2011 Toyota Yaris Hatchback LE Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Published on February 24, 2011

A lot more fun than its 106-hp might leave you to believe. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on February 24, 2011

Centre instrumentation might be a bit unorthodox, but all controls are well positioned and the Yaris is quite comfortable. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on February 24, 2011

Front cupholders are intelligently designed. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on February 24, 2011

Simple and effective HVAC controls are housed in creatively designed interface. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on February 24, 2011

Flexible rear seating combines with a roomy cargo area. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on February 24, 2011

Published on February 24, 2011

Published on February 24, 2011

Published on February 24, 2011

Published on February 24, 2011

Published on February 24, 2011

Published on February 24, 2011

Published on February 24, 2011

Published on February 24, 2011

Published on February 24, 2011

Published on February 24, 2011

Published on February 24, 2011

Published on February 24, 2011

Published on February 24, 2011

Published on February 24, 2011

Published on February 24, 2011

Published on February 24, 2011

Published on February 24, 2011

Published on February 24, 2011

Published on February 24, 2011

Published on February 24, 2011

Published on February 24, 2011

Published on February 24, 2011

Published on February 24, 2011

Published on February 24, 2011

Published on February 24, 2011

Published on February 24, 2011

Published on February 24, 2011

Published on February 24, 2011

Published on February 24, 2011

A few years ago I was a correspondent on a TV show named Driver's Seat (RIP), and in one episode a colleague was reviewing a Yaris Hatchback and opened with the line, "What can I say? It's a car." While his sassy delivery was funny, it was a bit brutal. After all, most offerings in the subcompact B-segment aren't exactly objects of desire, unless you're driving a seriously used jalopy or riding the bus. The Yaris, however, serves its purpose well and does so, in my opinion, with a healthy dose of flair.

As soon as my girlfriend saw my "Absolutely Red" tester she said, "That's a cute car!" Yes, for the class the Yaris Hatchback is kind of cuddly, the automotive equivalent of a fluffy puppy. And out on the road it's got almost as much energy as one of those little rascals too. Its 106 horsepower and 103 lb-ft of torque hardly sounds entertaining, but you've got to factor in its 1,050-kilo (2,315-lb) curb weight, a featherweight when compared to most other cars. I would have preferred the standard 5-speed manual gearbox, but the 4-speed auto worked well enough even though it's not exactly state of the art and could deliver better fuel economy if upped to 5 or 6 speeds. Still, the engine incorporates variable valve timing and electronic throttle which combine for good fuel economy at an estimated 7.0 L/100km in the city and 5.7 L/100km on the highway for the automatic and 6.9 L/100km and 5.5 L/100km respectively for the manual, and fuel-efficiency is what this class is mostly about. The Yaris has proven reliable too, and that has to be considered.

Its suspension is nothing new, riding on MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam in the rear, but together with its power-assisted rack and pinion steering and 185/60R15 all-season tires results in a tossable little driver that'll likely put a smile on your face when tackling curving freeway entrances and roundabouts beyond posted speeds. At a more reasonable pace you'll appreciate a tight turning circle of 9.4 meters (30.8 feet), a smile inducer in busy shopping mall parking garages.

The Yaris' build quality is good, although don't expect to be blown away with high-grade soft-touch plastics or fancy materials. It's well put together and the plastics are nicely textured, but this is a practical little runabout first and foremost, priced nicely at $13,995 plus a $1,350 destination fee. For that you get the most comprehensive safety list in the class thanks to Toyota's new brand-wide program dubbed "Star Safety System" which adds anti-lock brakes, traction control and electronic stability control, side-thorax and side curtain airbags, and other safety features standard across the lineup. The Yaris uses drums in the rear, but along with the standard ABS it incorporates electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and brake assist (BA), plus Toyota's new brake override system that automatically turns off the throttle under braking, therefore eliminating any chance of unintended acceleration – if you believe that was actually a problem and I join the NHTSA in marking it down to driver error.

What else do you get for your money? The entry-level CE gets tilt steering, intermittent wipers, a tach, 2-speaker AM/FM/ CD/MP3 audio with aux input, carpeted floor mats, and interior storage that includes a glovebox above the steering wheel, passenger's side upper and lower dual gloveboxes, dual storage bins flanking the centre stack, a storage tray on the lower centre console, a front centre console box under a lidded armrest, door map pockets with bottle cutouts, really sweet flip-out front cupholders integrated into the dash, a cupholder in the back half of the centre console for rear passengers, and more.

You can up the content to LE trim and get additional features like heated power mirrors in colour-keyed housings, a 4-speaker audio upgrade, a rear washer/wiper, 60/40 split rear seatbacks, and more. And the LE with the Convenience Package, at $16,725 for the manual and $18,075 for the auto in 2-door hatchback guise or $17,080 for the manual and $18,425 for the auto with the 4-door hatchback, the latter being the one I tested, adds air conditioning, powered front windows with the 2-door and powered front and rear windows with the 4-door, plus powered door locks with remote keyless entry.

Toyota offers a sportier model dubbed RS that builds on the LE with standard alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, side skirts, fog lamps, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an in-dash 6-CD changer, and cruise.

I took a stroll over to Toyota.ca and built my car just to get clear on its features, and after I'd added everything up I noticed a pretty healthy dealer-intalled accessories list that includes Bluetooth phone connectivity, a Bongiovi Acoustics DPS audio upgrade (that you've really got to hear to believe), XM satellite radio, the choice of a regular rear spoiler or a "rally style" rear spoiler, plus some Toyota Racing Development (TRD) upgrades such as a freer flowing air filter, lowering springs, a screw-on oil cap, sport exhaust, rear sway bar, upgraded shocks, short-throw shift kit, the choice between aluminum or carbon fibre shift knobs, and more. Yah, Toyota's serious about attracting the sport compact buyer, and a few add-ons can transform its cute and cuddly personality into sassy street fighter.

The subcompact segment has been expanding to include a number of new models, including Toyota's youth-oriented Scion line, so it's worth your while to see all that's offered, but despite the Yaris being one of the oldest available it's still a force to be reckoned with. It's a car, for sure, but like my girlfriend said, it's a cute car. Ask me, and I'll tell you the Yaris is a very good car that offers great overall value.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Hatchback, Toyota, 2011, Yaris, $10,000 - $19,999,

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