New Toyota Yaris more competitive for 2012

2012 Toyota Yaris

The first Toyota Yaris was an attempt for the company to get back its good mileage mojo in the well-built small car market. It worked, kinda.

The Yaris got great gas mileage but the quality was a little suspect. Much de-contenting went on, making Toyota cut corners to keep the price reasonable. Handling and looks weren’t even in the picture.

Now comes the latest Yaris and Toyota has done a great job in making this as good a small car as you can get. There’s even a splash of style. I think it’s handsome with the new chiseled features and neatly done rear end.

And there is that near 40 miles-per-gallon that makes this piece even sweeter. Handling? Well, for a Yaris, yes. There’s a little, enough to make you feel comfortable if you approach a curve a little too fast. You will not feel as if you will be launched into the woods. The brakes are good and the steering is about average for small car fair.

It’s still smaller than most of the ever expanding competition, but it’s still bigger than the outgoing model. There is also no more sedan. Nope, either a two or four door hatch.

My four door was a Lagoon Blue Mica  SE. The suspension was retuned a bit and the antilock brakes featured discs all around. There’s a rear spoiler, bigger wheels and a few more chrome bits and pieces.

Interior is simple and uncluttered.

The steering on the SE is nicely weighted and provides quick turns. The firmer suspension allows the Yaris to keep and sometimes outpace the competition in the corners. It will not outrun anything, however. The 1.5-liter four cylinder engine is a carry-over with 106 horses and 103 pounds feet of torque. That’s enough to get you through traffic without white knuckles, but you won’t set any speed records either. The smooth five-speed manual doesn’t offer much sportiness but its ease of use does not detract.

The Yaris is about two inches bigger with gives you more luggage space and a little more room in the passenger compartment. The dash has been redesigned for a clean and uncluttered look which is pleasing to the eye. The textures of the materials used feel better than average.

The 2012 Yaris is more expensive, but Toyota has made a lot more standard. There are nine airbags, stability and traction control, a much better radio unit, Bluetooth and an iPod connection. With destination, I think my test car was a little over $17,000.

That’s still good value. The Yaris is going to do nicely against the competition but I don’t think it’s the best car in the class. It doesn’t have to be because there seems to be enough buyers to go around for small, fuel efficient, well-built cars. This time Toyota has hit all the marks and scored above average in nearly every category. Yep, the Yaris is improving with age.

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