If there was any big gamble to take on, Toyota went all in for it: introducing its small cars with big personalities to a consumer base saturated with big wheelin' SUVs. It was a territory Scion was willing to explore and was able to yield hugely successful results. Toyota took note of this (as did all the other big Japanese car makers) and prepared its main line by adding a B-segment car of its own with the Yaris. A top seller in Europe since its release back in '99, the Yaris was named "Car of the Year" in both Europe and Japan in '00, the first car to receive both honors in the same year. The cute hatchback and more subtle sedan models will be stepping in to replace the Echo, a car that may not have been revered for its power, but was well respected for its affordability. That's one focal point Toyota will continue to aim for with the Yaris.
The first time we laid eyes on the Yaris was at last year's SEMA; the hatchback was unveiled and, as you can see, it's small-real small. But don't let its shape fool you; inside there's enough clearance for the four feet of hair on top of my head with equally sufficient leg room to fit our staff comfortably (we tested this on a recent road trip to the Las Vegas NHRA/D1 event). However, for your passengers to ride comfortably, you'll be compromising valuable storage space, one of a few negatives we found with the Yaris hatchback. With the rear seats left upright, we could only stow a duffel bag and a small backpack, which means if you're a pack rat, you'd be better off with the sedan since it has a decently sized trunk in addition to the two extra doors. Both models share a rather unattractive dashboard, an updated rendition of the Echo's center positioned gauge cluster, which proved to be more of a nuisance than a cool feature. What's disappointing for those looking at a hatchback will find that it lacks a tachometer; anyone dropping a few more dollars down for the sedan will actually get one. Another downside to the Yaris is that its front seats can be quite uncomfortable and are not a good match to the overall ergonomics of the interior; the lumbar support actually pushes you forward, but you have to slide the seat back further to keep your knees from hitting the steering wheel. We often found ourselves having to lean forward just to be able to adjust the air conditioning and radio controls.
Just like the Echo and its Scion cousins the xA and xB, the Yaris comes equipped with a 1.5L twin-cam four banger using VVT-i technology. But in order to get any decent power out of it (brace yourself, we're dealing with 106 horses!), you'll want to keep the pedal mashed in a lower gear like we did. However, we're sure Toyota didn't intend for the Yaris to break any speed records (it has a hard enough time keeping up with the posted speed limit), but instead, for a much better reason: to save gas. On a long term drive, a full tank of gas kept the Yaris S sedan happy for 400 miles before it needed to be topped off again. Not having to spend a fortune on premium gas gained huge bonus points in our book. In the handling department, Toyota's introduced stiff L-arm MacPherson front struts and rear torsion beams-loosely translated, the hatchback is quick to maneuver, almost too easy to break loose at times while the sedan maintains better balance and stability. The air conditioning was subpar at best, struggling to cool down cabin temperatures in the dead of summer; even a local Toyota salesman commented at how poorly the Yaris actually cooled down at full blast.
The Yaris could be a pretty solid bang for your buck-if you can live without most features that come standard on its competitors, like the Honda Fit and Scion tC. A bare bone Yaris hatchback or sedan starts off righteously under the $12k mark, but unless you ante up to an additional $3k for the Convenience or Power option packages, your Yaris will come without seat-mounted and side curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, rear defroster, bigger 15-inch alloys, remote keyless entry, power doors/locks/windows/mirrors and loads more. The Convenience package does get you a MP3-capable stereo on both models, but something as simple as a tachometer comes only on the sedan and S's with a manual transmission. And priced just below $14k, the Yaris S gets sportier aero under spoilers, side rocker panels and an S badge. After you factor in the options, you're better off selecting a Scion, especially if you're going to be modifying it with more than just bigger wheels and an intake. But if saving cash on a brand new car is all you're looking to do, then sacrificing power options for a great looking ride with supreme fuel economy is what the Yaris is perfect for.
One thing the Yaris isn't is fast. But you know that. Or at least you should. If you're in the market for speed, then the Yaris shouldn't be on your list. What it is, however, is ber-practical. With near 40 un-inflated, real-world, air-conditioner-cranked average mpg and a low sticker price, it is what it is-a practical commuter car.
Relatively fast, relatively fun, and more importantly, relatively cheap-the tC version 2.0 is a great buy for those of us on a budget looking for something exciting to drive. An aspect that's not relative about the relatively improved tC is it's clean design. Makes you wonder why other OEMs seem to have difficulty making affordable look good.
I walked into the garage expecting a hatchback, but saw a sedan. It's roomy and good on gas, which is ideal for old people like Nads. Styling-wise, it took a while to get used to, and even though the Yaris isn't supposed to be fast, it rocked an "S" badge. Does that stand for Spunky? Anyhow, I'm thinking this car will be well-embraced by the aftermarket as it should be.
Amazing. We're actually doing something on a tC and it doesn't belong to Chris Rado. I guess it was pretty cool to drive around since I can't recall ever being in one before. Um, nice touch with the changing color radio. Oooooo, aaaaaah.
I'd have to say I expected more out of a Yaris having driven my fair share of Scion xAs and xBs. Even though they all share the same power, the Yaris lacked the standard essentials, which when added in to the final total pulls away from the value that Toyota's promoting.
I've always said the tC is a great bargain: cool styling and enough power to get you through the day. Scion lovers get one more reason to praise the sporty coupe.
The Yaris was lacking in that I couldn't even get it up to highway speeds (I should mention that my "highway speeds" are at or around triple digits). That said, I think the Yaris will make for a hip little commuter in the same vein as those saucy Scions. As far as aftermarket acceptance is concerned, it remains to be seen if the Yaris will go the route of the cultish xB or forlorn xA. I don't care if it can't accommodate my big fat American arse, I still want the Vitz.
I've always liked the tC and I like this tC with its big bass and big style. But is it too much to ask for a limited edition variant that gives you even a modest amount of a performance increase? I guess I'm out of the target demo as I'm more comfortable at WOT than behind a velvet rope.