Toyota badge, Mazda bones. The 2020 Toyota Yaris may wear the ovals on its grille, but it’s a Mazda underneath. The Yaris shares its structure with the Mazda Mazda2 in both hatchback and sedan form.
That’s not a bad thing. The old Yaris, which began its life as the Scion iA, looked worse and didn’t drive as well. The new one is a different story.
With Mazda’s verve for economy cars, the updated Yaris is surprisingly fun. A willing suspension complements hefty steering for one of the better sport sedans $17,000 can buy. The ride is firm, but it handles rough pavement with relative composure.
Fun, but not fast. The driver in a Yaris may be having fun, but they won’t be winning many drag races. There’s only one engine (also sourced from Mazda), a 1.5-liter four-cylinder unit producing 106 horsepower.
That’s not quite as bad as it seems, given the Yaris’s puny, 2,400-pound weight. Even so, acceleration is humble, with either the manual or automatic transmission.
On the other hand, lightness and a small engine make for excellent fuel economy. The Yaris gets an EPA-estimated 35 miles per gallon combined with the automatic (and 40 mpg highway). That’s on par with rivals like the Nissan Versa and Honda Fit, but it’s good by any other standard.
Modern, finally. For 2020, the Yaris finally gains Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. That helps bring the infotainment system into this decade, with a 7-inch touchscreen decorating the dashboard.
The addition completes the Yaris package, as it already excelled in safety tech. Active safety features are somewhat unusual on subcompact cars, but the Yaris gets low-speed automatic emergency braking included on every model.
The Yaris also does well on crash-test scores for a subcompact. If safety is a priority, it remains among the better small cars on the market.
Small, for better or for worse. The Yaris’s diminutive price tag is matched by its pint-sized proportions. There are three seat belts in the back, but squeezing three adults back there is a challenge. Four passengers is manageable, at least for short journeys.
Cargo capacity is similarly minimal, with just 13.5 cubic feet behind the seats in the sedan. The hatch does better with 15.9 cubic feet, but neither can match the Fit.
The upside is that the Yaris remains affordable and approachable. With the new infotainment system, the feature set isn’t too spartan for most tastes.
Final thoughts. Subcompact cars remain the domain of simplicity and value. We’re relieved to see that they can still be fun, too, with the 2020 Toyota Yaris being a good example of that.
The Yaris’s Mazda suspension is a blessing, and it joins Toyota’s excellent safety reputation. The Fit is a stiff competitor, but now that the hatchback has rejoined the lineup, the Yaris ought to be on the list for economy-car shoppers.