The redesigned 2012 Toyota Yaris looks better, inside and out, and is more refined. But it still is just basic, no-frills transportation.
The subcompact Yaris was introduced for 2007, when gas prices were rising. That helped give it a good start. But that was five model years ago, which is an eternity in the increasingly competitive small economy car market.
This second-generation Yaris is longer and lower, with a stretched wheelbase, but continues with a small 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that’s weak on highways, where it must work hard for even mediocre 65-75 mph. passing maneuvers. The four-speed automatic transmission, although responsive, is several speeds short of being modern. The car really should have a six-speed automatic.
As for the standard five-speed manual transmission, it calls for lots of shifting for the best performance from the 107-horsepower engine, which gets noisy during fast acceleration. The Yaris only weighs approximately2,300-2,400 pounds, so in-town performance is lively enough.
Estimated fuel economy is pretty good, at 30 miles per gallon in the city and 35-38 on highways.
The front-wheel-drive Yaris comes in two- and four-door hatchback body styles. The sedan model has been dropped. List prices go from $14,115 to $17,200 There are base L, mid-range LE and top-line SE models.
The base L is fairly well equipped, with air conditioning, adjustable steering wheel, AM/FM stereo, CD player, auxiliary audio input and power door locks.
Safety items include nine air bags, anti-lock brakes and stability and traction control.
The LE adds such items as the automatic transmission (optional for the L), power windows and keyless entry.
Opt for the SE sedan for the sportiest driving. Standard for this version are larger wheels with wider (50- versus 65-series) tires on larger alloy wheels and sport-tuned steering and supension.
My test $17,200 LE four-door automatic-transmission hatchback had fast, nicely weighted steering, a supple ride, and nimble handling—although it was no small sports sedan. Brake feel was good.
Despite drawbacks, the new Yaris is a significant improvement over its predecessor. It has more cargo capacity, and a more-attractive interior replaces a low-rent cockpit, although dashboard trim below the glove box opening had a sloppy fit. That came as a surprise, considering how well the car was otherwise put together..
A new instrument cluster is now placed in front of the driver instead of awkwardly put in the center of the dashboard, although gauges are hard to read in bright sunlight.
Dual front cupholders are awkwardly placed too low on the console in front of the shift lever, and a rear passenger must stretch far forward to reach the single rear cupholder at the back of the front console. Also, audio controls are too small for a driver to easily use, although.climate controls are commendably large.
Front seats provide decent side support in turns, but the center of the rear seat is too stiff for comfort. Front doors have pockets with built-in bottle holders, but rear doors have no pockets. There are rear driver blind spots, but large outside mirrors partly compensate for this. Sun visors have mirrors, but they’re unlit. The automatic transmission shifter gate is notchy.
The cargo opening is low and wide, but the cargo area is rather small unless the split rear seatbacks are flipped forward.
The hood has an unusually short prop rod oddly placed in its down position above the battery, but fluid-filler areas are easily reached.
The Yaris has Toyota’s reputation for quality and resale value, but it must try harder to match some rivals such as the Hyundai Accent and Ford Fiesta.
On the TFLcar.com recommendation scale of:
- Buy it
- Lease it
- Rent it or
I give the 2012 Toyota Yaris a…
because It’s too cheap to lease.
Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times–far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.’s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008. For more of Dan’s thoughtful and insightful reviews please visit his web site HERE.