris like any other car in our fleet (plenty of city, highway and even a little rough driving) and we still were able to get a little above Toyota’s claimed average of 31 mpg.
The Yaris line starts out as a blank slate. Ours had about $4,000 worth of options that gave it a little more flash than the standard economy car. But even without the extras, the Yaris is a solid small car that fits in with the fanboy crowd or as an everyday work commuter.