Review of: 2016 Toyota Yaris 4dr Sdn Auto Premium
2016 Toyota Yaris Sedan: It's good. Really good.
By Jil McIntosh
Dec. 7, 2015
The folks at Toyota might be forgiven for thinking they have a bit of an identity crisis these days. First it was the Scion FR-S, a thinly-disguised version of Subaru’s BRZ. And now it’s the all-new Toyota Yaris Sedan, which is a Mazda2 under its skin.
You’ll get even more puzzled glances if you take it across the border, since in the U.S., it’s sold as the Scion iA. As for its hatchback counterpart at its parent company, Mazda has discontinued the Mazda2 in Canada.
But whatever it is, or whatever it’s called, Toyota has a winner in this little four-door sedan. Well-done and nice to drive, it comes only in two trim levels, with no available options. The base model with six-speed manual transmission is $16,995, and rises to $18,200 with an automatic. The only other choice is my tester, the Premium trim, which comes strictly with an autobox and rings in at $20,200.
Pros & Cons
- + Good fuel efficiency
- + Sharp handling
- + Well-matched engine/transmission
- - Styling
- - Stereo controls
- - Tinny doors
I’ve finally gotten used to the new guppy-mouthed styling on the Yaris Hatchback, but I’m not yet ready for it on this little machine. It might be because the hatchback offsets that flat-faced styling with an equally abbreviated butt, but I find it a bit too stubby for this sleeker-profiled sedan.
Most of the Premium’s extra items are on the inside, but it does give you 16-inch alloy wheels in place of steel ones, and a set of fog lights, versus the base trim. The trunk is roomy for the car’s size, and with a low liftover and driver-accessible power release, but it needs an interior pull-down for the lid. I can be girly at times, and I hate getting my hand or my glove dirty pushing down on a trunk lid that’s covered in wintery grime and salt. On the plus side, there’s a light in the trunk, which is often missing on cars that cost a lot more than this.
Since it’s basically a Mazda2, the interior matches that model, and is similarly styled to other vehicles like the Mazda3 and CX-3. It’s actually jarring to see the Yaris name embroidered on the floor mats, rather than a Mazda moniker. You get a soft-touch horizontal dash with stitching, three-pod cluster, and an infotainment screen that sits tablet-style atop the centre stack. The screen’s placement not only allows for a lower dash, which increases visibility and gives the cabin a roomier feel, but it keeps your eyes up toward the windshield when you’re messing with it.
The extra interior goodies on the Premium trim are the touchscreen stereo, backup camera, cruise control, and heated front seats. Although the hot chairs are controlled by an electronic button rather than a toggle switch, once you turn them on they stay on, even when you shut off and then restart the car. I like that when I’m running errands and I’m in and out of it on a cold day.
The front seat is roomy and comfortable, and while the rear seats are tight, they’re bearable for most thanks to a considerable amount of foot space under the front chairs. The rear seats fold 60/40 for extra trunk space, but they don’t fall flat to the trunk floor.
While the dash-mounted screen can be touch-controlled, it also works off a joystick controller in the centre console that owes more than a little of its design to BMW’s iDrive. The redundant controls, as Mazda told me when I was on the launch of the Mazda2 a couple of years ago, are so that a driver can reach down and make things happen without having to lean forward and tap the screen.
That may be so, but until you get enough muscle memory to recall exactly where the console buttons are, you’re going to be looking down to find them. I didn’t switch back and forth between functions all that often, but I did have reason to reach for the stereo’s volume dial, which is badly placed. Being a creature of habit when it comes to dials, I didn’t always think to tap the volume control on the steering wheel, and instead would reach back, grab the big dial by mistake, and then fumble for the smaller one.
The infotainment system includes Bluetooth with audio streaming and phone book access, along with a USB port and auxiliary jack, but I had to forgo my favourite satellite station for the week, since the stereo only pulls in AM and FM.
The Yaris Sedan contains a 1.5-litre engine that churns out 106 horsepower and 103 lb.-ft. of torque. Don’t judge it by those puny numbers, though; this car is all about seat-of-the-pants. It may not sound like there’s much in there, but even with my tester’s six-speed automatic, the engine pulls this lightweight sedan around effortlessly, even when it’s called on to pass traffic on the highway. The shifts are smooth, the engine is quiet, throttle response is linear, and it all works exceptionally well.
There is a ‘sport’ button, but as with many of these, it’s all sound and little fury. It holds the gears longer, but there’s no real sensation of sportiness. I tried it a couple of times and then preferred to leave it off.
That sharp little engine is well-matched with the car’s crisp steering and communicative wheel feedback. It’s firmly planted on the highway, flat around corners, and the brakes bite beautifully and bring it to a clean stop. Seriously, you have to get behind the wheel of this thing. It’s among the best subcompacts on the market right now, no matter who makes them.
Best of all, against published figures of 7.2 L/100 in the city and 5.6 on the highway, I ended up with 6.2 L/100 km in combined cold-weather driving.
I definitely felt there was $20,000 worth of car around me, but of course I had to check the competition. You can spend less for other good cars: the smaller Nissan Micra hatchback, for example, is another one right at the top of my “love it” list, and you can get the Micra with many of the Yaris Sedan’s features (but not its heated seats) for $16,748 with an automatic.
You’ll pay $19,899 for the top-line Hyundai Accent sedan, and you can put navigation into its Kia Rio sedan sibling for $22,595. A Chevrolet Sonic sedan in comparable trim will ring in at $22,695, while an auto-equipped Ford Fiesta with similar features is $21,849.
Mazda’s loss is Toyota’s gain. It’s a shame the Mazda2 didn’t achieve the sales success expected of it, because it is a great little driver, but at least now you can still get one. And while having it under two Toyota nameplates adds to the cost, I think the company was right in badging it with the brand that’s better-known north of the border. There are some great little subcompacts out there, and this is definitely one of them.