2016 Toyota Yaris Sedan Review

A Car of Many Faces

Having an identity crisis is nothing new in the automotive world.

Badge engineering was a dirty phrase in the 1980s that plagued the auto industry. Remember when the Chevy Celebrity, Pontiac 6000, Buick Century and Oldsmobile Cutlass all existed as essentially the same car with slightly different trim finishes?

Well, those days are long gone. Instead of flooding the market, manufacturers look to one another for help with filling voids in the brand’s lineup, usually to the benefit of both the supplier and the receiver.

SEE ALSO: 2015 Toyota Yaris Review

Toyota and Mazda have such an arrangement. Mazda had an all-new Mazda2 ready to be produced at the manufacturer’s plant in Mexico, but sales numbers for the previous model were too low to warrant releasing it in the United States or Canada. Although Toyota does have the subcompact Yaris hatchback, the company is missing a small sedan – a body style preferred by a good portion of North Americans over hatches.

The easy solution was to rebadge the all-new, unreleased Mazda2 as a Toyota product.


So It’s Not Just a Yaris Sedan?

In Canada, the new car has received the Toyota Yaris Sedan moniker. Now, that can be a bit confusing since the Yaris hatchback already exists, but the two don’t share anything. Muddying the waters further is the fact that the Yaris Sedan makes the same 106 hp and 103 lb-ft of torque from a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine as the hatchback. But rest assured, the sedan features a Mazda-sourced engine while the hatchback features one built by Toyota. The easiest place to spot the difference is in compression ratio, as the Yaris Sedan features a 12.0:1 compression ratio compared to the hatchback’s 10.5:1.

From there, the cars differ quite a bit. The Yaris Sedan has more modern transmission choices, a six-speed automatic or six-speed manual, compared to the hatchback’s antiquated five-speed manual and four-speed automatic. Even with the extra set of gears, the 80-pound heavier Yaris Sedan is anything but swift.

In fact, at times it can feel lethargic, and this is coming from the owner of a 100 hp, 2014 Mazda2. The six-speed automatic in the Yaris is smooth, but delayed in its actions and emphasizes fuel efficiency over performance. A lot of throttle application is required to get the car moving and the transmission is reluctant to downshift. There is a sport mode that improves haste a bit, but doesn’t exactly transform the car. My recommendation is for owners to opt for the manual transmission to get the most out of the modest amount of horsepower.

Where the Yaris Sedan excels over its hatchback counterpart is in fuel economy. Equipped with the automatic, the sedan is officially rated at 33 mpg city and 42 mpg highway. That’s a 3 mpg increase in the city and 6 mpg increase on the highway over a similarly equipped Yaris hatchback.


Not the Yaris You Know Inside

With an extra 16.2 inches of total length, the sedan offers more rear legroom than the hatchback and a 13.5 cubic foot trunk. That’s less overall capacity than the hatchback, but the Sedan’s trunk is much deeper.

SEE ALSO: 2015 Honda Fit vs 2015 Toyota Yaris

Inside the Yaris Sedan is completely different than the three- and five-door Yaris models. Anyone who has been in a Mazda lately will instantly recognize the overall design layout, which is nicer than either the old Mazda2 or Yaris hatchback. I like the blue stitching and design elements found in the premium model. Still, the feeling of quality inside is not quite on the level of a few other subcompacts like those from Kia and Hyundai.


So It’s a Scion Toyota iA Then?

Astute American readers may notice that the Yaris Sedan is essentially the 2016 Scion iA (soon to be the 2017 Toyota iA). It’s easy to assume the Yaris Sedan is essentially the American-sold iA with a T in its grille instead of the Scion badge. Although this is mostly true, there are some differences between the two cars.

The Yaris Sedan is available in two trim levels including a lower base model that lacks a backup camera or Mazda’s command control and touchscreen. It also sports steel wheels with wheel covers. The iA only comes as a singular, better equipped trim level with a choice of manual or automatic transmission.

The upgraded Yaris Sedan, called the Premium, comes with all the same features as the iA plus the addition of heated seats and cool, grille integrated fog lights. The down side is the Premium can only be had with an automatic transmission.


But is it a Mazda2?

So are the Yaris Sedan and the iA really just Mazda2s wearing Toyota clothing? In some ways, the answer is yes, but in others it’s not. The steering is more direct in these twins than the Yaris hatchback, but it’s not as good as the old Mazda2. The Yaris Sedan and iA as a whole are not as tossable and fun as the old Mazda2, but still better than a lot of competitors on the market.

SEE ALSO: Mazda2 Dropped from US Market

And we’re really only getting a snippet of the new Mazda2, as other regions offer versions of the car that can be outfitted with 115 hp, i-ELOOP, i-STOP, LED headlights and other nicer interior finishes. Of course, there are worse versions as well of the new Mazda2, so we can’t really complain.


The Verdict: 2016 Toyota Yaris Sedan Review

The old Mazda2 always felt a step behind the competition in terms of polish, but got away with it since it was a cheeky little runabout. The new Yaris Sedan still seems to trail the competition in some areas, but lacks that same peppy character. That doesn’t classify it as a bad car, though – far from it.

The 2016 Yaris Sedan offers buyers a decently equipped, sizable subcompact at an affordable price. And thanks to its Toyota badge on the trunk, it benefits from the large automaker’s dealer network and service departments. Those looking for increased efficiency, better driving dynamics and an all-around more pleasant Yaris should be pleased with the new Sedan.

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