A competitor in the crowded subcompact segment, the second-generation Toyota Yaris hatchback provides reliable and economical transportation for those in need of an inexpensive ride. While it isn't the performance car of its class, the Yaris offers a sensible combination of space, fuel economy and traditional Toyota quality.
The Yaris has been extensively updated inside and out for the latest model year. It features a redesigned front end, a retuned suspension and an interior that is both roomier and quieter.
The Yaris is available as a three- or five-door hatchback. Both body styles come exclusively with a 1.5-liter inline-four that produces 106 horsepower and 103 lb-ft of torque at 4,200 rpm. While that doesn't constitute class-leading power, gas mileage is respectable: 38 miles per gallon on the highway with a standard five-speed manual transmission and 35 mpg for an extra-cost four-speed automatic. City mileage is 30 mpg regardless of transmission.
The Yaris can be had with three distinct trim levels starting with "L," which serves as a low-priced base model. The L trim level includes a fairly high level of standard equipment: electric power steering, power-assisted ventilated front disc brakes, power door locks and USB connectivity. Other standard features include air conditioning, six cup and bottle holders, a storage cover for the cargo area, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo system with HD radio and an AUX input jack as well as hands-free phone capability and music streaming via Bluetooth.
Stepping up to what Toyota deems the "value-packed" LE trim level adds standard power windows with driver's auto-down, power mirrors, cruise control and a remote keyless entry system with an Engine Immobilizer.
The top-dog of the Yaris family is the SE, which Toyota bills to be "sport-tuned." To warrant this claim, Toyota engineers modified the vehicle to feature a sportier suspension and quicker-ratio steering while also switching from 15- to 16-inch wheels wrapped in P195/50R16 tires and adding a more driver-oriented interior. The SE features both front and rear disc brakes, with the front disc nearly an inch larger in diameter than L and LE versions.
Of course no modern "sport-tuned" car is complete without cosmetic upgrades to match, and in this area the SE offers up smoke-trim multi-reflector halogen headlamps, integrated fog lamps, color-keyed grille with sport mesh insert, color-keyed front and rear underbody spoilers, rear spoiler and rear diffuser and a chrome exhaust tip to round out the changes.
Inside, a sporty instrumentation package faces the driver, with an analog speedometer, tachometer, fuel gauge and digital Multi-Instrument Display. The leather-trimmed tilt three-spoke steering wheel includes audio controls and standard cruise control. Exclusive sport seats help add shoulder-level support for more comfort and control. The Yaris SE also includes a six-way adjustable driver's seat and four-way adjustable passenger seat with sport fabric trim.
Almost counter-intuitively, however, Toyota says the SE trim level will only be available on the five-door variant - not the three-door model.
Despite its modest size, the Yaris is fairly capacious inside, with 15.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats in the three-door and 15.6 cubic feet in the five door. Yaris L models feature a one-piece folding rear seat, while LE and SE editions include a 60/40 split fold-down rear seat
All Yaris models pack a 6.1-inch touchscreen display with Toyota's Entune infotainment system, which includes apps like Bing, Facebook Places and Pandora. Navigation can be ordered at an extra cost.
Starting with nine standard airbags, the Yaris offers an impressive array of safety features. Standard driver and front-passenger dual-stage airbags are complemented by front-seat mounted side airbags and a knee airbag for the driver. Roll-sensing side airbags are fitted to both front- and rear-row seats.
As with all Toyota vehicles, the Yaris features Toyota's Star Safety System, which includes Vehicle Stability Control , Traction Control , ABS, Electronic Brake-Force Distribution and Brake Assist. The Yaris also features Smart Stop Technology, Toyota's brake-override system, as standard.
Finally, the Yaris also includes Toyota's Advanced Whiplash Injury-Lessening (WIL) front-seat structure. The design helps to ensure that all areas from the head to the lower back are equally supported, helping to reduce whiplash-type injuries during certain types of collisions.
The subcompact Toyota Yaris hatchback competes with a mostly fresh lineup of entry-level cars including the Chevrolet Sonic Hatchback, Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Mazda Mazda2 and Hyundai Accent Hatchback.