Reviews

2012 Toyota Yaris Driving Impressions


We got a chance to drive the Yaris in the snow, and it performed well. Better traction than we expected up a steep slippery street, and down that same street, the anti-lock brakes delivered security.

Actually, secure might be the best single word to describe the overall feeling. The Toyota Yaris feels way solid. It's not big on the outside, but its roominess on the inside contributes to the solid feeling. It's not as quick and sporty feeling as the lightweight Mazda2 or the Ford Fiesta, and it doesn't have the exciting jackrabbit throttle response of the Mazda; but the Yaris handling is lively enough, while feeling a bit more substantial.

The ride is solid, too: comfortably firm, not comfortably soft. Yaris is wonderfully smooth on the freeway at 75 miles per hour, but begins to feel its size when the bumps and patches come along. It might be a challenge on city streets with a lot of potholes, but what subcompact isn't; and besides, with the small nimble Yaris, you can more easily dodge them.

The 1.5-liter, 16-valve, four-cylinder DOHC engine with variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-i) produces 106 hp at 6000 rpm and 103 lb-ft of torque in a broad curve peaking at 4200 rpm. It gets an EPA-estimated 30/38 mpg.

As for power, no worries we say. The Toyota 1.5-liter engine has come a long way, baby. We found ourselves pushing 80 on an uphill freeway, foot on the floor and the engine loving it. Its 106 horsepower is enough, and the 103 pound-feet of torque is available over a broad range peaking at 4200 rpm.

Uphill at 80 it was hungry for more, not straining. Eighty miles per hour equals 3400 rpm, and at that speed you can't hear the motor. You hear the tires, but hardly even any wind noise. Toyota as done an excellent job with the Yaris's aerodynamics and sound insulation. The coefficient of drag is a superb 0.29.

We also loved the 5-speed gearbox. It shifted quick and tight. Unfortunately we didn't get a chance to test the new 4-speed automatic, and we have to wonder if 4 speeds is enough.

If this is what small cars have become, we're in great shape.

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