Review and photos by Tom Sedens

Test Drive: 2014 Toyota Yaris  toyota car test drives
2014 Toyota Yaris. Click image to enlarge

When it comes to appliances, Toyota knows what they’re doing. They’ve been able to clean up with their Corolla by building a reliable, albeit bland and (until now) uninspired vehicle. Those that care less about flashy features and styling, and just want to get from point A to point B without having to worry if their car will start have relied on the Corolla and its stable-mates for decades. One of those stable-mates is the lowly Yaris, which is Toyota’s entry-level vehicle.

The Toyota website’s splash screen for the Yaris screams “EPIC RELIABILITY”. At first glance, it appears there’s little else to say about this thing, since it appears pretty basic on paper. I spent a week with one to see what you get for your money. First of all, there’s the price. That’s key in this class, and if you’re okay with rowing your own gears (and can manage without A/C and a couple of other basics), you’d be able to get into a Toyota Yaris for under 15 grand.

The Yaris is a very compact car – it’s short with a low roofline. Yes, it is blandly styled but it’s not particularly horrible. I wouldn’t say the exterior is going to offend anyone, but it certainly won’t warrant second looks either. Up front there’s an upper and lower grille flanked by swept-back headlight pods. It’s simple and clean. The rear gets a large lower bumper, which makes the car look more substantial and wider from that angle. The wheels are pushed out to the corners, particularly in the back, which ends up giving the engineers a decent amount of room to work with inside. The Yaris has a massive single windshield wiper (that works well, may I add) and some rental-car wheel covers cladding the 15-inch rims, shod with little 176/65-sized donuts.

Test Drive: 2014 Toyota Yaris  toyota car test drives Test Drive: 2014 Toyota Yaris  toyota car test drives Test Drive: 2014 Toyota Yaris  toyota car test drives Test Drive: 2014 Toyota Yaris  toyota car test drives
2014 Toyota Yaris. Click image to enlarge

Obviously you can’t expect the engine bay to offer a ton of inspiration either – not in this class, and not at this price. Toyota’s 1.5L four-cylinder sits side-saddle here – it puts out 106 hp at 6,000 rpm and 103 lb-ft of torque at 4,200 rpm. What baffles me is that Toyota still sells us a modern automobile with a four-speed automatic transmission in it. Not only that, but you have to pay extra for it! That cuts deep, but I see the business case as well as the conversation around the boardroom table. “Well, Jim, we could throw our six-speed in there, or come up with a five-speed, but why would we? The commoners keep buying the Yaris with the four-speed. Let’s keep milking this as long as we can.”

Test Drive: 2014 Toyota Yaris  toyota car test drives
2014 Toyota Yaris. Click image to enlarge

Of course, it’s front-wheel drive, and of course this 1,020-kg (2,249 lb) featherweight gets pretty good fuel economy. It’s rated at 6.8 L/100 km (35 mpg) in the city and 5.5 L/100 km (43 mpg) on the highway. I made no attempt to drive economically and averaged an excellent 7.2 L/100 km (33 mpg) during my week with it while mostly commuting in the city and occasionally hitting up the freeway for a couple of kilometres. The fuel tank holds 42 litres.

When you get in, the Yaris’ cabin feels spacious, and it offers outstanding headroom in the front. It should be no surprise that the materials feel pretty entry-level – the cabin and the dash are created out of mostly hard plastics, with little splashes of padded areas in a lighter grey colour. I found the cabin, while Spartan and a little low-tech, to be refreshingly simple and effective when it comes to ergonomics. You do get the basics – power locks, windows and mirrors.




About Tom Sedens

Tom Sedens is an Edmonton-based automobile journalist, husband, dad and driving enthusiast, as well as an accredited member of AJAC.