Toyota has long been synonymous with small cars, even as the automaker’s presence in nearly every available segment these days is a given. The 2018 Yaris – a three- or five-door hatchback offering an updated look – is the smallest and least expensive car offered by Toyota.

Best Value

Toyota offers the 2018 Yaris in 3-Door L, 5-Door L, and 5-Door LE trims. All models come with a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a five-speed manual or available four-speed automatic transmission.

Our choice of models is the 5-Door LE, which comes standard with the automatic transmission and starts at $18,555 (including an $895 destination charge). The top-trim LE model is easier to get in and out of with its five doors, and offers features not available with the other trims, including integrated fog lights, LED daytime running lights, and 16-inch alloy wheels. This model also supplies a connected navigation app, satellite radio, HD Radio, and upgraded fabric seats.

  • Model: 2018 Toyota Yaris 5-Door LE
  • Engine: 1.5-liter I4
  • Output: 106 hp/103 lb-ft of torque
  • Transmission: Four-speed automatic
  • Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
  • MPG: 30 city/35 highway
  • Options: There are no package options for the Yaris 5-Door LE
  • Base Price: $18,555
  • Best Value Price: $18,555

Performance

Manage your expectations with the 2018 Toyota Yaris. It's powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 106 horsepower and 103 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission or an available four-speed automatic transmission sends power to the front wheels. Yes, a four-speed – as in what was prevalent in the 1990s.

Shoppers should look at the Yaris as the basic transportation that it is, capable of taking you from point A to point B and not much else. With the driver only, the engine is up to the task, but add people and payload, and this hatchback labors. The LE model delivers a stiffer suspension with thicker anti-sway bars, which, although not contributing much to provide ride comfort, helps in cornering and road holding.

Interior and Exterior

Two years removed from its last refresh, the Yaris has fallen behind the competition. The look is somewhat restrained, lacking the sportiness of such models as the new Hyundai Accent, the proven Honda Fit or even the aged Chevrolet Sonic. We do like this model’s front fascia, marked by a swooping line of brightwork trim surrounding the oversized Toyota emblem. The trapezoidal grille amplifies the look, bringing sportiness to an otherwise austere model line.

Inside, you’ll find seat belts for five, although space for four is more like it. Even so, the rear seat isn’t especially roomy or comfortable. That’s why we recommend the five-door for ease of access. Fold down the rear seat and you’ll expand cargo space from 15.6 cubic feet to more than 30 cubic feet. That extra space offers plenty of cargo room for a week away from home with you and a friend. Soft-touch materials on the doors and other surfaces as well as nicely executed metal-like trim ease the otherwise budget feel of this model.

The Best and Worst Things

The Yaris’ Entune infotainment system is easy to use, although audio output doesn’t match the top competitors. Smartphone integration is another weakness, but, when it comes to safety, you’ll find such features as a rearview camera, lane departure warning, and pre-collision braking.

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Right For...

The person with a limited budget who insists on getting behind the wheel of a new car. If your budget is about $16,000, you can find a Yaris L for that price after all discounts.

Wrong For...

The Toyota enthusiasts whose expectations are high. You’ll receive forgiveness if you think the Yaris is as good as other Toyota models. It isn’t. If you’re on a limited budget, a late model used Corolla is simply a better choice.

The Bottom Line

Most manufacturers offer subcompact models, so in the Yaris, Toyota has a presence. But there are better models out there, including the Honda Fit and even the Mazda-supplied Yaris iA. We think you’d be happier with either one.