Competing in the budget-transport class, the Yaris could be considered the spiritual descendant of the old Toyota Tercel. Nearly forgotten today, Tercel was a plain but popular subcompact back in the 1980s and ’90s, proving to be almost a synonym for reliable, economical transportation. Introduced in 2007, the Yaris tries to inject some style, and even excitement, into the Tercel's old theme. Yet, its principal selling point remains durable service for buyers at the lower end of the market. Unlike most subcompacts, the French-built Yaris comes as either a three-door or five-door hatchback.
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2016 Toyota Yaris Overview
What's New for 2016
Last year, the Yaris got a new face and styling tweaks inside and out. Nothing has changed for the 2016 model year except for two new color combinations.
Choosing Your Toyota Yaris
All Yaris hatchbacks get the same engine: a 1.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 106 horsepower and 103 pound-feet of torque. On the three-door Yaris L and the five-door SE, a five-speed manual transmission, with hydraulic clutch, is standard. A four-speed automatic is optional for those two versions, and standard on the others. Fuel economy with manual shift is estimated at 30 mpg in city driving and 37 mpg on the highway (33 mpg combined). With automatic, the highway estimate drops to 36 mpg (32 mpg combined).
Buyers choose from three trim levels, each of which includes an abundance of features for this entry-level car:
All optional navigation system may be dealer-installed.
Even the base Yaris L is surprisingly well-equipped for the entry-level category. If you don't really need the higher equipment level of the LE or the largely visual pizzazz of the SE, the basic L edition is the sensible way to go to keep costs down.
2016 Toyota Yaris Review
A mini-size subcompact, smaller than the popular Corolla, has been part of Toyota’s lineup for decades. Yaris hatchbacks, launched for 2007, come in three- and five-door form. More than the typical subcompact, the French-built Yaris is a forthright, traditional-style hatchback, unlike Toyota’s Prius c hybrid, which has a more contemporary look and feel. Of course, some small-car buyers still prefer the familiar, older version.
Pricing and Equipment
Base-priced at $14,895 (plus destination charge) for a three-door L edition, the Yaris also comes in LE and SE trim. Each Yaris holds a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 106 horsepower, mating with either a five-speed manual gearbox or a four-speed automatic. (You read that correctly: at a time when other economy cars have six-speed automatics, the Yaris sticks with four.)
Our test drives have included manual and automatic-transmission models.
Standard three-door Yaris L equipment includes:
- Manual transmission
- Height-adjustable driver's seat
- Nine airbags
- Air conditioning
- Electric power steering
- Power windows and locks
- Tilt steering wheel
- Six-speaker Entune audio with 6.1-inch touchscreen
- HD radio
- Bluetooth audio streaming
- Split-folding rear seat
- Fifteen-inch steel wheels
The four-speed automatic transmission adds $725 to the price of a three-door, and is standard on five-door models. A rearview camera is available, but no modern active-safety features can be specified.
- Acceleration with manual shift is pretty brisk, at least until you pass 30 mph or so. At that point, performance starts to turn tepid.
- Braking is good and a Yaris maneuvers smartly, even if performance lags in other areas. Nothing really stands out in any particular way.
- Gas mileage is EPA-estimated at 30/37 mpg (city/highway) with manual shift, or 30/36 mpg with the four-speed automatic. Those figures aren't the highest available in a subcompact by any means, but they're reasonably good.
- Antiquated four-speed automatic transmission, available in few vehicles anymore, can be sluggish in operation, with downshifts that are drawn-out and dramatic. At other times, shifts may be smooth and prompt. Five-doors are automatic-only.
- With either transmission, highway passing, especially on non-level surfaces, tends to be a slow process that demands attention and planning. Manual gearboxes in Yarises have a history of unappealing operation.
- Today’s Yaris is quieter than those of the past, but can still become noisy except when driven relatively mildly.
- Front seats are comfortable and supportive, suitably-sized, with ample headroom.
- Controls are simple and easy to understand.
- Storage areas are plentiful.
- Rear seat is smaller than in many small-car rivals, especially Nissan's Versa Note hatchback.
- Honda's Fit beats the Yaris in cargo space and overall flexibility, though loading is easy.
- Steering-wheel titls, but does not telescope. Instruments are basic.
The Most Pleasant Surprise
Despite some flaws that affect performance, it’s nice to know that at least one mini-size car, other than one of the retro-look models, retains some link to small cars of the past.
The Least Pleasant Surprise
More than most of today’s subcompacts, Yaris is a traditional-type small car, reminiscent of the old econoboxes: known for excellent maneuverability but suffering from small, underpowered engines.
The Bottom Line
Even the base model is quite well-equipped. Still, considering its performance detriments and overly-cozy back seat, the Yaris doesn’t entirely qualify as a bargain with its $15,730 starting price (including destination charge). Toyota touts its European styling, but the oversize, low oval grille placed on last year’s Yaris did its design no favors.