The 2009 Toyota Yaris is the Japanese manufacturer’s smallest and least expensive vehicle. But it’s also among Toyota’s most “flexible” offerings. Thirty trims are available, three-door hatchback configurations to the four-door sedan to the five-door liftback. That’s substantial variety for an entry level vehicle.
And it’s one of many reasons the Yaris is firmly positioned among several economical vehicles ideal for tight budgets but that don’t scrimp on safety or workmanship.
The Weekly Driver’s Ratings
Cars in the sub-compact segment can’t be expected to be sports cars. The Yaris is a 1.5-liter, 4-cylinder vehicle with 106 horsepower. As such, it gets the job done steadily. But don’t expect much more.
The Honda Fit is the segment leader in many areas, including these three categories. But the Yaris is no slouch. It has a small turning radius and ABS is standard on all models. Steering is fine, too. Again, it’s not a sports car, but fun in a sub-compact sort of way.
Cargo Room (6)
The liftback trim has a better trunk than the sedan, but the four-door Yaris trunk isn’t stingy. It can carry plenty groceries despite intruding hinges. There are also plenty of small-item storage compartments and cup holders throughout the cabin, and they’re satisfactory but not the highest quality.
Some reviews think center-mounted instrument clusters diverts the driver’s attention from driving. I disagree. The Yaris isn’t dashboard isn’t in front of the steering wheel, buy its right-centered location removes any potential obstructed from the steering wheel. I think more manufacturers should do the same. Controls and various knobs and levers work efficiently.
Panels are plastic and the upholstery is synthetic, but it’s all styled well and color coordinated making for an impressive presentation, particularly considering the sub-compact segment.
Front Seats (6)
The Yaris has the longest wheelbase in sub-compact category, which is to say combined with spacious head clearance, there’s not much to complain about. Seats are large, but they have good support and adjust for height.
Fuel Economy (7)
The national Consumer Guide new car buying guide tester averaged 30.6 mpg in the city and 36.6 mpg on the highway in the sedan. I didn’t do the calculations in my week’s test drive. But the Consumer Guide averages are higher the EPA fuel estimates, and it’s hard to argue with the numbers. The Yaris uses regular-grade, unleaded fuel.
There’s wind rush from the windshield during freeway and there’s engine noise, too, just like every sub compact.
Rear Seats (5)
Three people can ride in the back, but it’s not particularly comfortable on long trips. Again, considering the class, the Yaris does well, but headroom and legroom aren’t exactly good for lounging in luxury.
Ride Quality (6)
Like in other areas, the Honda Fit leads the pack. But if you’re not expecting more than a sub-compact can offer you won’t be disappointed.
Total (55 out of 100)
Class — Sub-compact.
Primary competition — Honda Fit, Scion XD, Suzuki, SX4.
Interior: 1.5L DOHC SFI 16-valve VVT-i 4-cylinder engine with 5-speed manual transmission w/OD, Front wheel drive, Front independent MacPherson strut suspension, Torsion beam rear suspension, Front stabilizer bar, Electric power-assist rack-&-pinion steering, Front vented disc brakes, rear drum brakes, 4-way manual front fabric-trimmed seats, Driver seat height adjuster, Folding rear bench seat (2) front/(1) rear cup holders, 12-volt aux pwr outlet, Remote trunk opener, Tilt steering wheel, Digital clock, Remote fuel door release, Defroster-linked air conditioning, Front map light, Covered center console w/storage, Trunk lamp.
Exterior: 14″ steel wheels w/covers, P175/65R14 all-season tires, T125/70D15 compact spare tire, Multi-reflector halogen headlamps, Color-keyed grille surround, Color-keyed manual mirrors, Color-keyed door handles, Intermittent wipers.
Safety Features: Anti-lock brakes, Front/rear energy-absorbing crumple zones, Side-impact door beams, Dual front advanced airbags Front seat-mounted side airbags, Side curtain air bags, Three-point front seatbelts w/pretensioners, force limiters, ALR/ELR retractors, Adjustable front seatbelt shoulder belt anchors, Direct tire pressure monitor system, (3) three-point ALR/ELR rear seatbelts, Child seat top tether anchor brackets, Child-protector rear door locks, Trunk-entrapment release handle, Energy-absorbing steering column
For more standard equipment/option package information, visit: www.toyota.com/yaris
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price — $13,765.00
Price As Driven — $16,214.00
Mileage Estimates — 29 mpg (city), 35 mpg (hwy).
Warranty — Bumper-to-bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited miles.
The Weekly Driver’s Final Words — It’s a tough call. You’ve got $14-17,000 to spend on a new car. What’s the best deal? Honda Fit? Hard to beat. Scion XD? Another good choice. Ditto the Suzuki SX4. Add the Toyota Yaris to the list. Entry level, sub compact vehicles offer a lot for the money these days. And the Yaris is among the many good choices in the segment.
Article Last Updated: April 28, 2009.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.