Toyota’s tiny Yaris sedan scored for fit, finish

HISTORY Toyota’s tiny entrylevel small car arrived part way into the 2006 model year as a 2007 model, replacing the outgoing Echo. Designed at the automaker’s studio in France, the Yaris was originally available as a two-door hatchback and four-door sedan, with the lineup expanding to include a four-door hatchback for the 2009 model year. All were equipped with the 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine that produced 106 horsepower and 103 pound feet of torque. Following a fiveyear run, the secondgeneration Yaris was launched for the 2012 model year, but only as a hatchback.

THE GOOD STUFF The frugal Yaris made an ideal choice for multi-car families and

was great as a short-hop commuter car/grocery getter. The sedan version was inexpensive to buy, even with a few basic options added on, and was particularly good at stretching fuel budgets. It was also surprisingly roomy, being only slightly smaller than Toyota Corolla in terms of cabin space. Even rear-seat passengers enjoyed a reasonable amount of stretchout room, which is an uncommon trait in similar small sedans. The Yaris’s 1.5-litre engine did a decent enough job propelling the 1,045-kilogram car, and both the five-speedmanual-transmission and optional-fourspeed-automatic versions delivered stellar fuel economy. Overall fit and finish earned these cars high marks, as did the car’s reputation for superior reliability.

HEADS UP! With most tiny economy cars, corners are cut to keep prices low and to make some profit. In the Yaris’s case, the use of interior plastics and mouse-fur seat coverings were turn-offs. So too were the offset-mounted gauges that proved downright distracting. The low-performance powerplant was designed to be thrifty, but objected to being pushed hard or burdened with a full load. Ride quality was generally good, but the somewhat vague steering hampered driving fun. Although trunk space was acceptable, the hatchback version was better at transporting bulky objects. Note that beginning with the 2011 model year both antilock brakes and stability control (to prevent skids and spins) became standard items.

PRICES Resale values for most Toyotas remains strong – especially so for models such as the Yaris with its pump-avoiding abilities. Betterequipped sedans will take only slightly more money to acquire.

OVERALL Fleet operators and rental-car companies loved the Yaris for its spaciousness, thriftiness and reliability. That’s a good sign for buyers of pre-owned models seeking the best-possible small car for the least possible cash outlay. It’s not quite up to snuff compared to the class-leading Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, Ford Fiesta or similar sedans, but Toyota fans wouldn’t drive anything else.

VITALS Engine: 1.5-litre DOHC I4 (106 hp).

Transmissions: Fivespeed manual; fourspeed automatic. Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive.

Body: Four-door sedan.