2014 Toyota Yaris LE

2014 Toyota Yaris 5-door.  Want to save the planet?  Drive a Yaris

2014 Toyota Yaris 5-door. Want to save the planet? Drive a Yaris

Yaris hatchback is Toyota's least expensive 4-door car

Yaris hatchback is Toyota’s least expensive 4-door car

 

Bottom Line:  The 2014 Toyota Yaris 5-door is cheap and cheerful, and ideal for city and commuter driving.  I’d choose the Yaris over any hybrid, but Toyota’s subcompact doesn’t match the Honda Fit or Nissan Versa Note.

You remember the Toyota Echo?  The Yaris is the third generation of this frugal subcompact, and I really like this class of car.  Small, fuel efficient and in this very practical 5-door version, subcompacts are what we should be driving to save the planet.

Our test vehicle

Our 2014 Yaris 5-door LE test unit is a pretty bare bones model.  With steel wheels and hubcaps, this is Toyota’s least expensive car with four doors and automatic transmission (MSRP $15,895.)  The ‘stripper’ version is Spartan, good enough for bargain basement car rental fleets, but you’ll want to pony up for the Convenience Package our tester had.  That adds keyless entry, power windows, cruise control and air conditioning ($16,995), conveniences that you will appreciate in daily use and that will add to the car’s value and desirability when it comes time to sell.

Interior fit and finish is good and the cabin feels surprisingly spacious

Interior fit and finish is good and the cabin feels surprisingly spacious

Instruments are large and legible, but we found the fuel gauge 'lazy' not reading "Full" even after multiple top ups

Instruments are large and legible, but we found the fuel gauge ‘lazy’ not reading “Full” even after multiple top ups

 

Cabin

Inside the Yaris, it’s surprisingly roomy.  The cabin seats four adults and it doesn’t feel cramped.  Finishing materials are of decent quality and the charcoal cloth upholstery has a smooth texture with a contemporary pattern.  Thankfully, it’s not that despicable fuzzy velour that reminds me of mouse fur that Toyota used to fit on some vehicles.  Rear seats offer good head and leg room for adults and are split 60/40 in the typical fashion.  A simple pull knob releases each seatback and they fold flat without having to remove or adjust head restraints.  Hurrah!

Instrumentation

            The main instrument panel and gauges are cleanly styled and easy to read.  HVAC controls are large, round, controls that are intuitive and easy to operate.  The audio controls are abysmal.  The knobs feel cheap.  They’re small and thin, making them difficult to grasp with bare fingers.  They’ll be challenging to use wearing gloves.  The radio’s LCD display needs to be brighter, the buttons for radio stations are too small, and the font size for settings is tiny.  And instead of the customary way to set radio stations (tune to the station and press and hold the pre-set button to store into memory), you have to enter a menu first, then press and hold the respective button.

Second row 60/40 split seats fold down easily for a flat cargo hold

Second row 60/40 split seats fold down easily for a flat cargo hold

Cost cutting measures

As Toyota’s least expensive Canadian car, the Yaris is built to a price point.  There’s nothing fancy here.  The steering wheel is naked and has no controls fitted to its face.  No heated seats (booooo) and the rear cargo cover (made of pressed fibreboard) has no retaining pins; its leading edge slides into slots in the side panels.  (Compare that to the base automatic transmission Hyundai Accent, and heated front seats are standard equipment.)

Driving the Yaris

Driving the Yaris is surprisingly pleasant.  The 106 horsepower 1.6-litre engine is an enthusiastic performer and adequately powers the car in city driving – its main mission.  The engine revs quickly but when pushed, sounds ‘thrashy.’  That shouldn’t be a surprise.  Hobbling the Yaris is an archaic 4-speed automatic transmission.  (The competing Honda Fit has a 5-speed automatic; the Hyundai Accent a 6-speed automatic; and the 2014 Nissan Note has the most efficient, CVT transmission.)  On the highway, any demand for more speed results in the Yaris’ transmission downshifting to 3rd gear, accompanied by a lot of revs and noise.  At 120 km/h, the Yaris engine hums along at an acceptable 3150 rpm, more than 50-percent of the engine’s 6,000 rpm redline.

In city driving, the Yaris has a more compliant suspension than I had anticipated.  The ride is very good for a car this small.  Handling is secure, and driving the diminuitive Toyota is easy.  Sight lines are good and its short length makes squeezing into the tightest parking spots effortless.

Fuel gauge weirdness

One weirdness our test Yaris exhibited was a ‘lazy’ fuel gauge.  I filled up the tank, jumped in the car and fuel gauge showed less than Full.  Thinking I’d goofed, I topped it up a second time, adding an additional 1.0 L and drove off.  The fuel gauge still wasn’t reading Full, so I drove down the street and pulled into another gas station and carefully topped up a third time, adding another 1.0 L.  The fuel gauge still didn’t read Full, so I gave up.

Radio knobs are small, display could be better, and setting stations is a chore

HVAC controls are large and easy to use.  Radio knobs are small, the display could be better, and setting stations is a chore

Front seats are firm and comfortable, covered in an attractive fabric

Front seats are firm and comfortable, covered in an attractive fabric

Rear seats have good leg and head room

Rear seats have good leg and head room

 

So, who does the Toyota Yaris best suit?

If you’re looking for a small, fuel efficient car for city driving, and you prize reliability and low cost of maintenance above all else, Toyota can’t be beat.  The Toyota Yaris is a good choice for the driver who is car-illiterate and terrified just thinking about future car maintenance and repair.

But when compared to other cars in this segment, Toyota has fallen behind the competition.    For example, the Hyundai Accent (GL automatic, $17,099) comes with many more features such as heated front seats and automatic climate control.  And for bona fide ‘drivers’, our class favourite is still the Honda Fit ($16,056 2013 DX automatic), which is a joy to drive, virtually matches the Yaris’ fuel economy, and has second row seats that can be configured for greater cargo carrying versatility.  And the new 2014 Nissan Versa Note ($16,298 with a CVT automatic transmission that ought to make its 109 horsepower engine feel livelier than the Toyota with 4-speed automatic) has a fuel economy  rating of 6.1/4.8 L/100 km city/hwy that betters the Toyota’s.

 

Specs

2014 Toyota Yaris LE
MSRP/Price as-tested $15,895/$16,995
Engine 1.5-litre inline DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder with variable valve timing
Power 106 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm, 103 lb.-ft of torque @ 4,200 rpm
Transmission 4-speed electronically controlled automatic
Tires/Wheels P175/65R15 all-season radials
Fuel Economy Rating (L/100km) 6.8/5.5 L/100 km city/highway

 

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