Toyota Yaris does duty as really reliable small car

Toyota has made some of the finest small cars in automotive history. People bought them in huge numbers because these cars were dependable, well built and would last for decades if need be.
The Japanese giant still makes great cars but has been under massive pressure lately because of recalls, missteps and increasing competition from Kia and Hyundai. Even Chevy and Ford have stepped up their compact game.

Sparse, yet appealing interior.
Sparse, yet appealing interior.

For 2015, Toyota’s compact entry is the Yaris, an interesting little hatch that has a lot to offer but also has a great deal of competition to fend off.
The Yaris can be had in either three or five door hatchback configuration. My bright red SE was a five door with distinctive styling. It has a variation of Toyota’s corporate face that’s pleasing to the eye. I’m not a fan of red but at least I never lost it in the parking lot.
The interior is nicely done with the ubiquitous touch screen as the center of the dash. It controls the entertainment system that includes HD radio, CD player and Toyota Entune apps that work with your smartphone. There was no navigation (it is optional) or SirirusXM (optional as well).
The Yaris SE also comes with ABS, air conditioning, power door locks, cruise control, body colored power mirrors, 16-inch machine tooled wheels and LED running lights.
The interior materials felt good to the touch. The shift knob is leather wrapped but the steering wheel did not tilt. The seats are comfortable and despite the car’s small footprint there is a generous amount of room for four adults. You can push it to five but that guy in the middle is not going to want to be that guy.
The Yaris is powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 105 horsepower with 103 pounds-feet of torque. Doesn’t sound like much on paper but I found it to be adequate in the real world. Passing attempts must be planned well in advanced. It takes this car a little over 10 seconds to get to 60 miles per hour from a standstill. Even while moving the car can be a bit lethargic. The culprit is the old school four-speed automatic. Toyota can do better and has better but to keep cost down this is what you have to deal with if you go for the five-door SE hatch. There is a five-speed manual standard on the three-door.
Gas milage for the four-speed is good at 32 miles per gallon overall. City milage is 30 while highway is 36. Gives this thing a five speed automatic and I’m sure those figures would improve greatly.
By checking the SE box on your wish list you get a sports tuned independent front suspension as well as sports tuned electronic steering, both of which work very well. Put the little Yaris in a corner and you will not be screaming for help. It sticks there and feels stable coming out and on its way down the road. Sporty might be a stretch but I’d say the Yaris has solid handling. The ride comfort was surprising as well.
Does the Yaris have any other draw backs? Yes. The level of competition is high and the field is crowded with good, tiny cars. Ford’s Fiesta is a blast to drive and comes in some tasty trim levels. The Kia Rio looks a lot like this car but I think it’s less expensive with more equipment. The Nissan Versa is, well, the cheapest new car you can buy. The Hyundai Accent comes in both hatch and sedan.
There may be a few others but you get the idea. None of that is a deal breaker, however. Toyota still has a great track record for little cars. The Yaris is one of those cars. At $18,445 some might find it expensive but I found it to be moderately priced. I’ve seen many of these on the road so Toyota is doing something right.

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