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2017 Toyota Yaris: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader March 2017

The 2017 Toyota Yaris has something that none of its competitors have: Standard forward collision and lane-departure technologies that can really save your bacon (and bumper). These features only increase what was already a value-rich subcompact car choice. Unfortunately, that safety tech really didn't address what the rest of the car 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 also better it in terms of interior space, driving dynamics and overall refinement. In fact, even Toyota now offers a superior subcompact car in the form of the Yaris iA sedan -- it shares a name, but it's actually a completely different car produced by Mazda.

But at least the Yaris does its best to compensate for its shortcomings with a few bright spots. Feature content is a strength by subcompact standards, even beyond the safety tech. 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 And in spite of its outdated transmission, the Yaris still manages to put up respectable fuel economy figures.

So, 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 2017?

The Yaris perhaps gains the best possible reason to consider it for 2017: A standard suite of accident avoidance tech consisting of features that are often not even available on its competitors.

 What We Like

Standard accident avoidance tech; good overall fuel economy; surprisingly accommodating back seat; rare two-door hatchback body style

 What We Don't

Outdated 4-speed automatic transmission; underpowered and noisy engine; steering wheel doesn't telescope; small cargo area even for a subcompact

 How Much?

$15,300-$18,000

 Fuel Economy

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 are antiquated, which doesn't help the Yaris' lethargic acceleration or so-so gas mileage. The latter is basically the same with either, transmission, however. The Environmental Protection Agency indicates that an automatic Yaris will return 30 miles per gallon city, 35 mpg highway and 32 mpg combined. The manual notches things up to 30 mpg city, 36 mpg highway and 33 mpg combined.

 Standard Features & Options

The 2017 Toyota Yaris is available as a 3- or 5-door hatchback. Both body styles are offered in L and LE trim levels, while the 5-door adds the SE. There is also a Yaris iA sedan, which despite the name, is actually a completely different car that we review separately.

The base Yaris L ($15,300 3-door; $16,400 5-door) is well equipped with 15-in steel wheels, air conditioning, power locks and windows, automatic headlights, a tilt-only steering wheel (a telescoping function is unavailable), forward collision warning and automatic braking, lane departure warning, a one-piece folding back seat, a 6.1-in touchscreen, Bluetooth, a USB port, HD radio and a 6-speaker stereo.

The Yaris LE ($16,900 3-door; $17,300 5-door) adds 15-in alloy wheels, keyless entry, cruise control, a 60/40-split folding back seat and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls.

The Yaris SE ($17,200) tacks on 16-in alloy wheels, four-wheel disc brakes, unique exterior styling cues, upgraded headlights, LED running/accent lights, upgraded fabric upholstery and a leather-wrapped sport steering wheel.

 Safety

The Yaris comes with more standard safety features than any subcompact car. Besides the usual items of antilock brakes (rear drums on the L and LE, four-wheel discs on the SE), traction and stability control, front side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags, the Yaris includes a driver knee airbag, a special front passenger under-cushion airbag, forward collision warning and automatic braking and a lane-departure warning system.

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 second-worst 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 insufficient front seat adjustment and tilt-only steering column. We like the cabin's design, as it has far more style than previous models, and the materials aren't bad, either.

At the same time, we think the mechanically unrelated Yaris iA sedan outdoes its hatchback brand mate in terms of interior and driving experience, as does the extremely spacious Honda Fit.

 Other Cars to Consider

2017 Toyota Yaris iA -- This is an odd duck to be sure. Previously the Scion iA and actually known as the Mazda 2 in other markets, this sedan has nothing in common with the regular Yaris but its badge. We think it's probably better, though.

2017 Honda Fit-- The Fit is arguably your best hatchback choice in the subcompact segment. It's refined, well-equipped, fuel efficient and surprisingly quick, plus it offers a huge, versatile cargo area that rivals some small SUVs.

2017 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.

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.

 Autotrader's Advice

Actually, we'd get the Yaris iA. But if a hatchback is must, we think the base Yaris L model offers the best value given its standard accident avoidance tech. However, 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.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2017 Toyota Yaris: New Car Review - Autotrader