Review: 2009 Toyota Yaris Sedan
By Evan Griffey of MSN Autos
At its essence, a car is just another household appliance. It gets us from point A to point B and back again. However, each category of automobile has its own special purpose in the grand mechanical scheme. Some cars are fun to drive, while others are highly functional. Some are even a combination of the two. Economy cars are designed to be effective, relatively no-frills transportation for those looking to drive to and fro without spending a whole lot of dough. Even so, they don't have to bore a driver to tears while doing so, do they?
The 2009 Toyota Yaris is finely focused to deliver value for the dollar and smiles at the pump. But beyond that, it does little to inspire. Nevertheless, the Yaris finds itself in the right place at the right time. Times are tough and people are working harder than ever before to make ends meet, and the Yaris is a true recession buster. It offers cheap running costs and a low sticker price, and embodies Toyota's reputation for reliability.
The standard-equipment list on these base Yaris offerings is a little disappointing, which may leave many real-world drivers wanting more. Base trims don't come with a stereo, just four speakers wired up with no place to go. Front side airbags and side-curtain airbags for both rows of seats and ABS brakes are also not listed as standard fare.
Checking the $1,500 Power Package on the options list delivers power door locks, mirrors and windows; cruise control; a rear window defroster and an AM/FM/CD head unit.
The S trims add fog lights, 15-inch steel wheels, a rear wiper and sporty badging and body upgrades in the form of low-slung bumper treatments and sculpted side rockers, as well as the ever-important AM/FM/CD head unit. Opting for the S trim pushes the bottom line to $14,825 for a 3-door; $15,125 for a 5-door; and $15,880 for the sedan version.
Under the Hood
The lonely center dash gauge cluster took a little getting used to, as did the bare dash behind the steering wheel, which we used to stick a Post-It note with driving directions. A more technically advanced GPS would also work nicely in this spot, but that is not in the budget.
On the Road
Our Pacific Blue sedan conducted business in a no-nonsense manner and did an admirable job in most situations — just aim it at point B and go. The MacPherson strut, torsion bar suspension soaked up road irregularities and the occasional pothole with the expected commuter competence. The ride was compliant and the Yaris handled as expected, smooth and predictable with good feedback as the car approached its limit of adhesion.
Visually, the Yaris sedan is well-proportioned and fairly aerodynamic, but has no landmark styling cues that allow it to stand out from the crowd. Picking one out in four lanes of gridlocked traffic would challenge even the most gifted "Where's Waldo" enthusiast.
Right for You?
The Yaris is a great first car or college ride, where the thrill of owning a vehicle overshadows the lack of a driving "experience." It is also good for commuters who put more emphasis on a cheap entry price, affordable upkeep and smiles at the pumps than aesthetics or handling. And with the versatility of its sedan and 5-door liftback models, more families may gravitate to the Yaris as well.
In these trying economic times, the subcompact segment is getting a lot of action, and buyers really need to look past the bottom line and concentrate a little more on the standard equipment list to see how much comfort, convenience and "true value" comes in that entry-level package. The Yaris could do better in this regard.
Evan Griffey served as an editor of Turbo & High Tech Performance, a pioneering publication about sport-compacttuning. Today Griffeyfreelances for Import Tuner, Sport Compact Car, Car Audio and Siphon.