Subcompact no longer means substandard.
The Yaris, redesigned last year, is a worthy contender in a segment that’s become much tougher. Its new sheetmetal has evolved from a too-cute jellybean into a more-upscale hatchback. (Toyota dropped the sedan with the 2012 makeover.) The interior leaves behind awkward attempts at cheap chic — no one ever liked that center speedometer — and instead adopts a traditional look and more standard features, including power windows and iPod connectivity. The only powertrain is the same 106-hp, 1.5-liter four-cylinder, but the SE complements it with a beefier suspension, quicker-ratio steering, and four-wheel disc brakes (rear drums are standard). Despite these changes, the Yaris remains behind the subcompact curve in some areas. It retains a four-speed automatic transmission at a time when many of its competitors offer six-speeds, and it fails to achieve the now almost obligatory 40 mpg on the highway. The Yaris suffers from disconnected, overboosted electric power steering. It’s also no bargain. The two-door Yaris starts at about the same price as choices like the Ford Fiesta that have a more premium feel and are more efficient. At the same time, it’s not as versatile and commodious as its nearest Japanese competitor, the Honda Fit.
new for 2013
The Yaris is pretty much unchanged after a full 2012 redesign.
Front, side, side curtain, and driver’s knee air bags; ABS; traction and stability control; and a tire-pressure monitoring system are standard.
Much improved last year
Nicely equipped interior
Nine standard air bags
Fuel economy trails segment leaders’
Relatively anemic engine
Base Price Range: $15,130–$17,190
TRIM LEVELS: L, LE, SE
BODY STYLE: Hatchback, 5-passenger
ENGINE: 1.5L I-4, 106 hp, 103 lb-ft
TRANSMISSIONS: 5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic
PASSENGER VOLUME: 84.4–85.1 cu ft
CARGO SPACE: 15.3–15.6 cu ft