By KBB.com Editors
Fresh from its U.S. debut last year (after a successful eight-year stint in Japan and Europe), the 2008 Toyota Yaris continues as Toyota's subcompact value leader. Unlike its other vehicles that first launch outside the U.S., Toyota decided to keep the Yaris name across all global markets. The Yaris replaced the Toyota Echo as the smallest and least expensive vehicle in the Toyota brand lineup with two distinctly different Yaris models; the Sedan and the three-door Liftback. Of the two, the Liftback's exterior makes the more expressive design statement and, although the sedan is nearly 19 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 2008 Yaris fits the bill. You might also need to be open to a few curious looks on the street---the 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 2008 Toyota 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 2008
The sport-themed Liftback S joins the Yaris lineup, featuring color-keyed front and rear bumper spoilers, sport seat fabric, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, rear defroster, rear wiper and an AM/FM/CD player with MP3/WMA capability and universal mini-jack port.Driving It Driving Impressions
The four-cylinder engine of the Yaris has Toyota's variable valve-timing system (known as VVT-i) and dual overhead camshafts and is rated at 106 horsepower. 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 we found the Yaris a little lacking in performance when traveling at 60 mph-plus speeds on the highways. This is a shortcoming for Toyota since one of the main competitors---the Honda Fit---has 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 might fail to impress.Favorite Features
Flexible Seat Adjustments
The Yaris Sedan provides four-way adjustable front seats and fold-down rear seats that provide nearly 13 cubic feet of cargo space.
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 2008 Toyota Yaris Sedan and Liftback share many things, but the instrument panel is where they part ways. Both vehicles have the center-stacked "waterfall" type 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 away from the road) to look at, for example, the speedometer. 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 interiors of both the Sedan and Liftback seem roomier than you'd expect for the sizes of the vehicles.Exterior
The most pronounced difference between the Yaris Liftback and the Yaris Sedan is that the Sedan is nearly 19 inches longer . 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 solid 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 windows that helps provide decent head room for those in 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 base Yaris model, no radio of any sort is included as standard equipment and, on all models, front-side and side-curtain airbags are 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 Sedan offers four-way adjustable front seats with driver's seat height adjustment, something not usually found in the subcompact segment.Notable Optional Equipment
Notable on the Yaris' list of options are keyless entry and a rear window defogger, both of which are standard on some competitors. A simple solution to getting the basic features you probably want (on the Sedan) is to add 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 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. Those two packages are slightly different for the Liftback models. Individual options include front-side and front and rear side-curtain airbags and anti-lock brakes.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: 29/36 (manual), 29/35 (automatic)
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for a base Toyota Yaris Sedan with manual transmission starts just below $13,000, while the Liftback starts just below $12,000. The Yaris' main competitor, the Honda Fit, has an MSRP closer to $14,500, but includes many desirable standard features by comparison (and a slightly more powerful engine). Be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price before you buy to find out what smart buyers are really paying for this vehicle in your area. Resale is where you really win with a Toyota. The Yaris is expected to retain a better-than-average resale value over time, higher than the Kia Rio but slightly less than the Honda Fit.