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2018 Toyota Yaris: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by AutoTrader May 2018

Here's a fun fact: The 2018 Toyota Yaris is built in France. Here's another: It only has one giant windshield wiper. And heck, how about one more: It has absolutely nothing in common -- besides its name -- with the Yaris iA sedan.

Now, for some more useful information: Toyota's littlest hatchback gets a slight update for 2018, with revised styling that perks things up with a more dynamic face and larger taillights. You can also get a new contrasting-roof color combination, which is certainly all the rage these days. Inside, the SE trim level now includes a 7-inch touchscreen, upping the 6.1-in unit found in the L and LE. These updates are on top of those from last year, which impressively included the addition of standard forward-collision and lane-departure warning technologies.

Nothing but good (and random) news thus far, but it none of it really addresses what the rest of the Yaris 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 that Mazda-built Yaris iA sedan is a superior subcompact car.

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 And in spite of its outdated transmission, the Yaris still manages to put up respectable fuel economy figures.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. And hey, there's that giant windshield wiper!

What's New for 2018?

The Yaris hatchback gets revised styling for 2018. The SE trim also now comes standard with a 7-inch touchscreen interface, HD Radio, satellite radio and a variety of smartphone connectivity apps.

What We Like

Standard accident-avoidance tech; good overall fuel economy; surprisingly accommodating back seat; rare 2-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Outdated 4-speed automatic transmission; underpowered and noisy engine; steering wheel doesn't telescope; small cargo area, even for a subcompact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?

$15,600-$19,100

Fuel Economy

The Yaris is powered by a 106-horsepower 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. A 5-speed manual transmission 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 in the city, 35 mpg on the highway and 32 mpg in combined driving. The manual notches things up to 30 mpg city/36 mpg hwy/33 mpg combined.

Standard Features & Options

The 2018 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's also a Yaris iA sedan that, despite its name, is actually a completely different car that we review separately.

The base Yaris L ($15,600, 3-door; $16,800, 5-door) is well-equipped with 15-in steel wheels, forward-collision warning and automatic braking, lane-departure warning, automatic high beams, a backup camera, air conditioning, power locks and windows, a tilt-only steering wheel (a telescoping function is unavailable), a 60/40-split folding back seat, a 6.1-in touchscreen, Bluetooth, a USB port, and a 6-speaker stereo with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and a media player interface.

The Yaris LE ($17,300 3-door; $17,700 5-door) adds 15-in alloy wheels, different exterior trim, power mirrors, keyless entry, cruise control, a 60/40-split folding back seat and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls.

The Yaris SE ($18,300) tacks on 16-in alloy wheels, bigger rear brakes, upgraded headlights, LED running lights, unique exterior styling cues, upgraded headlights, LED running/accent lights, a height-adjustable driver's seat, upgraded fabric upholstery, a leather-wrapped sport steering wheel, HD Radio, satellite radio, a 7-in touchscreen and Toyota Entune smartphone-connectivity apps.

Safety

The Yaris comes with more standard safety features than any subcompact car. Besides the usual items of antilock brakes (front disc, rear drum), 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 hatchback 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 nonprofit 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 brandmate in terms of interior and driving experience, as does the extremely spacious Honda Fit.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Toyota Yaris iA -- This is an odd duck, to be sure. Previously the Scion iA and actually known as the Mazda2 in other markets, this Mazda-made sedan has nothing in common with the regular Yaris but its badge. We think it's probably better, though.

2018 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.

2018 Kia Rio -- The Rio is all-new for 2018 and impresses with its grown-up styling, high-quality cabin and comparatively sophisticated driving experience. Kia's excellent value and warranty sweeten the deal.

Used Toyota Prius C -- The Prius c is based on the Yaris, but its fuel economy pushes 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 don't think we could live without the keyless entry, cruise control and power mirrors gained by opting for the LE trim.

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New 2018 Toyota Yaris LE
New 2018 Toyota Yaris
MSRP $18,735
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New 2018 Toyota Yaris LE
New 2018 Toyota Yaris
MSRP $18,735
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New 2018 Toyota Yaris iA Sedan
New 2018 Toyota Yaris
MSRP $17,945
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New 2018 Toyota Yaris iA Sedan
New 2018 Toyota Yaris
MSRP $17,945
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: New Car Review - Autotrader