Toyota’s smallest car is a straight-forward sub-compact offering. Available as either a sedan or five-door hatchback, it blends a fun-to-drive attitude with a healthy dose of standard entertainment and safety kit.
New for 2020: For 2020 the hatchback and sedan are now both built on the same platform. Previously, they were two very different cars. The sedan was formerly the Toyota Prius iA, a carryover from its brief time as the Scion iA. But even that wasn’t its first form: the sedan was a trunked-up version of the Mazda 2. The hatchback, meanwhile, was a wholly Toyota-developed model. It migrates to the same platform as the sedan for 2020.
Thanks to its Mazda-based bones, the littlest Toyota is entertaining behind the wheel. It’s also commendably light, making it easy to place on the road (and easy on the wallet at the pumps).
The Yaris name has been around for over a decade, though the car available in North America is vastly different from the one elsewhere in the world, which is still developed and produced by Toyota.
No matter which trim you get, the Yaris comes with the same engine: a 1.5-liter four-cylinder producing a modest 106 hp. A six-speed manual is standard in the L and LE sedans; all other models and trims come with a six-speed automatic. Power heads to the front wheels, just like the rest of the class. With the six-speed automatic, Yaris drivers can squeeze a full 40 miles out of a gallon of dino juice: city and combined ratings sit at 32 and 35, respectively.
Yaris models in North America are built at Mazda’s Salamanca, Guanajuato plant in Mexico. Prices start at $16,605 for a base L sedan, including $955 in destination.
Pros/ Ease of use / Great on gas / Fun to drive hatch
Cons/Starting to feel old / Higher specs are pricey / so-so storage space
Bottom Line/With its Mazda bones, the Yaris is actually a pretty entertaining drive. It lacks the outright dynamic polish—and clever storage solutions—of the Honda Fit though.
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Toyota Yaris Powertrain
Toyota keeps things simple for the Yaris: be it hatch or sedan, the singular engine option is a 1.5-liter four-cylinder. The little engine makes do with 106 hp and 103 lb-ft of torque. That’s less than the competition from Hyundai and Honda, but at least the Yaris is light: load this little thing up with all the options and it still tips the scales under 2500 lb.
Sticking to the L or LE trim sedans pairs drivers with, well, a six-speed stick. The XLE—as well as every hatchback trim—comes with an automatic transmission with the same number of gears. The little Yaris, like every other car this small in the US, puts its power down through the front wheels.
Toyota Yaris Features and Pricing
Yaris L: Starts at $16,605
The Yaris is the cheapest way into a modern Toyota, with the L sedan listing for $16,605 (including destination). Standard features include powered side mirrors, 15-inch wheels, air-con, 60/40 folding rear seat, two USB ports, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The system supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The seats come trimmed in either black or gray cloth.
On the safety front, every Yaris comes with six standard airbags, a tire pressure monitor system, and emergency low-speed braking.
The L comes with a six-speed manual; the only available option is the $1,100 six-speed automatic.
Yaris LE: $17,605
Graduating to the LE costs a cool grand over the L. It comes in either hatch or sedan forms, though the five-door body requires the $1,100 automatic transmission option.
The extra outlay nets standard fog lights, heated exterior mirrors with integrated turn signals, 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic climate control, and keyless entry with push button start. There’s a selectable Sport driving mode too, though no mechanical changes to the engine or suspension.
Yaris XLE: $19,705
Available only as the auto-equipped hatchback, the XLE is the range-topping trim of the Yaris line, all for less than $20k.
The XLE takes all the equipment of the LE and adds LED auto headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, automatic climate control, and faux-leather seating surfaces. Real leather wraps the steering wheel, however.
* All prices include $955 in destination.
Toyota Yaris Recommended Trim
Those shopping for a new car like the Yaris likely place a lot of importance on value. All the best pieces of standard equipment here, like the safety suite and the 7.0-inch infotainment, is available across the board. So that has us sticking to the middle rung of the ladder with the LE trim.
Sure, you miss out on automatic climate control and a few other niceties, but if you’re okay with rowing your own gears you’ll pocket a cool $2,000. Want the auto? That’s cool, though at that point we’d recommend the hatch over the sedan: it’s more practical and, to our eyes anyway, better looking to boot.
Toyota Yaris Fuel Economy
The Yaris sits right near the top of its tiny-car class in terms of fuel economy. It’s not the top performer, but it’s also not the worst.
The manual transmission is capable of up to 30 mpg in the city, and 39 on highways. Combined, it posts a 34 mpg figure.
Switching over to the automatic brings the combined rating to 35 mpg. City mileage improves to 32 mpg, and highway driving can net a full 40 mpg. A 400-mile range should be pretty standard fare here, then.
Both the Hyundai Accent and Honda Fit score 36 mpg combined from the EPA rating system. Like the Yaris however, they both require specific trims to accomplish that—and both use CVTs versus the Yaris’ traditional auto.
Toyota Yaris vs Honda Fit
The Honda Fit is the Yaris’ strongest competition. It certainly isn’t the value option on paper, starting at $17,145 for an LX model. But that extra few hundo nets the driver’s choice in the segment, with a slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission and eager 130 hp 1.5-liter engine. It also boasts Honda’s Magic Seat system, a versatile approach that lets you carry long or tall items, or even turn the passenger-side seats into a makeshift bed.
Where the Fit falls behind, however, is in tech and safety. The LX doesn’t come with Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto, but does feature a tiny, outdated 5.0-inch infotainment. Honda Sensing, the Big H’s suite of safety assists, isn’t standard until the EX, which starts at a Yaris-eclipsing $20,015. It adds a 7.0-inch touchscreen, moonroof, and automatic locking doors. Plump for the top EX-L trim ($21,575) for leather seating, including heated front seats.
Toyota Yaris vs Hyundai Accent
Hyundai hasn’t given up on the sub-compact car. For 2020 the Accent is sedan-only in the US, while Canada keeps just the hatch.
Either way, Hyundai gave the Accent a freshening for 2020, with a new 1.6-liter engine and CVT. Power is strangely down over the last engine of the same displacement, to 120 hp from 130 ponies. It’s safe to say buyers in this segment are more concerned with the increases in fuel efficiency, however: the littlest Hyundai achieves up to 36 mpg combined.
Pricing starts at $16,250 for a six-speed manual SE. It offers more space than the Yaris, but like the Fit, lags behind on standard safety features and tech. You’ll have to move up to the $18,605 SEL for a 7.0-inch touchscreen with the two As, plus a driver’s blind spot mirror. The $20,355 adds forward collision avoidance, LED headlights, power sunroof, heated seats, auto climate control, and upgraded cloth seats.
|Price Range (USD) /||$16,605 – $19,705|
|Engine /||1.5L I4|
|Horsepower (hp) /||106|
|Torque (lb-ft) /||103|
|Fuel Economy (mpg) /||30/39/34 (6MT) / 32/40/25 (6AT)|
|Drivetrain /||6MT/6AT, FWD|
Our Final Verdict
The Yaris may be a niche player in the age of the SUV, but it’s a solid option for those looking for a no-frills commuter. It isn’t the best at any one thing in its class, but not far off either. Plus, with its Mazda 2-based platform, it’s now more fun than before. We’re still sad the slick-shifting six-speed isn’t available in the hatch body, though.
With a healthy amount of standard safety and tech features across the board, plus that Toyota reputation for reliability (even though it’s mostly a Mazda), the Yaris is an affordable alternative to buying used. It makes for a great first car or an inner-city runabout, promising years of worry-free motoring.3.3
|Space and Comfort||7.0|