The Toyota Yaris is fine little car, but it’s a bit of a mutt.
Its lineage includes a former Scion and the current Mazda2. Although it’s badged a Toyota, the design and engineering is courtesy of Mazda — which is not a bad thing.
Among sub-compacts sedans — think Nissan Versa and Ford Fiesta — the Yaris is a high-content little car, with a surprising number of standard amenities such as a push-button start and a seven-inch infotainment screen. And yes, like all Mazda-inspired vehicles, the touch-screen looks like a piece of toast that has just popped out of a slot in the dash.
We spent a week driving on Chattanooga roads in a top-of-the-line Yaris XLE with automatic transmission. One caution: If you live at altitude please be aware that the 106-horsepower four-cylinder engine in the Yaris will labor a bit to climb Lookout or Signal mountains.
Also, because of the car’s compact stance, driving in this week’s rain deluge was a bit of an adventure. On a trip home up Walden’s Ridge from Red Bank my 12-year-old mused, “Dad is this car really short, or is that Ford F-150 in front of us really tall.”
“A little of both,” was my honest answer, as I felt sheets of water fly off the little Toyota’s tires.
WHAT IS IT?
The 2019 Yaris XLE is a sub-compact sedan with a host of upscale features. The top-trim XLE includes such conveniences as automatic wipers, climate control, leatherette front seats, and two drive modes: normal and sport.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Our feature-laden tester still maintains a bottom line under $20,000 — $19,470 to be exact. The L-trim Yaris starts at $16,550 and the LE begins at $17,550.
WHAT WE LIKED:
Our log-book of likes include the gray perforated leatherette front seats, the yawning new honeycomb grille, and easy-to-read dash gauges.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT:
With the small, 1.5-liter displacement engine, you get what you get. Slap a turbocharger on that puppy, and the Yaris would provide a completely different driving experience — but that’s not the Mazda way. Lack of storage cubbies is an issue, as well.
Aside from the aforementioned engine limits, the Yaris is a fine little car that promises years of care-free driving.
The question Yaris buyers should ask is this: “Is this a better value than a low-mileage, three-year-old Toyota Camry or Honda Accord, which would cost about the same?” That’s the chin-scratcher.