By KBB.com Editors
The Toyota Yaris makes its U.S. debut this year after a successful eight-year stint in Japan and Europe. Unlike other vehicles that first launch outside the U.S., Toyota has decided to keep the Yaris name across all global markets. The Yaris replaces the Toyota Echo as the smallest and least expensive vehicle in the Toyota brand lineup. There are two distinctly different Yaris models; the Sedan and the Liftback versions. Of the two, the Liftback's exterior makes the more expressive design statement and, although the sedan is nearly 20 inches longer, both vehicles share the same chassis, engine and drivetrain.You'll Like This Car If...
If you trust Toyota for reliability and are in the market for a tiny subcompact, the Yaris fits the bill. You might also need to be open to a few curious looks on the streetthe Yaris sports a distinctively "Euro" design.You May Not Like This Car If...
If you like more conventional styling or have a penchant for performance driving, the Yaris will not meet your needs. It's a simple, four-cylinder economy model with a whimsical design not a sporty performer by any stretch.What's New for 2007
This is the Yaris' first year in the U.S. As the first of the many new smaller and less-expensive subcompacts from major Japanese carmakers (such as the Honda Fit and Nissan Versa) the Yaris' gas mileage ratings rank highest (34 mpg City and 40 mpg Highway).Driving It Driving Impressions
The 106 horsepower of the Yaris is enhanced slightly by Toyota's VVT-i engine and dual-overhead camshafts. There is a light, almost effortless feel to the Yaris in steering and during moderate acceleration; however, the engine seems strained when asked to deliver more. With this relatively small engine and 14-inch tires, we found the Yaris lacking in performance when traveling at 60 mph-plus speeds on the highways. This is a shortcoming for Toyota since one of the main competitorsthe Honda Fithas a few more horses (109 horsepower to Yaris' 106) and is much more fun to drive. This kind of subtle difference may not impact you, but if you're in any way interested in quickness and responsiveness, the Yaris fails to impress.Favorite Features
Flexible Seat Adjustments
The Yaris provides four-way adjustable front seats and fold-down rear seats that provide nearly 13 cubic feet of cargo space in the Sedan.
The Yaris boasts the largest wheelbase in the subcompact arena. This is most noticeable in the interior leg and head room in both front and back seats.
The Yaris Sedan and Liftback share many things, but the instrument panel is where they part ways. Both vehicles have the center-stacked "waterfall" type of gauges borrowed from the Lexus design philosophy. The disconcerting aspect is that at night there are no gauges or little lights in front of you, causing you to have to turn your head slightly to the right (and thus take your eyes slightly away from the road) to know, for example, how fast you're going. This design has become a cost-savings device among international vehicles, because it allows easy production changes when the driver's side is placed on one side or the other depending upon where the car is being sold. Another unusual trait of the Yaris interior is that the waterfall gauge panel provides a bit of a "cave" section behind it, allegedly providing storage space. This oddly-sized space might allow for balancing a small map, but anything more sizable would be precariously perched. Overall, however, the interior of the both the Sedan and Liftback seems roomier than you'd expect for the size of the vehicle.Exterior
The most pronounced difference between the Yaris Liftback and the Yaris Sedan is that the Sedan is 19.3 inches longer overall. Though the two vehicles share a slight family resemblance, their individual styles are miles apart. Of the two, the Yaris Liftback has the more unusual exterior styling, with a pronounced short front overhang and an exaggerated "bulldog" stance. As slight as the front end seems, the wide flat-back design of the hatch door appears hunky and substantial, providing a low, easy opening to the cargo area. The mesh grille treatment on the Liftback version further differentiates its exterior look from the slat-grille design of the Sedan. The four-door Yaris Sedan styling seems rather traditional at first glance. It, too, has the short sloping overhang in front but the traditional sedan look is evident by the high arch of the roofline and high arc of the windows to provide decent head room for the back seat.Notable Standard Equipment
In this, the least-expensive segment of them all, the idea is to get the advertised price as low as possible, so the standard equipment list is usually short. This is especially true in the case of the Toyota Yaris. For instance, on the Yaris CE base model, no radio of any sort is included as standard equipment, and the majority of items on the standard list reads like the contents of any carengine, glove compartment, windows and so forth. Sorely missing are head and side curtain airbags that, however, are offered as optional. To be fair, the standard list does include driver and front passenger airbags, air conditioning, power steering, tilt steering wheel and color-keyed mirrors and door handles. More notably, the Yaris offers four-way adjustable front seats with height adjustment, which is not usually found in the subcompact segment.Notable Optional Equipment
Most notable on the Yaris' list of options is keyless entry, which only the Hyundai Accent offers in a competitive product (although, technically, the Accent is a compact carnot subcompact, which is smaller). On the downside, however, anti-lock (ABS) brakes and side and head-curtain airbags are offered as options, not standard. Another option that stands out on the list is the rear window defoggermany competitive products offer this feature as standard. A simple solution to getting the basic features you probably want is to consider adding the Convenience Package, which includes an AM/FM CD player with MP3/WMA playback capability and auxiliary input jack, 60/40 split folding rear seat, 15-inch wheels with full wheel covers and rear defroster, and/or the very comprehensive Power Package, which includes anti-lock brakes, an upgraded sound system and interior, alloy wheels, cruise control and power door locks, windows and mirrors.Under the Hood
The Yaris Sedan and Liftback share the same 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine with Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence (VVT-I), producing 106 horsepower. This is enough power to tool around town, but maybe not enough to take a chance at passing a Mack truck on a two-way highway with an oncoming car in sight.
1.5-liter in-line 4
106 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
103 lb.-ft of torque @ 4200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 34/40 (manual), 34/39 (automatic)
At first glance, the Toyota Yaris appears to be the least expensive subcompact on the market. The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for a base Sedan with manual transmission is $12,405 and the Liftback with manual transmission is a low $11,530. The Yaris' main competitor, the Honda Fit, has an MSRP of $14,400, but includes many desirable standard features by comparison (and a bit more powerful engine). At the time this review was written, the Yaris was selling at MSRP, but you'll want to check the Fair Purchase Price before you buy to find out what smart buyers are really paying for this vehicle. Resale is where you really win with a Toyota. The Yaris is expected to retain 41 percent of its value after five years, compared to the Kia Rio, which costs around $2,000 less, but will retain only 22 percent in five years. The bottom line could be a $3,100 difference in resale price, an advantage of about $1,000 overall in favor of the Yaris.