The last few months have had quite some variation with regard to the cars we’ve been reviewing. We’ve tried electric minis and solar Sonatas, and the lack of any travel has meant a chance to try some of the vehicles on the press fleet that we hadn’t managed to make time for in the past. Today’s topic is the $17,750 Toyota Yaris hatchback; it’s notable because the very week we had one for testing was the same week that Toyota announced the Yaris is cancelled. And honestly, that’s a shame.
It’s not a terribly storied nameplate. Decades from now, millennial retirees are unlikely to get into bidding wars over rust-free examples. Yarises have not claimed victory in grueling rallies. Unlike the original Mini, it can’t point to many famous owners, although Burton Guster did drive a blue Yaris in Psych. In fact, the car we currently call a Yaris in the US is barely even a Toyota and shares nothing other than a name with the Yaris that our European or Japanese audience might recognize. Under the skin it’s actually a Mazda 2.
I must confess, I was ignorant of that fact up until I opened the door to our test Yaris—a $19,705 five-door XLE version. But it was instantly obvious once I looked around. The steering wheel is pure Mazda, although it’s the older, slightly fatter-rimmed wheel, not the newest one I keep raving about in the Mazdas 3 and CX-30. The infotainment system might say Toyota but it’s also pure Mazda—no bad thing considering it’s a lot less frustrating to use than Toyota’s Entune offering. The dash is pure Mazda from a few years ago, too, with a central analogue dial flanked by a pair of monochrome displays that wash out unreadably in direct sunlight.
Under the hood, out of all proportion to that huge Cylon grille, lives a naturally aspirated 1.5L four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic. (A six-speed manual is an option but good luck finding one.) With 106hp (79kW) and 103lb-ft (140Nm), the Yaris is not going to set any straight-line speed records. But even the fully loaded XLE only has a curb weight of 2,445lbs (1,109kg), so it doesn’t really need that much power.
Similarly, driving a Yaris means adopting a more relaxed attitude toward cornering speeds. Although the XLE rides on 16-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 185/60 rubber, these provide much less front grip than you might expect. It only really becomes apparent at highway speed, where interchanges definitely require shedding some velocity if you want to avoid understeering off into the scenery. Driving sedately does have some benefit, though; the Yaris Hatchback will average 35mpg (6.7l/100km), with 40mpg (5.9l/100km) possible on highways.
As a day-to-day runabout, that’s probably preferable to pulling 1.2Gs in a corner. And in most other regards, the Yaris was a very easy car to live with. Sound levels at cruising speeds are acceptable, and the ride soaks up the imperfections that Americans expect from their road surfaces. It’s not quite a TARDIS, but with the rear seats folded down there’s 15.8 cubic feet (447L) of cargo volume. The 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system is easier to use than anything you’ll find in any other Toyota and comes with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Sirius XM. It’s not brimming with advanced driver assist tech, although you do get forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, and the XLE gets LED headlights and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
All for under $20k, which is either pretty reasonable or extravagantly expensive depending on whether your internal inflation calculator stopped working after Y2K. Production actually ceased last month, so there might even be some deals…
Listing image by Jonathan Gitlin