2011 Toyota Yaris Review ZipRage-5

Yaris is Toyota second tiniest car in the US behind the iQ from Scion, Toyota’s youth division.

The Yaris is a front-wheel drive, 5-passenger sub-compact available in a 3-door liftback, 4-door sedan and 5-door liftback, each of which is within a few hundred dollars of each other in base price.

Price on our test car, the 3-door liftback, is $16,632. We have the $1,525 Power Package on this one which includes power door locks, windows and outside mirrors, an AM/FM/XM CD radio with auxiliary input, 15” wheels, remote entry, an engine immobilizer and fold-flat rear seats. Price also includes a $760 delivery charge.

The Yaris’ style and design are modern and up-to-date with hints of an almost retro look to it.  The nicely sculpted, rounded shape somewhat reminds me of the iconic new Fiat 500. Up front the large headlight housings seem to take up more than half the hood and from the front you quickly notice the iconic Toyota styling of the hood and front grill. A slick wing above the rear window give the car a more sporty look and the wheel covers fit the style well.

Power for all three models of Yaris comes from a 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine with 106 horsepower and 103 pound-feet of torque. With variable valve timing it achieves 29-mpg in the city and 35 on the highway with the 4-speed automatic transmission. The Yaris managed a zero-to-60 time of a little over 10 seconds – nothing to get excited about but adequate given the cars purpose.

The Yaris’ 11.1-gallon fuel tank is good for a cruising range of around 300 miles. Unfortunately, our test car was of the automatic variety, which really added nothing to the driving experience. I would have much preferred a manual on this kind of small car.

The driving position is upright and I found the fabric driver’s seat surprisingly comfortable. Because of its vertical profile and relatively large doors, getting in and out – even at 6-foot-2 – was incredibly comfortable for a small car.  The instrument pod is in the center of the dash above a simple stack with minimal controls. I’ve never been particularly fond of center-mounted instruments – I find it unnatural and uncomfortable to look toward the center while driving. I would prefer it in front of the driver.  That said the instruments were bright, easy to read, simple and very functional.

The rear seat space is limited, but surprisingly it slides fore and aft a few inches and reclines a few degrees which dramatically improves passenger room.  And if you are passenger-less the adjustments allow for a bit more cargo. With the seat backs folded you get a decent 26 cubic-feet of cargo space. With the seatbacks in position 9 cubic-feet worth of stuff will fit behind.

Performance and handling on this 2,300-pound little car is quite good. The suspension is tuned well for a good balance of control and comfort.  Electric power steering is light without much feedback but reasonably quick and precise. The front disc and rear drum brakes felt in control.

In this price range the Yaris is going up against with some tough new entries in the sub-compact field like the Mazda2, Nissan Versa, Chevy Aveo, aforementioned Fiat 500 and previously reviewed Ford Fiesta. These all start around 14 grand and get comparable mileage.

Overall I’d say the Yaris is a great little commuter car, perfect for getting to and from work and running-around-town.  It parks like a dream and has descent space for cargo or passengers. Unlike many of its competitors the Yaris also handles competently on freeway trips –  dicing with heavy traffic was a breeze.  If you want a fun drive I’d recommend the 5-speed manual.