Toyota is working feverishly to recover from a few setbacks in global production last year. Mother Nature wreaked havoc on the automaker in the Asia-Pacific regions in 2011, and at a time when Toyota was releasing new or redesigned product.
One such re-launch is the 2012 Yaris. Toyota has found that 70 percent of new car buyers in the subcompact segment prefer the liftback (hatchback) body styling. It is because of this that the Yaris sedan is gone from the lineup with 2012 models arriving in base LE three-door or, as in the case of our recent tester, a five-door SE model.
Yaris has been completely redesigned inside and out for 2012. Where previous models seemed a bit “rounded” (or portly) the new Yaris is more sporty, more aggressive-looking. Let’s call it urban street grit.
Dimensionally the new ride grows by a few ticks of the tape measure in each direction for a resulting 68 percent increase in cargo room and additional headroom and passenger volume as well. This is immediately obvious as soon as you slide behind the wheel. It may look tiny on the outside but does not feel cramped or crowded inside – at least not up front anyway.
I ran into a bit of a love/hate relationship with Yaris’ powertrain. For 2012, Toyota uses a 1.5-liter four-cylinder DOHC engine with variable valve timing with intelligence in all models. Surprisingly, the mild 106hp and 103 lb. ft. of torque generated by this motor propels Yaris very well. And while I loved getting a model with a manual gearbox allowing me to stretch as much driving fun out of the car, I hated the fact it is only a five-speed and the leap from first to second is so huge a lot of power gets lost in the shuffle. I feel sorry for folks going the automatic tranny route as a four-speed model is the only one available. (Perhaps Toyota should have followed Nissan’s lead here by giving Yaris a CVT.)
Let’s talk fuel economy. My Yaris with the five-speed stick is rated at 30 mpg city (decent) but only 38 mpg highway – not so hot for a new vehicle when larger sedans on Toyota’s own fleet (Camry) will achieve this and better. And the Yaris with that automatic does even worse. Come on Toyota, you know better than to do this.
For 2012, Yaris gets 15- or 16-inch wheels and tires, MacPherson-strut front and torsion-beam rear suspension with a stabilizer bar up front. Electric power steering reduces engine drag and offers easier low-speed maneuverability.
SE models benefit from a bit of sport-tuning of the suspension and steering systems along with enhanced styling details inside and out including front and rear underbody spoilers, rear spoiler and diffuser, integrated fog lamps, color-keyed grille with sport mesh insert and chrome exhaust tip.
Despite Yaris being “entry-level,” Toyota includes its Star Safety System onboard and gives every Yaris model nine standard airbags along with a host of other safety technology including vehicle stability control and traction control.
Pricing begins at $14,115 for a base LE 3-door while our sportier 5-door SE model came rolling in at $17,340.
Honestly, I really like the new Yaris and I appreciate Toyota’s liftback model dedication as I am at the head of the class in that body style appreciation for subcompacts. Tweak the gearboxes a bit and stretch a little more fuel economy out of it and Yaris will be a must-have for segment buyers.