2011 Toyota Yaris Sedan Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Published on September 01, 2011

Published on September 01, 2011

Published on September 01, 2011

Published on September 01, 2011

Published on September 01, 2011

Published on September 01, 2011

Centrally-mounted primary gauges take some getting used to, but I'm ok with them. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on September 01, 2011

Published on September 01, 2011

Published on September 01, 2011

Published on September 01, 2011

Seats comfort appears to be an issue for some, but good for me. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on September 01, 2011

Published on September 01, 2011

Published on September 01, 2011

Published on September 01, 2011

Published on September 01, 2011

Bongiovi enhanced stereo is superb! (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on September 01, 2011

Published on September 01, 2011

Published on September 01, 2011

Published on September 01, 2011

Published on September 01, 2011

Published on September 01, 2011

Rear seat room and comfort is good. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on September 01, 2011

Published on September 01, 2011

Published on September 01, 2011

Published on September 01, 2011

Published on September 01, 2011

Published on September 01, 2011

Published on September 01, 2011

Toyota's 2011 Yaris is a safety leader thanks to a bevy of standard features. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on September 01, 2011

Published on September 01, 2011

Published on September 01, 2011

The sedan offers more cargo volume behind the rear seats and greater security for valuables. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

While the Yaris has always been a nice looking little car, it's what's under the skin and behind the interior panels that matters most for 2011. Toyota dubs it "Star Safety System," which translated means that each new Yaris gets anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and brake assist, plus electronic stability control, side-thorax and side curtain airbags to go along with the two up front, as well as Toyota's new brake override system called Smart Stop Technology (SST), which automatically turns off the throttle under braking, therefore eliminating any chance of unintended acceleration.

Even before all the upgrades the NHTSA gave last year's Yaris sedan a 4-star safety rating across the board for front driver, front passenger, side driver, side passenger, and rollover tests. The IIHS gave all Yaris body styles it's best "Good" rating in front offset crash tests and side-impact tests, plus "Acceptable" in roof strength tests. The 2011 Yaris should at least prove as safe.

Such knowledge makes for confidence inspiring driving, something I appreciated while hauling my little ones around in back during my test week. Little ones in mind, I must admit it's not the type of ride my car crazy almost 11-year old goes gaga about. The wheel covers might be redesigned, but they're 15 inches across and hide steel rims wrapped in 185/60R15 all-season rubber. Enough said.

Just the same the little Yaris feels totally stable on the freeway and provides plenty of fun through the curves. Pick-up feels surprisingly gutsy for only 106-horsepower and 103 lb-ft of torque; the little 1.5-litre four helped along by the tiny Toyota's slight 1,071-kilo (2,360-lb) curb weight in four-door automatic trim. Yes, you read it right. My tester sported the less than sporty 4-speed automatic gearbox rather than the base 5-speed manual, but it never laboured. In fact, that tranny results in slightly better city fuel economy, believe it or not, at 7.0 L/100km compared to 7.4 with the DIY shifter. Highway mileage is a fraction worse at 5.7 compared to 5.5.

While fuel economy might be king in the subcompact class, dependability is next in line. To that end the Yaris has a reputation for stalwart reliability, as did the Echo before it and Tercel in preceding decades. Toyota may have had a few hiccups in recent years, but generally the brand is considered way above average and the little Yaris, which is given an expected reliability rating of 8 out of 10 by J.D. Power and Associates, is a very safe bet.

Toyota is also one of a handful that offers a four-door sedan body style in the subcompact segment, so if you like the look of a sedan plus the convenience of hiding your valuables in a lockable trunk, this might be your ride. Still, there are drawbacks to the three-box shape. Despite being longer than the hatchback at 4,300 mm (169.3 inches) compared to 3,825 mm (150.6 inches), the sedan gives up significant overall storage with only 388 litres (13.7 cubic feet) available compared to a possible 728 litres in the hatch when rear seats are folded. Then again, the sedan's rear seatbacks split and fold 60/40 for longer items and therefore more storage, and it offers more space in the trunk when the rear seats are upright than the hatchback's 263-litre volume.

The Yaris sedan might seem sparsely equipped, but it's not bad for the $14,990 asking price (plus $1,350 for destination fees); the two-door hatch starts at $13,995. Let's face it. When the features list highlights a digital clock, dual vanity mirrors, illuminated entry, floor mats, and a front console box (with a lid no less) we shouldn't expect to be pampered with amenities, yet my sedan tester's standard 4-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system sounded good, but it wasn't exactly standard. Toyota had fitted the optional Bongiovi Acoustics DPS audio upgrade that's quite amazing actually, and the auxiliary input was appreciated while satellite radio is always a welcome addition. Standard tilt steering allowed a comfortable seating position, and I particularly liked the driver's seat although my colleague found the padding insufficient in the lower back area where he could feel a metal bar rubbing up against his tailbone. The rear seats offer decent room and the comfort of an armrest, by the way, and other standard features include intermittent wipers, normally ideal for Vancouver's often-drizzly weather albeit fortunately not needed, and cabin air filtration, a nice touch considering Vancouver's fume spewing traffic congestion.

The sedan can be optioned out with one of two packages, starting with the Convenience Package that ups the price to $16,715 and includes air conditioning, power windows, power locks with keyless remote entry, heated and power-adjustable side mirrors with colour-keyed housings, colour-keyed door handles, front and rear splash guards, blacked-out side window frames, and chrome trim on the rear trunk lid. My tester was so equipped. The Enhanced Convenience Package, also included on the test model, increasing the price to $17,245, comes with all of the above plus cruise control. A sedan with the automatic transmission will cost $15,990, and adding on the two aforementioned packages will result in a total price of $17,715 and $18,245 respectively.

Dealer installed accessories can include Bluetooth phone connectivity (hopefully Toyota will add this standard for the next-generation model), various aerodynamic add-ons, and a number of Toyota Racing Development (TRD) upgrades that are probably more appropriately applied to the Yaris Hatchback.

This said, the Yaris sedan is a smart looking, fun to drive, comfortable, fuel efficient, safe little car that will likely deliver years of reliable service. Not a bad combination for around $15K.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

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

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