If you’re looking for information on a newer Toyota Yaris Liftback, we’ve published an updated review: 2019 Toyota Yaris Liftback Review
Originally on sale in 2007 and updated in 2012, the entry-level Toyota Yaris got some major updates last year, such as new styling and more equipment. Unfortunately, the 2016 Toyota Yaris hasn’t yet received what it really needs: a full redesign. The Yaris continues to use a 4-speed automatic transmission, for example, which hinders both acceleration and highway fuel economy. Most rivals have five or six speeds by now. And the Yaris’ status as Toyota’s entry-level car is very obvious when you’re behind the wheel, even with last year’s enhancements.
But the Yaris does its best to compensate for its shortcomings with a few bright spots. Feature content is a strength by subcompact standards. The suspension is surprisingly capable, delivering more fun-to-drive smiles than expected. And in spite of its outdated transmission, the Yaris still manages to put up respectable fuel economy figures.
Indeed, the Yaris may not be a superstar, but it’s a solid competitor with the added bonus of Toyota’s traditionally strong resale value and reliability.
What’s New for 2016?
After an update last year, the Yaris is completely unchanged for 2016. See the 2016 Toyota Yaris models for sale near you
What We Like
Good overall fuel economy; standard Bluetooth and USB/iPod connectivity; accommodating back seat; stylish interior; nimble handling
What We Don’t
Outdated 4-speed automatic transmission; noisy engine; steering wheel doesn’t telescope
The Yaris is powered by a 106-horsepower 1.5-liter 4-cylinder. A 5-speed manual is standard, while a 4-speed automatic is optional. Both transmissions get about the same gas mileage: The manual returns 30 miles per gallon in the city and 37 mpg on the highway, while the automatic comes in at 30 mpg city/36 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
The 2016 Toyota Yaris is available as a 3- or 5-door hatchback. Three trim levels are offered: L, LE and SE. The L and LE trims are available in 3- or 5-door body styles, while the SE trim is only available on the 5-door.
The base Yaris L ($16,400) is well equipped with 15-inch steel wheels, air conditioning, a 6-speaker stereo with iPod/USB connectivity, Bluetooth, a tilt-only steering wheel (a telescoping function is unavailable), side-curtain airbags and a fold-down back seat.
The Yaris LE ($17,400) adds features such as a height-adjustable driver’s seat, cruise control, a 60/40-split folding back seat and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls.
The sport-themed Yaris SE ($18,500) tacks on 16-in alloy wheels, unique exterior styling cues, sport fabric upholstery, a leather-wrapped sport steering wheel and special instrumentation.
The Yaris comes with standard stability control, nine airbags and whiplash-reducing front seats. In government crash testing, the Yaris got an overall rating of four stars out of five, including four stars for frontal impacts, five stars for side impacts and four stars for rollover safety. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Yaris its top rating of Good in every crash-test category except for the difficult new small front-overlap test, where it received a mediocre Marginal score.
Behind the Wheel
The Yaris is surprisingly fun to drive. The steering is noticeably tighter and more responsive than before, and the car zips around with an eagerness that we don’t usually see in subcompact cars.
The raucous engine and outdated 4-speed automatic transmission are killjoys, though, and we’d hesitate to call the ride supple. In other words, the Yaris is something of a mixed bag from behind the wheel. Make sure you take it up to highway speeds during the test drive, and try to find some bumpy pavement to sample, too.
The Yaris’ front seats are nothing to write home about, though the SE model’s sport-fabric upholstery does seem to add a bit of grip. A potential deal breaker for taller drivers is the tilt-only steering column, which requires a serious reach forward if the seat has been moved all the way back. We love the updated dashboard, though, as it has far more style than ever before, vaulting the Yaris to the head of the class in this respect. The materials aren’t bad, either: No, the plastics aren’t luxurious, but at least they have distinctive grains, and everything seems to be bolted together well.
The Yaris’ accommodating back seat is proof that subcompacts don’t have to punish rear passengers. Even full-sized adults can ride back there for a while without complaint. Kudos to Toyota’s engineers for figuring out how to make this happen in such a tiny car.
Other Cars to Consider
2016 Chevrolet Sonic — The Sonic excels at cruising on the highway, and it has some neat interior touches, not to mention superior power and fuel economy with the 1.4-liter turbo. Overall, it’s a tough competitor for the Yaris.
2016 Ford Fiesta — The tiny Ford Fiesta offers excellent driving dynamics and sedan or hatchback body styles. Prices are higher than the Yaris, but the Fiesta offers a nicer interior and more available equipment.
2016 Kia Rio — Blessed with possibly the best-looking exterior and interior of any subcompact, the Rio is the runway model of this group. It’s a pleasant drive, too.
Used Toyota Prius c — The Prius c is based on the Yaris, but it runs at an impressive 50 mpg. It also offers an improved interior and more modern exterior styling. Prices are higher, though, so you may have to consider a used model.
We think the base Yaris L model offers the best value, but pay attention to the height of the driver’s seat because it’s not adjustable in the L. For that, you’ll need to upgrade to the Yaris LE. Find a Toyota Yaris for sale