The Toyota Yaris is nestled comfortably in the subcompact class of cars. But just because this car is little doesn’t mean it’s small on charm. Economy cars call to mind memories of stripped out rental cars with spartan interiors, uninspired exteriors, and acres of molded plastic.
If you’re thinking that the embellished shoulders present on the quarter panels, and the convergent hard edges of the body lines are reminiscent of cars from the Mazda livery, you can pat yourself on the back. These cars are actually built in a Mazda factory in Mexico. The only Toyota influence on body design is the great big, gaping bottom-feeder grill. 16” alloy wheels come standard on this car and go a long lend a quality aesthetic that plastic wheel covers strive for but never achieve. While the car may fade into anonymity when painted in fleet white, it looks dashing in dark metallic grey.
Interior space is good, and I like the French seam that runs the width of the dashboard. The 7” touch screen is planted Mazda-style in the dash front and center within easy reach. The system controls are located in the console. It features Bluetooth connectivity and a handful of other requisite features. The heat and air system is manipulated with big chunky dials that give satisfying analog feedback when they’re twisted. Push button start is standard, as is cruise, power windows and locks. The sensors peeking out above the rearview mirror send information to the Low Speed Pre-Collision system, a tasty feature for a car of in this class.
Under the hood resides a fuel sipping 1.5 liter dual-overhead-cam four banger, that’s good for 106 h-p. The power finds its way to the ground through a smooth shifting six-speed manual gearbox. The EPA estimates drivers can expect nearly 40 miles per gallon on the highway and 30 around town.
106 doesn’t sound like a lot of horsepower (because it’s not a lot), but when it’s wrapped up in a light weight, easy shifting package, the resulting car can be a lot of fun. It’s not going to set any records for acceleration, but the car is light and feels nimble. And it’s tiny so you can park it easily anywhere. The steering feel is direct and inspires confidence. The little engine takes a happily takes a throttling and finding the limits of grip on skinny little tires is one of life’s simpler pleasures.
Economy cars, while maybe not the most comfortable choice for long hauls, inspire a sense of reverie. Maybe they remind us of our first. There’s a sense of informality. The car is not grasping to be a big car, it’s a little car without much ego. If I were in the market for a small, fuel efficient four door, the Yaris iA would be at the top of my list.