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2018 Toyota Yaris iA: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader February 2018

The 2018 Toyota Yaris iA might be sold at Toyota dealerships. It might have the same warranty, the same year of complementary maintenance and the same standard accident-avoidance tech as other Toyotas. It also has the same badges and shares its name with Toyota's subcompact hatchback.

And yet, the Yaris iA really isn't a Toyota. It's actually designed, engineered and built by Mazda, which sells it as the Mazda2 in other markets. Frankly, this is a very good thing, as it looks and drives very much like a miniature version of the excellent Mazda3. As such, it has sharp driving dynamics, superior fuel economy and a stylish, well-made cabin. It's actually a considerably better car than the rather uncompetitive Yaris hatchback, which really is built by Toyota (in France of all places, but that's mostly a trivial tidbit).

So even if the iA's pedigree is a bit confusing (we haven't even mentioned that it was once sold as a Scion), you really only need to know one thing: If you're interested in a subcompact sedan, the Yaris iA should be on your radar. No matter what it's called and who makes it, it's a very good small car.

What's New for 2018?

The Toyota Yaris iA is unchanged for 2018.

What We Like

Long list of standard equipment including accident-avoidance tech; excellent crash-test scores; excellent handling and driving experience; high-end cabin

What We Don't

Slow acceleration even for this segment; no hatchback option; higher price than other subcompacts; no options

How Much?

$16,000

Fuel Economy

The Toyota Yaris iA has only one engine choice: a 106-horsepower 1.5-liter 4-cylinder, which is mated to a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is rated at 32 miles per gallon in the city, 40 mpg on the highway and 35 mpg in combined driving with the automatic and 30 mpg city/39 mpg hwy/34 mpg combined with the manual. That's among the segment's best.

Standard Features & Options

The 2018 Toyota Yaris iA is only offered in one trim level, and you really only choose which color and transmission you want ($16,000 manual; $17,100 automatic).

Standard features include 16-inch alloy wheels, keyless access with push-button start, cruise control, air conditioning, power accessories (locks, windows and mirrors), a backup camera, forward-collision warning and automatic braking, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, a 7-in display with a console-mounted controller and limited touchscreen capability, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a USB port and a 6-speaker sound system. A navigation system is the only option apart from dealer-installed accessories.

Safety

The iA comes standard with front-side airbags, side-curtain airbags, antilock brakes, a backup camera and forward-collision warning with automatic braking. Only the other Yaris matches that standard content.

The government gave the iA its best possible 5-star rating in the overall, frontal- and side-impact categories. That's excellent. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it the best possible crash ratings and deemed its standard frontal-crash prevention system "Advanced," but a Poor headlight rating prevented it from getting a Top Safety Pick award.

Behind the Wheel

The iA is surprisingly enjoyable to drive given that it has a mere 106 hp and 103 lb-ft of torque. There's no doubt the car's relatively light weight of just under 2,500 pounds is a factor here, but the engine is eager to rev, steep hills are no big deal and there's plenty of pep for most commutes and excursions.

The standard transmission is a 6-speed manual, but most buyers will pay the extra $1,100 and go for a 6-speed automatic. It's a regular, planetary-geared unit (as opposed to a continuously variable transmission), and it shifts just as smartly as it does in other cars produced by Mazda. If anyone does go for the stick shift, the action is fairly quick and slick, though the clutch bites quite high within the pedal's range of travel.

The rest of the driving experience is true to its Mazda engineering, rather than its Toyota badge ... that's a good thing. Although certainly not as sharp to drive as the pricier Mazda3, the iA is nevertheless blessed with responsive steering and sharp reactions that make it one of the best subcompacts to drive. It's also sufficiently solid and quiet for a small, inexpensive car, though the ride can be a bit firm.

As for interior room, there's no hiding the fact that the car is narrow -- the result being that shoulder room is somewhat tight. Meanwhile, legroom is fine for an adult of average size, even in the back. Your feet can slide under the seat in front, and it's bearable for more than a short trip. Headroom is also okay for someone who's not of above-average height. The more irritating issue for the front occupants is that the center armrest is too short, doesn't slide forward and quickly becomes uncomfortable.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Kia Rio -- The Rio is all-new for 2018, and its transformation has resulted in an impressively grown-up subcompact that should be considered right alongside the Yaris iA. Its driving manners are shockingly sophisticated and its cabin earns big points for functionality, quality and style.

2018 Hyundai Accent -- Like the Rio, the Accent is all-new and available in both sedan and hatchback body styles. The Accent is perhaps not as impressive as the new Rio, but it shares many of the same strong attributes as its corporate cousin.

2018 Honda Fit -- It's only available as a hatchback, but when you're dealing with a car this small, that can be a good thing. Especially when you consider the Fit's back seat and cargo space challenges that of some small SUVs. It's also reliable and great to drive.

Used Mazda3 -- If you like the iA's styling and upscale interior but want more space, consider the larger Mazda3. You'll find many familiar switches and buttons in the larger Mazda and you'll get more features, but a higher base price means you may have to consider a used model instead of a new one.

Autotrader's Advice

There's only one trim level, so we can only recommend so much. Among the two transmissions, the manual will get the most out of the tiny engine, but unlike the regular Yaris, at least the iA has a capable automatic transmission choice.

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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.
2018 Toyota Yaris iA: New Car Review - Autotrader