2011 Toyota Yaris

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Review: 2007 Toyota Yaris

This 2007 review is representative of model years 2007 to 2014.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

The youth-oriented Yaris should be a solid contender with its style, economy, and Toyota's reputation of quality and reliability.
Pros:
  • Fuel stingy
  • Lively
  • Fairly roomy
Cons:
  • Center-mounted gauges
  • Average handling
  • No standard radio

Major Japanese automakers seemingly carry good-luck horseshoes in their pockets. Their small cars scored heavily during America's 1973 fuel crunch, and Toyota's entry-level 2007 Yaris has arrived this spring as gasoline prices top $3 a gallon in some parts of the country.

The early 2007 Yaris is a proven commodity. It was launched in Europe in 1999 and is Toyota's best-selling model there.

Major Yaris rivals are the new Honda Fit and Nissan Versa, along with the redone Chevrolet Aveo, Kia Rio and Hyundai Accent.

Youth Market Hopes
All are aimed at the youth market, with the hope that their buyers will be happy with them and move up to higher-line, more profitable models as they become older and more affluent.

Small, fuel-sipping 4-cylinder engines that provide adequate performance are used by all those cars. And they have fairly roomy interiors and low-cost operation. Thankfully, none have the "econobox" styling that once branded entry autos as low-rent transportation.

Second-Generation Model
The new, second-generation Yaris being introduced here has a longer, wider platform, stiffer construction, newly developed suspension and greater refinement. It replaces Toyota's ECHO coupe and sedan. They also were directed at the U.S. youth market, but were largely rejected because they had almost comical styling.

However, Toyota's youth-oriented Scion models have done much better in this country.

High Fuel Economy
The Yaris provides an estimated 34 mpg in the city and 40 on the highway with a manual transmission. Figures are nearly identical with the automatic, at 34 and 39.

The second-generation Yaris comes as a chic $10,950-$11,850 2-door hatchback or as a larger, smoothly styled, more upscale-looking 4-door sedan, which I tested in base form with an automatic transmission.

The shorter Yaris hatchback has the same powertrain and is similar to the sedan in most respects, although it's harder to get in and out of the hatchback's rear seat. However, it has a standard folding rear seat for more cargo area.

The base sedan starts at $11,825 with a manual gearbox and lists at $12,550 with an automatic transmission. The higher-line "S" sedan costs $13,325 with manual and $14,050 with an automatic.

Sportier S Version
The S sedan is sportier. It adds to the base sedan an AM/FM/CD/MP3 player, a split-folding back seat, a rear defroster and larger 15-inch wheels and wider 60-series tires. The S also looks racier, with side rocker panels and front/rear spoilers under the bumpers.

The base Yaris sedan with an automatic is only moderately well-equipped, with items including air conditioning, a tilt steering wheel, intermittent wipers and color-keyed mirrors and door handles. But it lacks a radio, having only an "audio prep package" with four speakers. It also has no anti-lock brakes, and only the manual transmission version has a tachometer. Narrow 14-inch wheels and 65-series tires also are standard.

Desirable Option Package
A $960-$1,785 (depending on trim level and transmission) Power Package is needed to equip the Yaris the way most buyers will want it, with power windows, door locks and mirrors. That package also contains an AM/FM/CD/MP3 player, anti-lock brakes, cruise control, a rear defroster, a 60/40 split fold-down back seat, 15-inch wheels and wider (60-series) tires.

Want to bet that you won't find many Toyota dealers offering a Yaris without the Power Package?

Remote keyless entry is $230 for all Yaris trim levels and requires the Power Package. One might think it would come at no extra charge with the power door locks.

Anti-lock brakes are a stand-alone $300 option, and front-seat side airbags and side-curtain airbags cost $650 for all Yaris versions.

Lively Performance
The Yaris is powered by a small 1.5-liter engine, but it produces 106 horsepower because it is sophisticated, with such features as dual overhead camshafts and variable valve timing.

The Yaris provides brisk 65-75 mph passing and a 0-60 mph run in a fairly quick 8.9 seconds—at least with a light load. The engine is only moderately loud during fast acceleration, and the Yaris is a relaxed, quiet highway cruiser.

The engine works with a standard 5-speed manual transmission or extra-cost 4-speed automatic.

Lots of Shifting
The manual shifts nicely, but the engine calls for lots of shifting to get the best performance—always the case with a small engine because many revs are needed for good power. The automatic is smooth and responsive. It allows good performance, besides more effortless driving in congested areas.

The Yaris uses Toyota's new, quick electric power steering. The ride is supple, although sharp bumps can be felt. Stability is good on highways, and handling is OK if the car isn't pushed hard, especially the base version with its 14-inch tires. Even the 15-inch tires are suited for fuel economy, not spirited motoring.

Impressive Brakes
Stopping distances are impressive, although the brake pedal only becomes really effective halfway through its travel.

Front seats provide good support in curves, and a large windshield and wide outside mirrors help allow good driver visibility. Climate controls are large and sound system controls are easy to work, although they're rather small.

Controversial Gauge Layout
The main gauges are atop the center of the dashboard instead of being put directly in front of the driver. That positioning is supposed to make them easier to read without shifting focus from the road. However, I found that layout to be distracting. I also couldn't get the tilt steering wheel high enough to be a comfortable distance from my legs.

There's good room for three tall adults, with decent space for a shorter one behind the driver. The interior has only average-quality plastics, and cost-cutting is shown by unlit visor vanity mirrors. There are a fair number of storage areas, at least for small items.

Roomy Trunk
The trunk is roomy, with a low opening, and the inside of its lid has a cover to prevent it from having an unfinished look. Optional rear seatbacks can be flipped forward to enlarge the cargo area, but there's only a moderately large pass-through area from the trunk to the rear seat area.

The engine compartment is artfully designed to allow easy access to fluid filler areas, but a prop rod is needed to hold the hood open, not smooth hydraulic hinges.

With style, economy and utility, the Yaris should be a solid contender, and Toyota's reputation for quality and reliability will help sell the car. As will high gasoline prices.

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BB02 - 4/21/2014 5:50:59 AM