Strengths and weaknesses:
- purchase price
- reasonable comfort for four
- radio reception
- lack of needed items
Back to basics
In this automotive world of systems to make the driving experience easier or safer, we wonder if you really need cars that keep a safe distance from the one ahead or are able to park themselves.
In order to do that, we get back to basics with a three-door Toyota Yaris (outside of the Hyundai Accent “coupe”, perhaps the most rudiment new car in the Canadian market).
Our test Yaris CE comes with 15-inch steel wheels with wheel covers (not bad looking, but definitely obvious), manually adjustable outside mirrors, a rear seat that folds down in one piece, and probably the worst radio reception outside of a transistor radio (if you’re under the age of 35, you’re going to have to Google that …).
And we are finding that as efficient as this little hatchback can be 70 to 80% of the time, there are some things that you probably want to have.
For example, it doesn’t have a rear wiper. That helps in keeping the hatch door nice and light for easy opening and closing by even the smallest and less hardy among us. On the other hand, in the rainy, foggy, sometimes slushy spring roads, rearward visibility starts to degrade after only a short stretch of highway.
And though it doesn’t have remote adjustable side mirrors, we feel that’s probably one of those set and forget items (unless you have multiple users of the same vehicle). Cruise control, though, would make this Yaris a far more comfortable highway cruiser.
Our test car’s optional automatic transmission does a pretty good job of handling the 1.5-litre engine. Kickdown is quick but there isn’t an abundance of torque to noticeably improve passing power.
The four-cylinder engine is efficient on fuel and its power outputs do a good enough job of moving the lightweight Yaris around the city, though it tends to get a bit loud on the highway (despite Toyota’s traditional good sound insulation).
The cabin is bulbous, housing plenty of room for four people. There is a place for a rear centre passenger, but make him/her a small one. Of note, is that an average family of five can fit in and be transported amicably, but keep the trip short. Access to the rear is easy with a passenger front seat that tilts and slides forward (but doesn’t go back to its original position, which is actually a blessing for rear passenger shins if the front passenger had it fully back for added comfort).
The cargo area is minimal, quickly filling up with a briefcase and gym bag. The hard plastic cover can be removed for extra height but the slope of the rear window doesn’t allow too much extra vertical space.
Also, the shape of the cabin and light weight of the car does make it susceptible to cross winds on the highway (and on a previous version, we found a strong headwind having the effect of putting on the brakes, which was a little disconcerting until we figured out what was causing it). Of note is that you have to opt into anti-lock brakes.
For under $14,000, the base Yaris does come with usual complement of occupant protection (front airbags, three-point belts for all positions and the LATCH system for infant seats), and those “should have” items are available as options or by moving up the trim range. Given our druthers, we’d add the $3,280 LE Convenience package that still gets us air-conditioning (added as an option on our tester), while adding the rear wiper, cruise control, ABS and a couple other items such as power windows and locks, with remote.