Toyota Yaris Review - good-son

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Toyota Yaris Review

Toyota Yaris - 2007 Review: Used to be that opting for an economy car required sacrificing most every automotive accoutrement in exchange for a cheap price and impressive fuel economy. Power steering? Don't fret - you need to work on your upper body strength anyway. Rear defroster? That's what ice scrapers are for. Cloth seats? Everyone should experience skin melding to vinyl on a steamy summer's day. Air conditioning? You can't be serious. In the end, you walk away with bulging biceps, blistered thighs, and a wallet full of cash that otherwise would have been spent on "unnecessary" features and gas.

Fast forward to the 2007 model year, where inexpensive, efficient econoboxes are still available, and thanks to pricey petrol, increasingly popular. However, today's buyer benefits from a bit more luxury and a lot less sacrifice. Take the 2007 Toyota Yaris, for example. With a base price under $11,000 and EPA-rated fuel economy as high as 40 mpg on the highway, this little import is all about saving money, yet at the same time it comes equipped with air conditioning and power steering. Finally, the public can determine that the bulky, sweaty guys crowding the room are steroid users and not economy car drivers. In addition, the Yaris can comfortably seat five, offers a touch of style, can be equipped with desirable options, and ponies up enough power to move along with (slow) traffic.

Subcompact cars are known for not only their small size but also efficiency. In the case of the 2007 Toyota Yaris, this equates to a ride weighing in between 2,293 and 2,336 pounds with EPA estimates of 34 mpg city/40 mpg highway with a standard five-speed manual transmission, or 34 mpg/39 mpg when equipped with an optional four-speed automatic. Either way, you're promised the mileage of a hybrid without the fancy technology - or high price. Unfortunately, our week long test of a Yaris S sedan with the standard manual transmission yielded only 27.5 mpg in mixed driving. But that figure needs to be taken with a grain of salt - Southern California was experiencing one of its hottest summers on record, thus necessitating the constant use of max air conditioning, and our right feet were often hard on the throttle, doing our darnedest to extract every drop of power from the 1.5-liter, dual overhead cam, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine using VVT-i (variable valve timing with intelligence). With 106 ponies running free at 6,000 rpm and only 103 lb.-ft. of torque available at 4,200 rpm, the Yaris is most definitely about economy, regardless that the S model's decorative body kit suggests otherwise.

The all-new Toyota Yaris rides on a rather basic suspension system utilizing MacPherson struts fore and a torsion beam axle aft, with a stabilizer bar bolted on up front with the driven wheels, which are in turn connected to a power rack-and-pinion steering system. Braking is accomplished through ventilated front discs coupled with rear drums. Antilock brakes are a $300 option.

Three Yaris models are available: a three-door liftback, a four-door sedan, and an S sedan. The liftback, priced at $10,530 including a $530 destination charge, can be considered inexpensive transportation with just enough standard equipment to keep it off the bare-bones list. Included with the base sticker price is air conditioning, 175/65 tires rolling on 14-inch steel wheels, tilt steering, cloth upholstery, a cargo cover, a tachometer, and, well, that's about it. However, you can plunk down $630 for the Convenience Package to get a sound system that plays CDs and MP3s, a rear defroster and wiper, 15-inch steel wheels, and a rear 60/40 split bench; $900 for the four-speed automatic transmission; $1,680 for a Power Package with alloy wheels ($1,290 without the alloys) that buys the Convenience Package as well as power door locks, power windows, power mirrors, ABS, and cruise control; side-curtain and front-side airbags for $650; $200 for a rear spoiler; and a whole host of other items like the stand-alone ABS package for $300, front fog lights, and keyless entry. Needless to say, you can make that $10,530 base price a distant memory if you check every box on the order sheet.

Moving up to the sedan requires an outlay of at least $12,405 yet offers in return standard equipment such as a height-adjustable driver's seat, an interior trunk lid release button, a rear three-point center seatbelt, and an in-glass radio antenna. But, sorry, the actual radio is still limited to the options list. However, for the ultimate Yaris experience, it has to be the S sedan that sells for $13,900. Included on this model is the rear 60/40 split bench seat, 15-inch steel wheels with 185/60 tires, the sound system that's optional on lesser models, a body kit with "S" badges, and a rear center armrest. This is the example we utilized for testing, though ours came equipped with various add-ons including front-side and side-curtain airbags, keyless entry, and the Power Package with alloy wheels, bringing the total price to $16,355.

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