Mike Hatton: The small-car market has been getting a lot of attention from automakers in recent years. With the Hyundai Accent, the Kia Rio and the Mazda2, the bar has been raised.

Amanda Salas: And to meet its growing competition, Toyota has released its second-generation Yaris. The Yaris itself has grown-literally: it's 2.9 inches longer and two inches wider.

Mike: But it's going to take more than just a boost in size to make the Yaris a winner, and the new styling is a great start. The old model had a more bulbous look, but the 2012 model is sharp and angular, proving that small doesn't have to be cute.

Amanda: The Yaris comes in L, LE and SE trims and is available in three- or five-door hatchback setups. A sedan was previously available but has been dropped for 2012.

Mike: The top-of-the-line SE is only available as a five-door and features 16-inch alloy wheels, fog lights and a spoiler above the rear hatch.

Amanda: But drivers spend more time in the car, not staring at it. That's where Toyota needs to step up its game to stay competitive.

Mike: The interior isn't bad; you get exactly what you need but not a lot more. Several years ago, this would have been a perfectly acceptable interior, but not with cars like the Kia Rio and Hyundai Accent on the market.

Amanda: I agree. And you don't get the kind of features that make a 40-minute commute more enjoyable, like heated seats and navigation, two of my personal favorites.

Mike: On the plus side, Toyota did beef up the sound deadening, which will make your commutes a little bit quieter-that is, until I crank up the premium stereo on the LE or SE models.

Amanda: The SE has a tighter, sport-tuned suspension and steering ratio. The result is actually fun handling.

Mike: Toyota carried over the 1.5-liter inline-4 from last year. It sends 106 horsepower to the front wheels through either a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic.

Amanda: With either transmission options, you'll get 30 miles per gallon city. With the manual you'll get 38 on the highway, but with the automatic you'll drop to 35.

Mike: Those fuel economy numbers can make you forget about the interior shortcomings, and so can the price. A base L three-door starts at just over $14,000, and a five-door SE with options will only set you back about $18,000. GFX4

Amanda: For that money, you get a quiet, competent hatchback with excellent fuel economy and a surprisingly enjoyable ride.

Mike: Yeah, and so what if the interior isn't the best in the pack. I mean, when it comes to subcompacts, price, everyday usability and fuel economy are the most important things, and the Yaris delivers all three in a good-looking hatchback.

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