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2012 Toyota Yaris SE Review- Video
New Yaris. New look. Same-old.
By Richard Cazeau , Photography by Toyota Video by Adam Wood, Jun. 18, 2012

Even the smallest of cars can get a driver’s attention and the 2012 Toyota Yaris is no exception. With it’s small size, zippy 1.5L engine and solid fuel economy the Yaris will get you to the grocery store and back with a little fun along the way.

FAST FACTS

1. The Yaris continues to use a 106 hp 1.5L 4-cylinder with a 30/38 mpg rating for the 5-speed manual or 30/35 mpg for the 4-speed automatic.

2. Yaris 3-door models start from $14,115 for the L and $15,480 for the LE. 5-door versions start at $15,140 for the L, $15,960 for the LE and $16,300 for the SE.

3. The tuned-up 5-door SE amplifies the driving experience with integrated fog lamps, 16-inch alloy wheels, hands-free phone capability, phone book access, and music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology

It is, however, a basic car and promises little more than what it is. And though it's not laid out like the comfiest commuter car, in a competitive category with contenders like the Hyundai Accent, Chevy Sonic and Honda Fit, what sets the Yaris apart is a brand legacy and, as of 2010, redefined styling.

MEET THE GO-GETTER

 

The Yaris model options include both three and five-door hatchbacks, with several trims available. On the outside, the 2012 version hasn't changed overtly compared to other subcompacts from manufacturers such as Chevy, Hyundai or Kia, plus there are several all-new models on the market now, like the Fiesta and Mazda2.

The Yaris' exterior flows from front to back offering subtle aerodynamics yet nothing too out of the ordinary for a small car. Likewise, what lies beneath the hood is nothing more than required. Toyota continues to furnish the Yaris with a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes a not-too-significant 106 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 103 lb-ft of torque at 4200 rpm.

2012 Toyota Yaris SE Back

That may sound unacceptably low, but with a curb weight of just 2,295 lbs it’s 250 lbs lighter than the Fit and more than 400 lbs lighter than the Sonic. As a result, acceleration isn’t as brutal as you’d expect, though don’t get your hopes up either.

The engine itself is surprisingly quiet though does make noise when pushed – as it should. As for the ride quality, the little Yaris is bumpy and feels its weight.

Available transmission options are both carryovers, with a five-speed manual and a four-speed automatic, in an era of 6-speeds. Still, fuel economy is solid, though not the class-leading numbers we’ve come to expect from Toyota. There's a slight increase with 30/38 mpg from the manual and 30/35 mpg from the automatic. The former delivers a combined 33 mpg rating, while the latter is just one mpg off.

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INTERNAL SATISFACTION

 

The Yaris cabin is minimalistic with a dashboard and seating setup that offers basic functionality. The overall styling is casual and the materials, regardless of trim, are satisfactory but far from impressive. The foam within the seats feels good, though there’s a lack of lumbar support. The driver’s seat is also a little tight on the knees, regardless of the steering wheel's tilt adjustment. A telescopic function would help solve this. Instead, it feels a bit cramped for six-footers.

2012 Toyota Yaris SE

Also absent is a central armrest, which seems inconsequential until you spend some time commuting. Surprisingly, however, there is a bevy of cup holder

An ode to analog, all the knobs and dials for in-cabin temperature regulation, air conditioning, and wipers work easily with a twist of the wrist. 

What we really like about the Yaris is the positive effort to ensure great entertainment and audio options. Standard in models such as the L and LE is an AM/FM CD player with MP3/WMA playback capability and MP3 sound enhancement, six speakers, HD Radio, an auxiliary audio jack and USB port with iPod connectivity. Added to the SE model is hands-free phone capability, phone book access and music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology plus an iPod interface. We were actually quite impressed with the sound system, Bluetooth connectivity and iPod/iPhone interface, both in terms of quality and ease of use.

YOUR YARIS

 

2012 Toyota Yaris SE

At the starting price of $14,115, buyers can purchase the base model L which comes with A/C, a CD player, iPod and USB connectivity, power locks, a sporty throwback mono-windshield wiper and safety features such as stability control and nine airbags. If you want to step things up, for $16,385 the LE model offers a slicker metallic accented trim with power windows/mirrors, HD Radio, Bluetooth connectivity, split-folding rear seats and audio controls on the steering wheel.

We tested the $17,160 sporty SE (available only as a 5-door) with a bold leather-bound steering wheel that encourages you to daydream of being a race car driver behind the wheel of your first car. The SE styling and tuning improve the ride making it more fun to drive. With manual transmission, added is standard cruise control, sporty seats and silver accents on the dash cluster. The auto transmission is an extra $800.

THE VERDICT

 

The new Yaris stands out because of its pint-sized personality and lean design. Inside and out, it's an improvement over its predecessor. It's not a car for enthusiasts, it’s not fancy looking, nor is it filled with premium gadgetry, but it is a car that makes getting around feel new and playful.

2012 Toyota Yaris Se Profile

Toyota's little roamer delivers the basics without a lot of extra fluff – which could be unfortunate if that’s what you want in a small car. However, if you're in the market for a car that zig zags in and out of tight parking spots and commuter traffic, one that delivers the basics and one that brings solid fuel economy with legendary reliability, consider the Yaris option.

LOVE IT
  • Attractive interior and exterior styling
  • Impressive audio and media capabilities
  • Reliability and fuel economy
LEAVE IT
  • Seating made for people less than 6-feet tall
  • Could use a central armrest for comfort
  • Yaris genuinely uncool