The new auto wars are taking place not over horsepower, but utility and value. Taking clear aim at the Honda Fit, and with the help of a five-door hatchback version, the Yaris is projected to account for nearly 130,000 sales for Toyota in 2009.
The smallest of Toyota models is adding a five-door version to the three-door and sedan versions for 2009. The Yaris comes in two trim levels, basic and S (for Sport). Though there are a list of available options, standard features in the basic Yaris are minimal. A tilting steering wheel and air conditioning come with the entry-level Yaris but not much more. The Convenience package adds a rear window defogger, 15-inch wheels, and an AM/FM/CD audio system. The S trim includes an upgraded trim and the audio system as standard equipment. The Yaris is equipped with a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 106 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 103 pound-feet of torque at 4,200 rpm. A five-speed manual is the standard transmission. A four-speed automatic transmission is optional. The thriftiness of the Yaris’s fuel economy is evident with EPA ratings of 29 mpg city and 36 in highway driving with a manual transmission. All 2009 models are recipients of revised front and rear styling and an update to the interior trim and audio system. ABS and six airbags (dual front, side, and curtain) are also standard features. Prices start at less than $14,000. The five-door, obviously, delivers more cargo versatility than the four-door sedan, and will probably be an attractive choice for those interested in the economy of owning a Yaris.
Although the Yaris is a decent choice for the budget-conscious buyer who needs an affordable no-frills automobile, it isn’t ranked especially high among other choices in the subcompact market. A seven-car comparison test conducted when the car was new saw the little Toyota finish right in the middle, in fourth place, behind the third-place Kia Rio5, second-place Nissan Versa, and walk-away first-place-winner Honda Fit; While the new Yaris definitely makes gains in catching the Fit, Honda is not one to rest on its laurels and is also polishing off an update of its own subcompact.