The confusing life of this subcompact sedan continues, as the car first known as the Scion iA and then Toyota Yaris iA, now finds itself called the 2019 Toyota Yaris Sedan. Very well — it’s certainly more popular than last year’s Yaris: a hatchback renamed the Yaris Liftback for 2019. However, the Yaris Sedan story gets even weirder.
It might be sold at Toyota dealerships and share the same warranty, year of complementary maintenance and standard accident avoidance tech as other Toyotas. It obviously wears the same familiar badge. And yet, the Yaris Sedan isn’t really 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 Yaris Liftback, which really is built by Toyota.
So even if the Yaris Sedan’s story is a bit confusing, you really only need to know one thing: If you’re interested in a subcompact sedan, it 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 2019?
The Toyota Yaris Sedan is effectively the car sold the last couple of years as the Yaris iA. With this quasi name change, it gets revised styling and new trim levels that result in a lesser-equipped but cheaper base model, and extra features in the range-topping XLE. The hatchback formerly known as the Yaris is now the Yaris Liftback. See the 2019 Toyota Yaris models for sale near you
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
The Toyota Yaris Sedan has only one engine choice: a 106-horsepower 1.5-liter 4-cylinder, which is mated to a 6-speed manual or a 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 2019 Toyota Yaris is a 4-door sedan available in L, LE and XLE trim levels.
Standard equipment on the L ($15,450) includes 15-in steel wheels, a low-speed forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking system, a backup camera, keyless entry, full power accessories (lock, windows, mirrors), air conditioning, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, cloth upholstery, Mazda’s infotainment system (center console controller, a 7-in screen that’s touch-operated when the car is stopped), two USB ports, an auxiliary audio jack, Bluetooth, HD and satellite radios and a 6-speaker sound system.
The LE ($16,450) adds 16-in alloy wheels, fog lights, heated mirrors, proximity entry and push-button start and a rear spoiler.
Both the L and LE come standard with a manual transmission, but a 6-speed automatic is a $1,110 option.
The XLE ($18,550) comes only with an automatic transmission and adds automatic LED headlights, LED running lights, automatic wipers, Normal and Sport driving modes, automatic climate control, leatherette simulated leather upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The Yaris Sedan comes standard with front-side airbags, side-curtain airbags, antilock brakes, a backup camera and forward-collision warning with automatic braking.
The government gave the Yaris Sedan 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.
Behind the Wheel
The Yaris Sedan 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 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 Yaris 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
2019 Kia Rio — The Rio was redesigned last year, and its transformation resulted in an impressively grown-up subcompact that should be considered right alongside the Yaris. Its driving manners are shockingly sophisticated and its cabin earns big points for functionality, quality and style.
2019 Hyundai Accent — Like the Rio, the Accent was all-new last year and is available in both sedan and hatchback body styles. The Accent is perhaps not as impressive as the Rio, but it shares many of the same strong attributes as its corporate cousin.
2019 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 Yaris Sedan’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.
If you’re going to get an automatic transmission any way, we’d recommend getting the range-topping XLE. For $1,000 more than the automatic-equipped LE, you get a bunch of equipment that’ll make this economy car feel a lot more special. You’ll be happy you pay a little bit extra per month. Find a Toyota Yaris for sale