By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 11/4/2011
In the subcompact category, Toyota's Yaris was getting run over by newer, more edgy competitors such as the Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta and MAZDA2. To remedy the situation, Toyota has revamped the 2012 Toyota Yaris hatchback (called a liftback in Toyota-speak), giving new life to its larger, more stylish and more content-heavy small car. Realizing that 70 percent of subcompacts sold in the U.S. are of the hatchback variety, Toyota has killed off the sedan model, offering only a 3-door and 5-door hatch. The 2012 Toyota Yaris hatchback hopes to lure younger buyers with its newly acquired suite of high-tech audio and communications features, attractive styling, and the well established Toyota reliability and resale story. But, the Yaris' mission isn't going to be an easy one. Just this year, a host of new competitors has joined the subcompact party, including the sleek new Kia Rio, sassy Hyundai Accent and the bold Chevrolet Sonic.
If you're looking for small, economical car that is fun to drive, affordable on just about any budget, and is backed by one of the most respected car manufacturers in the world, the 2012 Toyota Yaris hatchback is for you.
If, like you, your car needs to be expressive both inside and out, the 2012 Toyota Yaris' black and gray interior colors can't hold a candle to the colorful cabins found in the Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio and Chevy Sonic.
For 2012, Toyota gives the Yaris hatchback a complete makeover, with new sheet metal, a longer wheelbase and a new interior.
Driving the 2012 Toyota Yaris hatchback is just what you might expect but with a few surprises. The 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine uses a 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. Things get a bit more lively in the SE trim, which, although it doesn't have more power, does deliver better steering response and a more controlled ride. Fuel economy is in the mid to high 30s, which is near the top of its class. Still, the biggest problem the Yaris faces is the horsepower challenge. The Yaris' closet competitor, the Honda Fit, has 11 more horsepower, and the Kia Rio an additional 22. 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.
Available on all trims (either as a factory option or a dealer-installed one), this device makes it far safer to drive and talk on the phone simultaneously and should be standard on every car.
Always a concern when driving a subcompact, the safety issue is laid to rest with standard airbags protecting the front and rear passengers. Even the driver's knees are covered.
The 2012 Toyota Yaris hatchback subcompact's interior is a bit of a contradiction. While the design is clean and modern, the materials look and feel rather low-budget, with lots of muted gray and black plastic bits, and seat fabric that is somewhat generic Toyota. On the plus side, the 2012 Toyota Yaris' interior is pretty roomy for such a small car, with good headroom front and rear. The hatchback design allows for easy loading of cargo, which with the rear seats up is a respectable 15.6 cubic feet. The 2012 Toyota Yaris includes a nice, thick-grip 3-spoke adjustable steering wheel with a flat bottom to make entry and exit a bit less cumbersome. Music lovers will appreciate the standard USB and auxiliary input ports, as well as the AM/FM stereo with MP3/WMA CD compatibility; the LE and SE trims have even more features including Bluetooth streaming audio. On the safety front, the Yaris has nine airbags including front and rear side-curtain airbags and a driver's knee airbag.
The new 2012 Toyota Yaris subcompact retains the previous car's mechanicals (engine, transmission and suspension), but now rides on a wheelbase that is two inches longer. The Yaris' overall length grows by three inches, but its height is slightly reduced to give it a sleeker, sportier appearance. The 2012 Toyota Yaris retains its bulldog stance, looking as though it is leaning forward ready to pick a fight. The short front and rear overhangs and short hood should make maneuvering through tight spots a breeze, as should the expansive greenhouse that provides excellent 360-degree visibility. The 2012 Toyota Yaris subcompact is the first Toyota vehicle to employ a single-windshield-wiper design, a feature normally found only on high-end European cars. Base model L and LE cars ride on 15-inch steel wheels with plastic covers, while the sporty SE trim has 16-inch alloy wheels.
While the 2012 Toyota Yaris might not be the most feature-laden Toyota, it certainly carries the most simplified options list. Base cars include a 5-speed manual transmission, electric power steering, air conditioning, power door locks, intermittent wipers, halogen headlights and a Cold Weather Package that includes a rear defroster. The LE trim adds a 4-speed automatic transmission, HD radio with six speakers, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and streaming audio, power windows and mirrors, remote keyless entry and alarm, 6-way adjustable driver's and 4-way adjustable passenger's seat, and a 60/40 split folding rear seat. The sporty SE is available only as a 5-door model and adds a sport suspension, 16-inch alloy wheels, 4-wheel disc brakes, cruise control, rear spoiler, sport front seats with sport fabric and sport analog instruments. All 2012 Toyota Yaris hatchbacks feature Toyota's Star Safety system with nine airbags, anti-lock brakes (ABS) and electronic traction and stability control.
The only factory option is cruise control, which can be added to the LE trim. There are, however, a number of dealer-installed accessories including Bluetooth, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, iPod interface and carpeted floor mats.
The 2012 Toyota Yaris 3- and 5-door hatchbacks share the same 1.5-liter 4-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 2-way highway with an oncoming car in sight.
1.5-liter in-line 4
106 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
103 lb-ft of torque @ 4,200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 30/38 (manual), 30/35 (automatic)
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for a base Toyota Yaris 3-door L hatchback with a manual transmission starts just under $15,000, while a 5-door LE with an automatic transmission and cruise control sells for around $17,000. The SE trim lists for around $17,000 and tops around $18,000 with the automatic. The Yaris' main competitor, the Honda Fit, has a starting MSRP closer to $16,000, and includes many of the same features (and a slightly more powerful engine). The Ford Fiesta starts around $14,000, but can get expensive as options are added. The 2012 Kia Rio is the hardest to beat in the bang-for-the-buck category, but probably won't have the same strong resale figures as the 2012 Toyota Yaris hatchback. To make your best deal, be sure to check the kbb.com Fair Purchase Price, which shows what others in your area are paying. The Yaris is expected to retain a better-than-average resale value over time, higher than the Kia Rio, on par with the Ford Fiesta but a bit below the Honda Fit.