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.

Performance Pros

Toyota Yaris
  • 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.

Performance Cons

  • 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.

Interior Pros

  • Front seats are comfortable and supportive, suitably-sized, with ample headroom.
  • Controls are simple and easy to understand.
  • Storage areas are plentiful.

Interior Cons

  • 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

Toyota Yaris Interior

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.