Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2006 Toyota Yaris CE 2-door
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Starting under $14,000, the new 2006 Toyota Yaris looks like a great buy in the entry-level subcompact segment. But chances are, when you’re finished negotiating with the salesperson, the price will be closer to $20,000 — more with Freight and taxes. That’s because popular features, such as four-doors, air conditioning, automatic transmission, CD changer, anti-lock brakes, split folding rear seatback, rear wiper, power windows, and power mirrors, are all optional. As well, many of those options are available only as part of a “package” which may include some features you didn’t really want.

To be fair, the two most popular Yaris options, automatic transmission ($1,000) and air conditioning ($1,105) are available as stand-alone options on base models. And standard equipment on the base two-door Yaris CE hatchback ($13,580) does include power steering, tilt steering column, an AM/FM radio/CD player with two speakers, dual airbags, tachometer, fixed intermittent wipers, a single folding seatback, body-coloured bumpers, rear defroster, 14-inch all-season tires, dual airbags, five 3-point seatbelts, and five height-adjustable head restraints.

But if you want anti-lock brakes on the base CE model, it comes as part of the ‘C Package’ ($2,465) which includes ABS and electronic brake force distribution (EBD), air conditioning, power windows, power door locks, and keyless entry. That puts the price up over $16,000.

The LE package ($595) adds two speakers to the sound system, power mirrors, a rear wiper/washer, floor mats, and front and rear splash guards. Add $735 if you want a Yaris LE with four doors.

2006 Toyota Yaris CE 2-door
Click image to enlarge

Or you can just buy the Yaris RS two-door ($16,880) or RS four-door ($17,615) which include 15-inch tires and alloy wheels, anti-lock brakes, six CD/MP3 player with four speakers, front sport seats, 60/40 split rear bench seat, leather-wrapped wheel, body coloured mirrors, side skirts and rear spoiler, and fog lamps. But when you add optional air conditioning and automatic transmission to the RS four-door, you’re up to $19,815.

What if you said, “To heck with it. I want the cheapest Yaris I can buy.” What would it be like?

The under-$15,000 experience

$15,000 is a price more in line with the budgets of first-time buyers who are often young, single persons to whom even a thousand dollars extra is a big leap. And it’s also more palatable to buyers looking for a cheap second car, or a car for their teenage son or daughter.

With that in mind, I picked up a base Yaris CE two-door model ($13,580) that had one option: air conditioning ($1,105). With A/C, the as-tested price came to $14,685, plus $1,065 for Freight/Destination for a total of $15,750. Now, you could keep the price under $15,000 by not ordering air conditioning, but in my experience, it’s better to go with the A/C.

2006 Toyota Yaris CE 2-door

2006 Toyota Yaris CE 2-door
Click image to enlarge

If you have to, borrow the extra money from Grandma. Otherwise, you will regret it next July. And the July after that. And the July after that.

On the face of it, the Yaris CE seems like a very good value for the money. It’s a brand new car and it’s a Toyota, with a reputation for reliability and strong resale value. And it offers very low operating and maintenance costs. The 2006 Yaris is one of the most fuel-efficient cars in Canada: it recently won the government-sponsored 2006 Energuide Award for the most fuel-efficient Subcompact vehicle in Canada (tied with the VW New Beetle TDI (diesel)). With the standard five-speed manual transmission, its fuel consumption figures are 6.9 L/100 km (41 mpg Imperial) City, and 5.5 L/100 km (51 mpg Imperial) Highway. Think about that for a moment: over 40 mpg in the city! There are many vehicles that don’t get that good fuel consumption on the highway. With the optional four-speed automatic transmission, the Yaris’ fuel consumption is 7.1 L/100 km (40 mpg Imperial) City and 5.8 L/100 km (49 mpg Imperial) Highway.

Plus, as a relatively inexpensive new car, the vehicle insurance premiums are comparatively low. And other than regular oil and filter changes, vehicle maintenance costs are likely to be minimal. The Yaris comes with a 3-year/60,000 kilometre warranty with roadside assistance, and an additional two years and 40,000 km on the powertrain.

Interior not spartan, and quite roomy

For under $15,000, you might expect a cheap, cramped interior — but you’d be wrong. Though the Yaris is a small car, it is bigger than the Echo hatchback it replaces: 110 mm longer, 30 mm wider with a 90 mm longer wheelbase that significantly improves rear legroom. And while the Echo hatchback has four seatbelts, the Yaris has five, plus three height adjustable rear head restraints, and three rear 3-point seatbelts.

2006 Toyota Yaris CE 2-door

2006 Toyota Yaris CE 2-door

2006 Toyota Yaris CE 2-door

2006 Toyota Yaris CE 2-door
Click image to enlarge

The driver and front passenger sit in tall, contoured bucket seats that are easy to access through the large, but rather heavy, front doors. To get in the rear seat, the right front passenger seat will slide forwards automatically by lowering the seatback. There is a surprising amount of headroom and legroom for rear passengers, and the rear floor is flat. On the downside, the rear seat isn’t really wide enough for three adults, the rear side windows do not open, and there is no centre armrest or storage pockets. There is one cupholder at the back of the centre console.

The quality of the interior seat fabrics and dash materials is surprisingly sporty for a base model. My Yaris CE model had black cloth seats with attractive blue speckles, and the grey dash was accented with a metal-look centre console and light grey door armrests.

As with the Echo hatchback, the instrument cluster is positioned in the centre of the dash-top, but the Yaris’ gauges are brighter and easier to see. A large round speedometer and tachometer are flanked by a ‘bar-graph’ fuel gauge, digital clock, and odometer.

With the instruments in the centre, the tilt steering wheel can be positioned at any height you prefer without obscuring the instruments. I prefer a low steering wheel position to reduce the effort on my arms and provide a clear view of the road ahead. In all, I’d say the Yaris’ driving position is very good, unless you prefer the lower, laid-back driving position common to many older passenger cars.

2006 Toyota Yaris CE 2-door
Click image to enlarge

I really liked the new, vertically stacked heating and ventilation controls. They’re large, easy to see, and easy to reach, and allow extra storage to be positioned on either side of the centre console. The standard wind-up windows require minimal effort to raise and lower.

Speaking of storage, the Yaris has the most storage compartments that I’ve ever seen in a passenger car: a covered bin behind the steering wheel; a coin tray to the left of the steering wheel; open bins on either side of the centre panel and below it; an upper bin and a lower glove-box in front of the front passenger; a slot beside the handbrake, door pockets with bottle holders, and flip-down cupholders that can be heated or cooled with the air vents. A 12-volt powerpoint is located on the lower centre console.

2006 Toyota Yaris CE 2-door

2006 Toyota Yaris CE 2-door

2006 Toyota Yaris CE 2-door
Click image to enlarge

The cargo area behind the rear seat is small (229 litres/8.1 cu. ft.),
enough for three or four grocery bags, or a couple of overnight bags. A privacy cover, for keeping valuables out of sight, is standard. To lower the rear seatback, a single lever on the top of the seat releases it, and once down virtually triples or quadruples the cargo space. With the seatback folded down, the floor is not flat, but you can flip over covers that cover the gap. In addition, there are couple of hidden storage bins under the rear cargo floor, as well as a temporary spare tire.

Unfortunately, Yaris models under $15,000 are not available with split rear folding seatbacks, or the sliding/reclining rear seats offered in the RS. 60/40 split seatbacks enable one or two rear passengers to sit on one side, while cargo can be carried on the other.

Another drawback to buying a sub-$15,000 Yaris: without the optional keyless remote, the driver has to lock and unlock the driver and passenger doors separately, as well as the rear hatch.

Driving impressions

The Yaris’ all-aluminum 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine with dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder features variable valve timing, a sophisticated feature in an economy car. VVT allows the engine to develop greater torque at low revs without sacrificing upper rev band performance, in addition to improving fuel efficiency. As well, the Yaris’ engine now features electronic throttle control, and is now rated as an Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle 2 (ULEV II).

2006 Toyota Yaris CE 2-door
Click image to enlarge

Making 106 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and developing maximum torque of 103 lb-ft at 4200 rpm, the lightweight (1043 kg/2300 lbs) Yaris will do 0 to 100 km/h in 9.4 seconds with the 5-speed manual transmission, according to independent acceleration tests conducted by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. That’s a very respectable time, but with the automatic transmission, you can expect it to be a second or two slower.

I found the Yaris’ performance well-suited to typical city and highway driving. The speed-sensitive electric power steering provides very light steering effort when parallel parking and turning in tight spots, and firms up on the freeway with excellent tracking characteristics. The turning circle is very tight (9.4 m/31 ft.) and visibility is generally good. However, the hood and nose of the car are invisible from the driver’s seat, so it’s difficult to judge parking distances. Fortunately, there is very little car in front of the front wheels, or behind the rear wheels. I found the thick rear ‘C’ pillar did obstruct vision somewhat when changing lanes. Visibility through the rear window is good: the window is large, the centre rear head restraint sits low, and an electric defroster clears moisture from the window. However, a rear wiper/washer is optional.

On the freeway, the Yaris feels stable, despite its skinny 175/65R-14 inch tires. At highway cruising speeds, the engine hums along quietly in fifth gear at about 2800 rpm at 100 km/h and 3400 rpm at 120 km/h. The engine is surprisingly quiet and vibration-free.

2006 Toyota Yaris CE 2-door
Click image to enlarge

The standard manual five-speed transmission is easy to change, the shifter fall readily to hand, and the clutch pedal effort is low.

The suspension was revised for 2006 to improve comfort and stability. A new independent L-arm MacPherson strut front suspension with front stabilizer bar, and a new rear torsion beam provide controllable, predictable handling that understeers gently at the limit. The ride is comfortable, and the body feels very tight. However, the tall body results in some lean when cornering, and the small tires won’t handle aggressive cornering. I’ve also driven an RS model with the larger 15 inch tires, and I found them to be much more satisfactory.

AJAC braking tests showed a Yaris with ABS stopped from 100 to 0 km/h in 43.4 metres (142 ft.), a good performance. However, without ABS, the driver will have less steering control while braking on slippery roads.


Crash tests haven’t yet been performed on the Yaris, but Toyota says they are confident it will meet top standards because of a new body structure that’s stronger than before, and improvements to the interior such as front seats that suppress the tilting of the head and vertebrae and new whiplash-reducing front head restraints. Dual front airbags are standard, but side airbags, or curtain airbags, are not offered.


Cars in the same class as the Yaris are the Kia Rio5, Chevrolet Aveo, Pontiac Wave, and upcoming models, the Honda Fit and Nissan Versa.


For singles or couples who want a new small hatchback under $15,000, a two-door Toyota Yaris CE hatchback is a good choice. The major drawback is that ABS is not available unless you buy it as part of a $2,465 option package, and split folding rear seatbacks are not offered on base models.

Technical Data: 2006 Toyota Yaris CE 2-door

Base price $13,580
Options $1,105 (air conditioning)
Freight $1,065
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $15,850 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives
Type 2-door, 5-passenger subcompact hatchback
Layout Front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 1.5-litre 4-cylinder, DOHC, 16 valves, VVT
Horsepower 106 @ 6000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 103 @ 4200 rpm
Transmission 5-speed manual (4-speed auto optional)
Tires P175/65R-14 all-season
Curb weight 1043 kg (2300 lbs)
Wheelbase 2460 mm (96.9 in.)
Length 3825 mm (150.6 in.)
Width 1695 mm (66.7 in.)
Height 1525 mm (60.0 in.)
Cargo capacity 229 litres (8.1 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 6.9 L/100 km (41 mpg Imperial)
  Hwy:– 5.5 L/100 km (51 mpg Imperial)
Fuel type Regular unleaded
Warranty 3 yrs/ 60,000 km
Powertrain Warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km
Assembly location Kariya, Japan

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