By KBB.com Editors
For 2009, the Yaris continues as Toyota's subcompact value leader, which makes sense since it's also Toyota's only subcompact offering. Having replaced the slow-selling Echo two years back, the Yaris has gained in popularity and, although it remains the smallest and least expensive vehicle in the Toyota brand line-up, it is still packed with value. Set to do battle with the Honda Fit, Nissan Versa and lesser rivals like the Chevrolet Aveo and Kia Rio, the Yaris must cover a lot of ground. Of the three distinctly different Yaris models it's the Liftback that make the more expressive design statement and, although the Sedan is nearly 19 inches longer than the Liftback, all three 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 cute subcompact, the 2009 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 2009 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 2009
A new five-door Liftback joins the lineup, while cruise control is made available on both the three- and five-door models. New standard equipment includes anti-lock brakes (ABS), front side-impact airbags, side-curtain airbag and satellite capability on the optional radio offerings.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 2009 Toyota Yaris Sedan and Liftback share many things, but the instrument panel is where they part ways with their domestic rivals. 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 to look at, for example, the speedometer. 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 body styles share a slight family resemblance, their individual personalities are miles apart. 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 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 not the case for the Toyota Yaris, however, which offers a tilt wheel, air conditioning, intermittent wipers, six airbags and color-keyed mirrors and door handles. More notably, the Yaris Sedan offers six-way adjustable front seats with driver's seat height adjustment, something not usually found in the subcompact segment. Missing from the standard equipment list is a radio and rear defroster, but both can be had by opting for the Convenience Package.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 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, which add a rear wiper/washer to the mix.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 three-door Liftback with manual transmission starts just over $14,000, while the Sedan starts just under $14,000. A fully loaded S Sedan tops out just over $18,000. The Yaris' main competitor, the Honda Fit, has an MSRP closer to $15,000, 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 and the Honda Fit.