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

Base price for the 2012 Yaris CE is $13,990, which includes power door locks and some other welcome standard items, a few of which fall into the ‘about time’ category where Toyota is concerned.

Side and head curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability control (now mandated by law) are included.

Bluetooth is now standard, where it wasn’t available at all (at least, not as a factory-installed feature) in the outgoing car. Beyond its obvious purpose for facilitating hands-free telephone calls, it also allows for the streaming of music from a Bluetooth-equipped music player. And in that regard, this is one of the best setups I’ve tested. The Yaris paired easily with my iPhone (which is not always the case with an old version like mine) and connected quickly with it every time I got in. The connection was 100 percent reliable (in many cars, the music will cut out randomly or play erratically) and, also notably, the Yaris’ stereo was one of the best-sounding systems in any car I’ve tested (relative to price) in recent memory. The one annoyance is the location of the USB input. It’s in the glovebox, but high up where it’s not visible without contorting yourself, and so is a pain to connect to.

The two-tone dash and seat treatment in my test car is a sharp standard trim from a company not usually known for such flash. Overall, this interior is a marked improvement compared to its predecessor’s. The black plastic on the dash is rock hard, but very nicely grained. Those beige panels are, however, soft-touch and do a lot to make this interior feel richer than the car it comes in. That said, I got a laugh out of the felt “curtains” stitched onto the sides of the front seats to hide the metal adjustment tracks, which look like an obvious afterthought.

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

Some will appreciate the more conventionally located gauges (they used to be atop the centre of the dash), but the redesign did away with much of the old car’s generous small-item storage.

People space is good, with plenty of front seat headroom, and good legroom for those up to about five-foot-ten. Things are tighter in back, but two adults will find enough comfort for short drives.

Toyota says cargo space is up to 286 L, compared to 229 L in last year’s Yaris hatch, and the increase is a tangible one. Add to that a rear seat that folds nearly flat and boosts carrying capacity to 433 L in the two-door hatch and 441 in the four-door.

The driving position still needs work, though. As before, it favours drivers with very short legs; at just 5-foot-7, I had to sit too close to the pedals in order to comfortably reach the steering wheel. The wheel tilts, but no Yaris can be had with telescoping steering. Toyota: why do you think it’s okay to deny someone a truly comfortable driving position just because they’re buying your least expensive model? (The Yaris isn’t alone here. The 2012 Nissan Versa sedan actually one-ups Toyota in the bad driver’s seat bonanza.)

For an extra $900 ($14,890), the Yaris LE four-door hatch gets the obvious addition of two extra doors, plus power-adjustable mirrors and a tachometer. The entry-level Kia Rio LX hatch is a stronger value at $14,095, one-upping the Yaris with power windows and steering wheel–mounted audio controls.

Air conditioning is a $1,075 stand-alone option in the two-door CE, and an automatic transmission adds another $1,000. Check both boxes and your Yaris is worth $16,065.

The Yaris LE’s available convenience package adds air conditioning, keyless entry, cruise control and power windows for $15,990; the Kia Rio LX+ has all the same stuff, plus heated front seats and fog lights, for $15,595. A Hyundai Accent GL hatch comes equipped much like the Yaris LE for its $15,399 MSRP. For those who choose the automatic transmission, Toyota’s four-speed is a $1,000 add-on, while Hyundai charges $1,200 and Kia $1,300, respectively, for their six-speed autos. Meanwhile, getting into a Honda Fit with all the usual goodies requires going for the LX model, at $16,980 – the price you pay for its super-spacious interior. Its five-speed automatic is a $1,200 addition.

With its new standard features, the Yaris is easier to like in base form, but the redesign doesn’t address my prime complaint, that being the uncomfortable driving position. That and the car’s vulnerability to crosswinds make it a chore in long-distance highway driving. That said, its good fuel economy makes it an attractive choice for city driving. That gauge cluster won’t tell you what the little engine’s doing, but it will remind you what car you’re in.

Pricing: 2012 Toyota Yaris CE three-door
  • Base price: $13,990
  • Options: None
  • A/C tax: N/A
  • Freight: $1,560
  • Price as tested: $15,550

    Specifications
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Toyota Yaris

    Competitors
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Chevrolet Sonic
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Fiat 500
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Ford Fiesta
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Honda Fit
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Hyundai Accent
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Kia Rio
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Mazda2
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Mini Cooper
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Nissan Versa
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Scion xD
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Suzuki SX4

    Crash test results
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)