HAIL TO THE CHEAP
If the Yaris had cheeks, you can be sure grandmothers and aunts everywhere would pinch dents into them. Replacing Toyota’s teensy, wheezy Echo of yore, this budget liftback offers the cutest, cuddliest front end on the market. But don’t let its “aw, shucks” flavor fool you; the Yaris is a major contender in its field due to its base price of $17,620, making it one of the cheapest cars on the market. It also gets great mileage, approximately 34 city miles to the gallon, 39 on the highway. (My tester was top-of-the-line; base models start at $14,845.) 0-60 is accomplished in about 10 seconds, giving John Deere and Craftsman nothing to worry about, yet the Yaris is remarkably quiet and gentle at speed, with none of the shaking or straining one typically finds in cars of this size and price.
Five trim levels are available – the 3-Door L, 3-Door LE, 5-Door L, 5-Door LE and the 5-Door SE. “5-door,” of course, is car-speak for “hatchback.” You’re powered by a tiny 1.5-litre, 106-horsepower engine that comes with dual overhead camshafts and variable valve timing. The roof is aerodynamically curved to reduce wind resistance, improve fuel economy and keep you stable on the road. Extra-large taillights add to the car’s exterior aesthetics. Don’t be worried such an inexpensive car might skimp on safety if that’s your main concern; passengers are surrounded by a reinforced safety cage, with front and rear crumple zones and energy-absorbing materials used in the roof and doors. You also get dual airbags as standard; front side and full-length side curtain airbags are an option. This year’s model is slightly larger, with length increased about 2 inches, but it’s also 44 pounds lighter, increasing mileage slightly. A more sturdy body structure and MacPherson struts give you a smooth ride despite the car’s dinky dimensions.
Inside, my test model was far more equipped than in years before. Headroom is happily plentiful, all controls are self-explanatory, and the windshield is extra-large. Though you can feel the bumps on roads, they do not cause car occupants to shake like the shot in a maraca. The sport seats were surprisingly comfy with a reasonably high support level, meaning no back or spine tightness even after long trips. Each Yaris, too, comes with hi-tech features that today’s consumers are likely to want, including a user-friendly touchscreen interface, Bluetooth with streaming audio capability and a USB input.
The Yaris is a nice car at a nice price, and it deserves its continued run as a great choice in the crowded field of economy cars.