The Toyota Yaris is a subcompact produced since 1999, but the first generation was called the Echo. The Yaris appeared in the US marketplace in 2007 as the replacement for the Echo. Yaris is Toyota’s most economical offering and targets younger drivers and those who need an inexpensive and fuel friendly small car.
“There is a lot of excitement in the subcompact category today, but the all-new 2012 Toyota Yaris is at the top of the list when it comes to combining value and fuel efficiency with style and fun,” said Toyota Division Group Vice President and General Manager Bob Carter. “Today’s young, price-conscious shoppers want the complete package that the new Yaris offers: room for their friends and gear, along with a strong list of standard convenience and safety features.”
The liftback is the most popular body style in the subcompact segment, appealing to 70 percent of new car buyers in that category. With that in mind, the new Yaris Liftback has been redesigned for 2012 to make it even more appealing to potential buyers. The wheelbase has been lengthened by two inches, to 98.8 inches, with the overall length of the vehicle growing by 2.9 inches, to 153.5 inches.
The height is reduced by 0.6 inches for a stance that is both lower and longer. The result is up to 68 percent more cargo room along with additional headroom and passenger volume, all within an aerodynamic body yielding a 0.30 coefficient of drag.
The interior has also been redesigned, with upgraded fabrics and a soft-touch dash. The front seats are a bit wider, and shaped to reduce fatigue on long trips. The rear seat is theoretically designed for three, but two will be more comfortable there. Additional sound-absorbing and insulating materials are intended for a quieter ride, but road noise is still prominent.
A tilt three-spoke steering wheel features a thicker grip and a flat-bottom shape to reduce knee interference. The much-maligned, center-mounted instrument cluster in the previous Yaris, has finally been relocated in front of the driver and includes a multi-instrument display with odometer, twin trip meters, clock, outside temperature reading, fuel economy display, average speed and Eco-Driving indicator.
Yaris is available in three grades, with the entry-level L and value-packaged LE editions available either as a three-door liftback or five-door liftback. The sport-tuned SE is available only as a five-door.
Yaris L models have a one-piece folding rear seat, while LE and SE editions include a 60/40 split fold-down rear seat. The luggage compartment area has been lengthened by 5.7 inches, and widened by 2.1 inches, to increase cargo volume by 64 percent in the 3-door and 68 percent in the 5-door. Cargo capacity with the seat up is 15.3 cu. ft. on the 3-door and 15.6 cu. ft. on the 5-door.
All models include standard electric power steering, power-assisted front disc brakes, power door locks and Cold Weather Package. Other standard features include air conditioning, six cup and bottle holders, and storage cover for the cargo area. Halogen headlamps and intermittent front windshield wiper are also standard.
All models also feature full audio connectivity via USB and auxiliary ports, along with a standard AM/FM/CD player with MP3 and WMA playback compatibility. LE and SE models feature an audio system with HD radio, six speakers and Bluetooth music streaming technology.
The Yaris LE adds standard power windows with driver’s auto-down, power mirrors, and a remote keyless entry system. The steering wheel includes audio controls, and cruise control is available as an option.
Both three-door and five-door models are powered by a 1.5-liter, 16-valve, four-cylinder DOHC engine equipped with variable valve timing, producing 106 hp at 6,000 rpm and 103 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,200 rpm. All models are available with a new four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. A five-speed manual gearbox is available on L and SE models only.
The automatic transmission’s gear ratios are set up to make the best of the small engine’s output. Acceleration from a stop is surprisingly good, but in hilly terrain, the transmission has to shift constantly. Fuel economy is an impressive 30/38 mpg, city/highway.
The front MacPherson-strut and rear torsion-beam suspension have been tuned to deliver a good ride and driving feel. Even so, the ride quality is a bit harsh on winter-damaged pavement. The front stabilizer bar has been increased to 0.95 in. and Standard tire sizes are increased as well to 15-inch on L and LE versions, and 16-inch on the SE.
Electric power steering provides good road feel at highway speeds while aiding low-speed parking maneuvers. With a tight turning circle and quick, responsive steering, Yaris is easy to maneuver on crowded streets and parks in tight spots.
Starting with nine standard airbags, Yaris offers a full 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 for a total of nine airbags.
In common with all Toyota vehicles, the Yaris has Toyota’s Star Safety System, which includes stability control, traction control, antilock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist and brake override.
New to the 2012 Yaris is Toyota’s advanced whiplash injury-lessening 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.
For the first time, Toyota has engineered a single-windshield wiper with wet-arm system for reduced weight and better performance. The system sprays washer fluid from the base of the wiper arm directly in the path of the blade for improved cleaning and wiping action.
The Yaris SE provides more driving fun with its sport-tuned suspension, quicker ratio steering, and 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. The SE is equipped with P195/50R16 tires and alloy wheels.
The SE has a distinctive appearance with its smoke-trim multi-reflector halogen headlamps, integrated fog lamps and color-keyed grille with sport mesh insert. It features color-keyed front and rear underbody spoilers, rear spoiler and rear diffuser, highlighted by a chrome exhaust tip and SE badge.
Inside, a sporty instrumentation package has 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.
In many ways, Yaris is kind of fun to drive if you don’t expect too much. You have to remember that it’s a small car, without a lot of frills—and it’s affordable.
The base MSRP ranges from $14,115 for the L grade three-door liftback with a five-speed manual transmission to $17,200 for the SE grade five-door liftback with a four-speed automatic transmission.