Interior room has been increased in the new Yaris providing more leg room for the driver and rear seat leg space. The seats are wider than previously and provide better comfort. Overall, it is an attractive interior for a small, entry level vehicle. Features I liked in particular – the large soft padded dash insert in contrasting colour as well as the padded elbow areas on the door side armrests. The console included a storage tray ahead of the shifter, ideal for resting a music device, two cup holders, and two small change and small object slots. A centre armrest is not available.

First Drive: 2012 Toyota Yaris videos toyota reviews first drives
First Drive: 2012 Toyota Yaris videos toyota reviews first drives
First Drive: 2012 Toyota Yaris videos toyota reviews first drives
First Drive: 2012 Toyota Yaris videos toyota reviews first drives
First Drive: 2012 Toyota Yaris videos toyota reviews first drives
2012 Toyota Yaris. Click image to enlarge

Cargo carrying is now easier with a 25 per cent longer rear cargo floor and 64 per cent more cargo volume, and 60/40 rear folding seats now standard on all trim levels. New standard features for 2012 include a driver’s seat height adjustment, a passenger seat with return memory for CE models, Eco drive monitor for models equipped with automatic transmission, outside temperature display, multi-information display and a new audio system with auxiliary audio and USB inputs, Bluetooth cell phone connectivity and audio streaming. Rear-seat cupholders are also standard.

Safety is standard on the 2012 Yaris with Toyota’s Star Safety System consisting of stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist and smart stop technology. As well, the Yaris is equipped with a class leading nine air bags: two dual-stage front, two seat mounted side, two side air curtains, two front seat cushion and a driver’s side knee airbag. And kudos to Toyota for including Bluetooth cell phone connectivity as standard equipment on all trim levels. More manufacturers should be doing this.

New features and equipment for 2012 bring the Yaris to a level expected by consumers in the subcompact market, but against competitors that now offer standard heated seats, power windows, variable intermittent windshield wipers AND tachometer and power heated side mirrors at a comparable price, the Yaris is still playing catch-up. Even fully equipped, the Yaris does not offer some of the more luxurious features that other manufacturers now make available to subcompact buyers including power sun roof, automatic climate control, smart key, push-button ignition, heated steering wheel, leather seating, rain-sensing windshield wipers, rear-view camera and telescopic steering.

The engine, a 1.5-litre unit with 106 hp and 103 lb.-ft. of torque, is a carryover from the previous Yaris generation, as are the transmission choices, a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic, a $1,000 extra on all trim levels. While at the bottom of the horsepower range in today’s subcompacts, the proven 1.5-litre provides spirited acceleration. It is quiet under power and while cruising around town, but freeway driving left me wishing for a 6th gear in our manual-equipped test cars. The five-speed shifter feels a bit notchy and pick up on the clutch is precise, requiring a coordinated effort on the gas and clutch pedals.

Fuel consumption is rated by Energuide at 6.0 L/100 km combined (6.6 L/100 km city/5.2 L/100 km highway) for the Yaris with manual transmission and 6.3 L/100 km combined (6.8 L/100km city/5.5 L/100 km highway) for automatic equipped cars, comparable with other vehicles in its class.

With competitors offering subcompacts with five-speed manual and 6-speed automatic transmissions, and more powerful and fuel efficient engines, Toyota’s decision to carry over drive-train components from the previous generation is questionable. As well, these same competitors have small cars with better standard equipment and more optional features available at comparable prices. Toyota is counting on it reputation for reliability to attract buyers for the Yaris, but its inability to match competitors, feature for feature, may have buyers going the other way.

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