By Matt Degen
KBB Expert Rating: 8.0
The 2017 Yaris is Toyota's least expensive vehicle, a 3- or 5-door hatchback that puts a priority on low-cost ownership and driving manners that are easy and efficient, if not all that enthusiastic. Still fresh off a revamp two years ago, the Toyota Yaris receives a newsworthy update for 2017 with its Safety Sense technology. Standard on all models, this suite of advanced safety features includes pre-collision warning with automatic emergency braking and lane-departure warning. That in itself helps the Yaris stand out against subcompact rivals like the Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, Ford Fiesta and Nissan Versa, and will assuredly ease the minds of parents of younger drivers. Two years of complimentary maintenance, strong resale value and overall practicality make the Yaris even more compelling.
If you want a small, inexpensive, efficient and easy-to-drive compact car that touts advanced safety features, the Yaris checks all the right boxes. Its hatchback design means added practicality and cargo room, while strong records of reliability and resale value further its appeal.
The Yaris isn't exactly a barn-burner, so if you're looking for a small car with kick, you'd do better in the performance-oriented Ford Fiesta ST or even a turbocharged Chevy Sonic. The Honda Fit, meanwhile, has even more cargo room and greater interior flexibility thanks to its flip-and-fold rear seats.
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The 2017 Toyota Yaris gains an impressive upgrade with the Safety Sense C suite of active features aimed to warn of and even prevent an accident. The Yaris hatchback shouldn't be confused with the Yaris iA, a subcompact sedan formerly known simply as the iA from Toyota's now-defunct Scion brand.
While a stiffer body and better suspension came with the Yaris' revamp two years ago, the overall driving feel of this small Toyota hatchback is still rather mundane. With only...
... 106 horsepower, the Yaris’ engine isn’t very powerful. Acceleration is acceptable for everyday duties, but don’t expect much in reserve for passing or merging, especially when others are along for the ride. The antiquated 4-speed automatic transmission doesn’t help matters much, and the 5-speed manual -- a feature we usually enjoy -- feels rubbery and vague. Most competitors, such as the Chevy Spark and Honda Fit, offer a CVT automatic or more gears, which improve both performance and fuel economy. Of the three Yaris trims, the SE has the most attitude, offering a bit more styling, sport-tuned suspension and up to 36 mpg with the manual transmission.
SAFETY SENSE-C TECHNOLOGY
With this new system, every 2017 Yaris has the ability to warn drivers of a frontal collision or if they're drifting over lanes, and can even automatically apply the brakes. This was groundbreaking stuff just a few years ago, when it was available only in luxury cars.
Even the least expensive Yaris hatchback comes with Toyota's Entune system that boasts a 6.1-inch touch screen, USB port with iPod connectivity, Bluetooth hands-free phone compatibility and even voice control.
The Yaris' 5-passenger interior is perhaps the most appealing part of the car. There are plenty of soft-touch surfaces, giving this inexpensive Toyota a slightly more premium feel. 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. Whether you opt for a 3- or 5-door Yaris, interior space is nearly the same, including decent cargo room behind the rear seats. Additional space can be created by folding the 60/40-split seats.
Both 2017 Toyota Yaris variants have identical exterior measurements, though versions with only one door on each side have a more coupe-like profile. If you plan to regularly bring rear-seat passengers along for the ride, we'd recommend paying the nominal extra for a 5-door version so you do not have to constantly slide the front seats forward to accommodate friends, family or strangers if you are using the car for a ride-sharing service. Subjectively, the Yaris is cute in a squat, kid-brother sort of way. Top-line SE models add pizazz with black accents and headlight trim, and rear spoiler and diffuser.
Even in its least expensive form, the Toyota Yaris L brings a nice roster of features. Most notable is the Safety Sense-C suite added to this year's lineup, plus power windows and doorlocks, air conditioning and 6.1-inch touch-screen Entune audio system with AM/FM/CD player, HD Radio, USB port and Bluetooth wireless connectivity. But missing on this model are power-mirror adjustment, cruise control and steering-wheel-mounted audio buttons, all of which can be found in the Yaris LE trim that adds keyless entry and an automatic transmission. All models include ToyotaCare, which grants two years/25,000 miles of scheduled maintenance and roadside assistance.
Aside from a dealer-installed navigation system, most options on the 2017 Yaris come as you climb trims. Top-line Yaris SE models include sport-tuned suspension, LED daytime running lights, projector-beam headlights with LED accent bar, 16-inch alloy wheels, and interior and exterior accents. Going with an SE variant is also the only way you can get a manual transmission and a 5-door configuration.
The 2017 Yaris 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 six speeds or continuously variable automatic transmissions. Fuel economy is pretty good though, and the little engine goes just fine on regular-grade gasoline.
106 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
103 lb-ft of torque @ 4,200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 30/36 mpg (manual), 30/35 mpg (automatic)
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
The least expensive 2017 Toyota Yaris you can buy is the 3-door hatchback L model, which has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $16,115, including the $865 destination charge. That's only a few hundred more than last year's model, which did not include the advanced safety features now standard on the latest Yaris. The SE 5-door with an automatic transmission arrives at $18,865. While these prices make the Yaris the lowest-priced Toyota, they're not necessarily lowest in this segment. The Ford Fiesta sedan and hatchback squeak in below the Yaris, as do the Hyundai Accent and Nissan Versa Note. Before buying, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their new Yaris. While this Toyota's initial price is slightly higher than the competition, it is expected to hold its value better than most, trailing only the Honda Fit in residuals.