The new Yaris hatchback, which shouldn’t be confused with the larger Mazda-based Yaris iA, comes with as a three or five-door model. A top car mechanic and restorer has told me most people will buy any car as long as it looks good. Maybe so. A sportier appearance promises to help sell the 2018 subcompact Toyota Yaris, and its frugal nature may also help move it from dealer lots.
The 2018 Toyota Yaris looks sportier with a bold front fascia that features a new grille and updated headlight design. The rear has wider horizontal tail lights and a revised lower bumper to give the car a wider-looking “hot hatch” look. The 155.5-inch-long Yaris really doesn’t look all that small, although it has only a 98.8-inch wheelbase.
The Yaris comes in L, LE and SE trim levels. I tested the top-line sporty SE, which has a unique front piano black mesh grille and chrome trim. It also has a sport suspension, rear spoiler and 16-inch machined alloy wheels with dark accents that carry wider tires. The SE, therefore, is the most fun-to-drive Yaris version.
Comfort and Convenience
The base Yaris L comes with standard items such as air conditioning and tilt (but not telescopic) steering wheel with integrated audio controls. It also has an integrated backup camera display, power door locks and windows. Both the L and LE have Toyota’s Entune infotainment system that includes a 6.1-inch touch screen display, six speakers, an auxiliary input jack, USB port and Bluetooth hands-free connectivity. The SE gets what Toyota calls a “big-car-kind” of audio upgrade with Entune Audio Plus. It features a larger, 7-inch high-resolution touch screen.
On top of the standard features, the mid-level LE adds power mirrors, cruise control and steering wheel audio controls. The SE includes LE interior upgrades and sport-fabric trimmed seats with contrast white stitching, piano black interior trim accents and the audio upgrade.
The Yaris’ doors opened wide for easy entry and placement of child seats. The car is rated as a five-seater, but while three adults can sit comfortably, drivers with long legs will wish their seat moved back further. Tall occupants behind the driver will also want a little more knee room. At least the center of the rear seat has a soft cushion. The large, comfortable front seats offers decent side support.
All Yaris versions have a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, making 106 horsepower and 103 lb-ft of torque. It provides lively, if not out-and-out ballistic, acceleration to highway speeds. However, it delivers just average 65-75 passing times. The engine loves to rev, but it drones when you really force it work. Still, under normal conditions it’s reasonably quiet for a small four-cylinder. Fast cruising is no problem, partly because Toyota has made the Yaris’ interior quieter.
My test car had an electronically controlled 4-speed automatic transmission with a responsive manual-shift feature. Although, if you’d like another gear, the Yaris is available with a 5-speed manual in the two door L and four-door SE. A four-speed automatic seems old-fashioned, but Toyota probably figures the car’s engine works best with a four-speed automatic. In any case, the automatic’s console-mounted shift gate is a bit notchy.
Only regular grade fuel is needed, and estimated fuel economy is 30 miles per gallon in the city and 36 on highways with the manual and 30 and 35 with the automatic.
My test SE’s thick steering wheel controlled the electric power steering, which was fast (2.65 turns lock-to-lock) and had a firm feel and decent road feedback. The car stayed flat in curves taken at above-average speeds. Its handling was helped by its wider tires, sport suspension, stabilizer bar, vehicle stability control and traction control. The brakes bite hard, but have a reasonably linear pedal travel.
However, the short wheelbase and firm suspension occasionally resulted in a jerky ride. Thus, I wouldn’t call the SE a comfortable long-distance car. However, higher-profile tires and such may allow the L and LE versions to have a more comfortable ride.
The 2018 Toyota Yaris hatchback gets sportier styling to stand it out from the small hatchback crowd. Overall, it’s generally fun to drive. List prices, excluding delivery and processing charges, range from $15,635 for the base two-door L hatchback with the manual transmission to $19,060 for the SE four-door hatchback with the automatic. The SE with the manual costs $18,260, and the L with the automatic is $16,385.
SPECIFICATIONS: 2018 Toyota Yaris SE
|Price as Tested:||$19,060|
|Engine:||1.5-liter, naturally aspirated inline-four cylinder|
|Drivetrain (Layout):||Transversely mounted front engine, front-wheel drive|
|Horsepower:||106 hp @ 6,000 RPM|
|Torque:||103 lb-ft @ 4,200 RPM|
|Suspension:||Front: MacPherson strut w/ stabilizer bar
Rear: Torsion beam
|Brakes:||Front: 10.8-inch ventilated front rotors
Rear: 10.2-inch rear drums
|Tires:||Goodyear Assurance FuelMax P175/65 R15 84H all-season|
|Fuel capacity:||11.1 gallons|
|Fuel economy (EPA):||30 City/35 Highway/32 Combined MPG|
|Turning Circle:||36.1 feet|
|Curb Weight:||2,335 pounds|