Toyota Yaris ideal for consumer-driven buyer, first-time drivers

The 2016 Toyota Yaris comes in L, LE and SE grades. Standard features include air conditioning, power steering, tilt steering wheel, power door locks with illuminated entry, cargo area cover and lamp, and power windows with driver s side auto up/down. The Yaris LE adds power mirrors, cruise control, steering wheel audio controls, and a remote keyless entry system with engine immobilizer. Photo by Toyota

Combined ShapeCaption
The 2016 Toyota Yaris comes in L, LE and SE grades. Standard features include air conditioning, power steering, tilt steering wheel, power door locks with illuminated entry, cargo area cover and lamp, and power windows with driver s side auto up/down. The Yaris LE adds power mirrors, cruise control, steering wheel audio controls, and a remote keyless entry system with engine immobilizer. Photo by Toyota


2016 Toyota Yaris LE

  • Price/As-tested price………………………………………… $18,265/$18,265
  • Mileage…………………………………… 30 mpg/city; 36 mpg/hwy
  • Engine……………………………………… 1.5 liter, 4-cylinder
  • Horsepower…………………………… 106 hp/103 lbs.-ft.
  • Transmission…………………………… 4-speed
  • Drive wheels……………. Front-wheel drive
  • Final assembly point……………. Onnaing, France

My tester this week is more suited in the busy streets of Chicago or New York, where roads are tight and parking spots are even tighter (and harder to come by). Equally, my tester is not as good on the highways and open roads of suburbia. But, that doesn’t mean the 2016 Toyota Yaris isn’t able to function as a versatile, daily commuter. And it’s also ideal for a first-time driver.

This entry-level, subcompact car does many things well. For starters, its tiny size means it’s quite agile. Parking it is a breeze in any situation. Master your parallel parking skills with this maneuverable and minute Yaris. It also does well on fuel economy. As a daily driver, you’ll notice fuel savings almost instantly with fewer trips to the gas station. But, if your commute has significant highway miles, the Yaris will poke along at highway speeds and should remain in the middle lane as it is underpowered.

For this model year, the subcompact Yaris is mostly unchanged.

On looks, the Yaris can be categorized as that gelatinous term of “cute.” It’s not a sexy car or an aggressive-looking car. Rather it’s simple, but that doesn’t mean unattractive.

The Yaris has a big grille with smaller, squinty head lamps. The hatchback end is where the Yaris’ looks excel. It’s well styled and the rear spoiler adds a morsel of sportiness to it.

My 14-year-old freshman daughter found it to be quite appealing, and that’s probably one of the main demographics of the Yaris. It’s an ideal first car due to its price point, smaller size and smallish engine.

With a mere 106 horsepower, the 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine is a bit pokey. To make matters worse, there’s only a four-speed automatic transmission. There’s an optional five-speed manual, but both transmissions are lagging and far behind the times. The entire powertrain of the Yaris is in need of an upgrade.

When it comes to affordable, smaller cars, often it’s the interior that suffers. That’s not the case with the Yaris, as the interior is one of its best features. The clean, simple cabin is comfortable. Getting in and out of the Yaris is easy, thanks to high-mounted front seats. Kudos to Toyota’s engineers on the ideal seat position and structure for this car. The driver and front passenger will be quite comfortable and will find the touch points to be adequate. Nothing inside the Yaris feels “entry level.”

The back seat is surprisingly adequate. Adults could easily fit in the back seat of this hatchback. It wouldn’t be great for long road trips, but as a car for your high school or college student to drive a few friends to school and back, it would be fine.

Behind the second row is 15.6 cubic feet of storage space. This is a little small when compared to other hatchbacks.

The technology featured in the Yaris will serve you well. The simplicity of the touchscreen and interaction with your smart phone and devices is fantastic for an entry-level car. It employs Apple Car Play and Android Auto, which younger drivers will appreciate. There’s also a USB port for phone charging and connection.

The Yaris comes as both a four- and two-door hatchback. My tester was the four-door version, which is the best option if you expect to use the Yaris for more than two people, as entering and exiting can be more of a challenge in the two-door.

My tester was the LE trim which comes with 15-inch alloy wheels, power side mirrors and keyless entry. The top-of-the-line SE trim is only available as a four-door, while the L and LE do offer the two-door option. MSRP of my tester was $18,265. The bare-boned L trim can be had for $15,000, making it the best choice for economy-minded buyers. Fuel economy for the Yaris is exceptional. It has an EPA rating of 30 mpg/city and 36 mpg/highway. In a week’s worth of mostly suburban and non-highway driving, I averaged 33 mpg.

The Yaris is one of the toughest vehicles I’ve had to review. It can’t be judged for what it’s not, but rather for what it is.

Jimmy Dinsmore is a freelance automotive journalist.

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