All-new for 2006, the Toyota Yaris replaces the outgoing Toyota Echo Hatchback. The Echo sedan is also gone for 2006 and is not currently replaced. Although the Echo Hatchback was sold only in Canada, the Yaris will be entering the U.S. market for 2006. A sedan version is available as a 2007 model.
Like the Echo it replaces, the Yaris is available as a two-door hatchback (the company calls it a three-door) and four-door hatchback (five-door). The two-door is available in CE, LE or RS trim; the four-door comes in LE or RS. All models use a 1.5-litre four-cylinder with Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) mated to a five-speed manual transmission that can be optioned to a four-speed automatic. Unlike the four-seater Echo Hatchback, the Yaris seats five.
Features on the CE include CD player with two speakers, front bucket seats, rear bench seat with fold-down seatback, cloth seats, passenger side rear walk-in assist, tilt steering wheel, front carpet floor mats, front and rear cupholders, front centre console box, 14-inch steel wheels, rear window defroster, tinted glass, and intermittent wipers.
LE models add CD with four speakers, four floor mats, power mirrors, front and rear splash guards, and a rear wiper/washer. The four-door LE adds power door locks.
RS models add 15-inch alloy wheels, anti-lock brakes, six CD/MP3 player with four speakers, front sport seats, 60/40 split rear bench seat, leather-wrapped wheel, coloured mirrors, side skirts and rear spoiler, and fog lamps. The four-door DR adds power door locks.
Air conditioning can be added to all models as an option; the six-CD player and anti-lock brakes can be added to the CE and LE trim lines. Other available options include power windows and keyless entry.
The Echo Hatchback was a well-built little car; the Yaris is better. Its appearance is more mature and less funky; its build quality is excellent; fit-and-finish are superb; the interior is spacious; its power rack and pinion has electric assist and takes driver input quickly and directly to the wheels; the shifter performs well; and the engine has enough power to pull this little car around. Toyota claims it has the tightest turning radius in its class. Unfortunately, it retains the Echo’s awful central-mounted instrument cluster, but this is a global car (the name will be used in all markets but Japan) and spinning that cluster around is the cheapest way to turn a left-hand-drive car into a right-hand one.