Test Drive: 2012 Toyota Yaris CE hatchback toyota car test drives reviews
2012 Toyota Yaris CE hatchback. Click image to enlarge

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Toyota Canada

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2012 Toyota Yaris

The fact that Toyota chose to upgrade the exterior styling, interior quality and interior roominess of the redesigned 2012 Yaris hatchback rather than upgrading the powertrain says a lot about how Toyota views the needs of small car buyers.

The 2012 Yaris hatchback retains its frugal and modestly-powered 106-hp 1.5-litre 4-cylinder engine, standard five-speed manual and optional (revised) four-speed automatic transmission even though its rivals are already offering bigger engines with more horsepower and five and six-speed automatic transmissions.

It appears that Toyota has decided not to participate in the horsepower race and instead focus on improvements to comfort and driveability. That’s probably the smart choice in vehicle class where buyers are more worried about fuel costs, reliability, driveability and comfort than 0 to 60 times. The Yaris’ new bodystyle, while still smaller than most of its competitors, has a 50-mm (2.0-in.) longer wheelbase that provides substantially more rear legroom. Trunk space behind the rear seats has increased by 64 per cent from 229 litres to 433 litres. That’s bigger than the Mazda2’s trunk, but smaller than the class-leading Honda Fit with 585 litres. Of note is that the 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks are now standard on all Yaris trim levels – last year’s base model had a single folding rear seatback.

Test Drive: 2012 Toyota Yaris CE hatchback toyota car test drives reviews
Test Drive: 2012 Toyota Yaris CE hatchback toyota car test drives reviews
Test Drive: 2012 Toyota Yaris CE hatchback toyota car test drives reviews
Test Drive: 2012 Toyota Yaris CE hatchback toyota car test drives reviews
Test Drive: 2012 Toyota Yaris CE hatchback toyota car test drives reviews
Test Drive: 2012 Toyota Yaris CE hatchback toyota car test drives reviews
2012 Toyota Yaris CE hatchback. Click image to enlarge

The 2012 Yaris hatchback’s completely redesigned interior features an attractive two-tone colour scheme, better quality plastics and more soft-touch surfaces, even on the base CE model. Significantly, the instrument cluster in the centre of the instrument panel has been moved to a more traditional location behind the steering wheel, and a trip computer display is now standard equipment on base models, with average fuel economy, current fuel consumption, average speed, as well as a clock and outside temperature readouts. Yaris’ with the automatic transmission include a green Eco light that illuminates when the car is being driven with a light throttle.

However, the instrumentation in the base CE lacks a tachometer, and the LCD displays in the gauge cluster and radio look rather cheap when compared with the bright backlit displays of some of its competitors. In addition, the Yaris’ trip computer and radio displays can be hard to see unless illuminated by turning on the headlights. The gear indicators on the floor shifter are also hard to see unless illuminated.

In the two-door CE and four-door LE models, there are no controls on the steering wheel, so audio and telephone functions must be adjusted on the dash. I didn’t like the feel of the shallow volume and tuning dials, and setting up the standard Bluetooth phone system requires some menu surfing, as does entering a phone number manually rather than using voice-activation. However, receiving calls is as easy as pressing a button and speaking into the hands-free microphone. For music players and devices, USB and auxiliary ports are hidden away inside the glovebox where they can’t be seen by prying eyes. A 12-volt powerpoint is located on the dash below the heater controls.

The driver’s seat comes with a manual height adjuster, but unfortunately, the small flat-bottomed steering wheel only tilts up and down but doesn’t telescope in and out. The Honda Fit and Ford Fiesta are the only cars in this class with telescopic steering wheels. Still, I found the position of the pedals relative to the steering wheel allowed my 175 cm (5-ft. 9-in.) frame to find a comfortable driving position. The driver’s visibility is unobstructed to the front and rear with the exception of a small blind spot where the right-rear head restraint blocks the rear window. I would suggest removing these if there are no rear passengers.

The two-door Yaris CE model has longer front doors than the four-door LE and SE models, and combined with a sliding right front passenger seat that slides and folds forwards, getting in to the rear seat is possible without major contortions. The front passenger seat will then slide back to the desired position.

For an adult of average height, the two outboard rear seats have adequate headroom, legroom and footroom. Even with the front seat pushed all the way back, I found my knees just touching the rear of the front seatback and my head was not touching the ceiling. There are three rear seatbelts and three rear head restraints (a lower centre one), but sitting three abreast is a tight squeeze. The rear seating area has a flat floor and a rear storage bin and cupholder.

If you intend to transport rear passengers, I would suggest paying the extra $900 to get the four-door Yaris LE hatchback which also includes a standard tachometer and power heated mirrors. (The CE has manual mirrors without an interior adjustment knob.)

The Yaris’ rear hatch lifts up easily revealing a small cargo area with a lined floor and rear seatbacks – but the walls are plastic. A removeable privacy cover is standard as are the split folding seatbacks which can be folded down easily. Unlike some cars in this class, the Yaris comes with a temporary spare tire under the trunk floor.

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