By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor
KBB Expert Rating: 8.1
With its recent facelift and infusion of new features, Toyota’s Yaris subcompact for 2016 shines a little brighter, but still not as brightly as some rivals. For starters, there’s no performance variant to compete with the Ford Fiesta ST or turbocharged Chevy Sonic, meaning the Yaris’s strongest appeals are its low price and stellar reputation for reliability. Unfortunately, while most cars its size are usually fun to drive, the Yaris doesn’t inspire much more than daily commutes and weekend road trips. And, despite its three trim levels, even a fully loaded Yaris won’t offer features like heated front seats, a power sunroof or even a telescopic steering wheel. On the flip side, if you’re looking for basic, reliable and affordable transportation, the Yaris holds strong appeal.
While it’s easy to be tempting with bells and whistles, there’s a certain comfort investing your money in a known commodity. The 2016 Toyota Yaris has an excellent reputation and good resale, two very attractive attributes to budget-conscious buyers.
KBB Expert Ratings
For 2016, the Toyota Yaris subcompact gets two new color combos, pairing Barcelona Red or Crushed Ice with a Black Sand Pearl Roof.
Although improvements to last year’s model resulted in a stiffer body and better suspension, the overall driving feel behind the 2016 Toyota Yaris’ wheel is still rather mundane. With only...
... 106 horsepower, the Yaris’ engine isn’t very powerful. Acceleration is acceptable, but don’t expect a lot of power for passing or merging, especially when others are along for the ride. The antiquated 4-speed automatic doesn’t help matters much and the 5-speed manual, a feature we usually enjoy, feels rubbery and vague. Most of the Yaris competitors, such as the Chevy Spark and Honda Fit, offer a CVT automatic that improves both performance and fuel economy. Of the three Yaris trims, the SE has the sportiest attitude, offering a bit more styling and up to 37 mpg with the manual transmission.
Toyota’s Entune audio system includes a 6.1-inch touch screen, HD radio, iTunes tagging, a USB/iPod interface, voice recognition and Bluetooth wireless music streaming. It can also be upgraded with port or dealer-installed navigation.
With a total of nine airbags, the 2016 Toyota Yaris 3-door and Yaris 5-door are all about safety. Add in the standard traction and stability control, and the Yaris clearly has its occupant’s best interest in mind.
The Yaris interior is perhaps the most appealing part of the car. There are plenty of soft-touch surfaces, giving this least expensive Toyota a slightly more premium feel. Don't get too excited, however, this is still a budget-priced economy car, not a Lexus. Another bonus is the overall dash design integrating Toyota's Entune touch-screen infotainment system. Now the bad news. There's no telescoping steering wheel – limiting driver comfort – and rear-seat passengers will find themselves with limited legroom. There's decent cargo space behind the folding rear seats, although the Yaris lacks the Honda Fit's cargo flexibility.
Toyota fits its big-mouth grille to the 2016 Yaris, as if the vast expanse of black plastic on the front of the car had somehow failed to grab your attention. That, plus a stylized rear-end treatment, gives the 2016 Yaris an unmistakable appearance in a crowded market. We're not sure we're 100 percent behind the new look, but it's certainly distinctive, especially the SE model with its aluminum-alloy wheels, fog lights and rear spoiler. The Yaris's small size makes it easy to park and maneuver in traffic.
You can get Toyota’s 2016 Yaris subcompact in two hatchback body styles, with three or five doors. The base L model gets the Entune touch-screen infotainment system that includes USB and Bluetooth, along with a 60/40-split folding rear seatback, tilt steering, power windows and air conditioning. The more premium LE model adds cruise control, a steering wheel with audio controls, and remote keyless entry. SE models include a leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob, and better instruments, as well as 4-wheel-disc brakes. The Yaris also comes with ToyotaCare scheduled maintenance and roadside assistance for two years or 25,000 miles.
About the only noteworthy stand-alone option is actually an accessory: an $800 or so navigation system that's available as an add-on to Entune. The rest of the options are divided firmly into the model levels – if you want cruise control, you have to get an LE or SE, since it's not available with the L at all.
The 2016 Yaris from Toyota uses a simple 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine with Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) that's good for 106 horsepower. Sending that power to the front wheels is either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic. For around town, the engine is fine, but on the highway, it becomes the little engine that barely can, especially if you're trying to pass on a 2-lane highway. The transmissions both feel antiquated as well. The manual's shift action isn't particularly smooth, and the 4-speed automatic is outclassed by competitors offering 6-speeds or continuously variable automatic transmissions. Fuel economy is pretty good though, and the little engine requires only regular-grade gasoline.
106 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
103 lb-ft of torque @ 4,200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 30/37 mpg (manual), 30/36 mpg (automatic)
The least expensive 2016 Toyota Yaris you can buy is the 3-door hatchback L model, which has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of about $15,750, including the $825 destination charge. At the other end of the price spectrum is the $18,500 Yaris SE 5-door. In between is the LE, which starts around $17,400 depending on the model. While that's low, it's not the lowest priced subcompact you can buy – the Nissan Versa Note and Kia Rio 5-door both undercut the Yaris. Of course, you can pay quite a bit more than the Yaris's peak price, with the Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit and others coming in closer to $20,000 when all is said and done. Before buying, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying. Over time, the Yaris should hold its value, but not quite as well as the Honda Fit.