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Toyota Yaris Revives Bottom of Toyota’s Lineup in USA

Introducing the Toyota Yaris
Toyota has long offered an economy car, at least as far back as the 1981 Starlet. For the 2007 model year, Toyota comes back with the Yaris. After the ungainly looking Echo, the Yaris at least has the benefit of a stronger presence on the road. The Yaris, which will be offered in sedan and three-door hatchback versions beginning in spring 2006, is a development of the Echo, despite its new-to-the-U.S. name. Though we knew it as the Echo, the previous generation had several names worldwide as well as more available bodystyles. With this latest iteration, Toyota has decided to call all versions outside the home market by the Yaris name.
Though substantially revised, the suspension and brakes carryover. The Yaris continues to offer the very familiar 1.5L DOHC 16v four-cylinder engine, mated to standard five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic transmissions. A brief drive of both Yaris sedan and hatchback models reveals, as can be expected, a familiar driving experience, but in a quieter package with improved interior and dramatically improved exterior styling. And though familiar, the Yaris is competitive for its segment. This competes with entry-price and entry-level cars that are focused on solid, dependable transportation rather than speed and sport. In this arena, Yaris is as entertaining as it gets.
While the Echo looked ungainly and poorly proportioned, the Yaris sedan has a much better balanced look. The Echo never looked quite right, reflected in its poor sales, but the Yaris sedan has a purposeful, proud stance. The hatchback has a lively and entertaining look, and promises that you’ll keep a smile on your face driving down the road. While neither version offers a particularly exciting driving experience, they crisp and confident.

Same Name, Same Drivetrain, Different Personalities
The sedan and hatchback were developed by different engineers rather than as part of the same program, and the resulting cars have different personalities inside and out. The hatchback theme in development was “powerful simplicity” while the sedan theme was “simple is cool.” The sedan carries a bit more of a grown-up personality while the hatchback keeps more fun alive.
Specific exterior differences include totally different front fascias, longer headlights on the hatchback versus short and squat lights on the sedan. Though the hatchback has less sedate interior and has a more funky exterior look, it is the sedan that gets the S (for Sport) model. The S include side rocker panels, front and rear bumper spoilers, unique badges, and options including rear spoiler, fog lamps, and fifteen-inch wheels.
Inside, both models put the driving gauges in the center of the dashboard, but offer different center stacks and trim materials, HVAC, and radios. The hatchback offers optional rear seats that fold flat in a usual 60/40 split, but also recline slightly and slide forward. Among the thoughtful touches are L-folding rear headrests that can easily be folded out of the way when you want the seats down, as opposed to having to remove them. The sedan offers 60/40 fold rear seats as an option only. The hatchback also offers a more expressive pattern in their standard cloth interior, while the sedan aims to look slightly more refined.

There are two trim levels for the sedan, Yaris (base) and S. As the hatchback plays the role of cheap and spartan transportation, it only gets the Yaris trim level. A convenience package and a power package are offered for both cars, though one must opt for the convenience package before the power package is available.

1 Comment

  • Andrew| May 13, 2008 at 6:34 am

    I love my new Yaris. I’ve had it for over a year, now, and average 35 mpg. The front seats have lower lumbar support and the ride is much better than more expensive cars like the Ford Taurus. I think the styling is great for a subcompact… that is, it doesn’t look like a less expensive car. I bought mine for around $14,000 and they start around $12,000. How can you beat that? Styling, great gas mileage, a decent ride, and quality. It’s sad that Toyota has decided to discontinue them after the 2009 model year.

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