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By Greg Wilson
Photos: Toyota Canada
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As practical as small hatchbacks are, not every entry-level buyer wants a hatch. Some prefer a ‘sedan-with-a-trunk’ bodystyle because of its traditional ‘three-box’ styling, separate and secure trunk, and additional body rigidity. As well, hatchbacks are still perceived by some as slightly less classy than sedans. Even economy car buyers can be image-conscious.
After introducing the subcompact Yaris hatchback in October 2005 (replacing the Echo hatchback) Toyota waited until March 2006 to release the new four-door Yaris sedan.
The 2007 Yaris sedan is based on the same subcompact platform as the Yaris hatchback, but there are some significant differences. Sharp-eyed readers will notice that the sedan’s styling is slightly different, as is the interior design. But more significant is that the sedan is quite a bit bigger.
Its 2550 mm (100.4 in.) wheelbase is actually 90 mm (3.5 in.) longer than the Yaris hatchback. In fact, the Yaris sedan is a full 475 mm (18.7 in.) longer overall than the hatchback. However, to give the sedan a sleeker profile, it is 85 mm (3.3 in.) lower in height than the hatch. Width is about the same for both bodystyles.
The sedan’s extra length translates into extra legroom for front and rear passengers: 57 mm (2.2 in.) more in front and 13 mm (0.5 in.) more in the rear (when compared to the 4-door Yaris hatchback). However, with its lower roof, the sedan has slightly less headroom: 16 mm (0.6 in.) less in front and 31 mm (1.2 in.) less headroom in the rear.
The big difference between the two bodystyles is of course the cargo area: the sedan offers a trunk that measures 365 litres (12.9 cu. ft.), which is roomy for a subcompact sedan – plus split folding rear seatbacks.
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The Yaris 4-door hatchback has 228 litres (8.1 cu. ft.) behind the rear seats. Without the rear seatbacks folded down, there is actually more room in the sedan’s trunk than in the hatchback’s cargo area, but with one or both of the split folding seatbacks folded down, the hatchback offers more cargo room than the sedan, largely because of the extra height in the hatchback.
However, there is a caveat. The base 2007 Yaris hatchback CE and mid-level LE hatchback are not available with split folding rear seats, just a single folding seatback. Only the top-of-the-line RS hatchback ($17,615 for the 4-door) has the 60/40 split folding seats. That means that if only one person is in the rear seat of the Yaris hatchback CE or LE, the luggage space is restricted to what’s behind the rear seatback – or 228 litres (8.1 cu. ft.). With the Yaris sedan, 60/40 split seatbacks are standard on the base model ($14,530), so you can get one or two people in the rear seat and fold down one side of the folding rear seats.
I’m not sure if any of this utility will really make a difference to sedan buyers, though. My guess is that sedan buyers buy sedans because they just feel more comfortable in a sedan.
It’s what they’re used to and it’s what they like, and no amount of cargo-carrying logic is going to get them into a hatchback. Though I’m a hatchback man myself, part of me understands this point of view especially after having driven the new Yaris sedan. It does look, feel, and drive like a higher class of car.
First, there’s the exterior styling. The sedan has a distinct V-shape in the hood leading to a tapered, body-coloured split grille. That compares to the longitudinal hood creases and mesh grille of the hatchback. As well, the sedan has a smoother profile when compared to the hatchback’s boxy look, and at the rear, the sedan’s wraparound taillights have a quasi-BMW 3-Series appearance.
On the inside, the sedan’s dashboard has a cleaner, classier look. The centre positioned speedometer and tachometer have unique metal trim and different fonts, and instead of the three vertical round knobs found in the centre console of the hatchback, the sedan has three knobs arranged in a triangular layout. That allows the lower console to flow in a pleasing Y-shape up and around the lower dash. As well, the sedan lacks the dash-top storage bins and open bins beside the console, making it look less cluttered.
The Yaris sedan has the same powertrain as the hatchback model: a 106 horsepower 1.5-litre four cylinder engine with variable valve timing, four valves per cylinder, dual overhead camshafts, direct injection, and electronic throttle control. Surprisingly, the sedan’s official fuel consumption figures are about the same as the hatchback’s: 6.9/5.5 L/100 km city/highway with the standard five-speed manual transmission, and 7.0/5.6 L/100 km city/highway with the optional four-speed automatic. And though the sedan is a larger car, its base curb weight is actually 2 kg lighter: 1050 kg (2315 kg). This might be because the hatchback requires additional body stiffening to make up for the large hole in the rear of the bodyshell, but it’s still surprising.
In my brief two-hour drive of the Yaris sedan, my impression was that it was heavier and slower than the hatchback – though not heavy or slow. The Yaris sedan is a very lightweight automobile.
I’ll have to wait for test numbers to verify whether the sedan is actually slower than the hatch model. In any event, the Yaris sedan’s acceleration off the line, and in the 30 to 50 km/h range, is very quick. It’s only at highway speeds that you notice the engine straining. Highway cruising is very pleasant with minimal engine noise. The four-speed automatic transmission in my test car chose its shift points well compensating for grades by staying in gear longer and shifting smoothly when it needed to do so.
The Yaris sedan is more comfortable than the hatch though. On the road, the sedan’s longer wheelbase gives it a smoother ride, and its more aerodynamic styling, more rigid bodyshell, and lack of a rear hatch contributed to less wind noise and vibrations in the cabin.
The sedan’s front MacPherson strut suspension and rear torsion beam provided nimble handling, while its electric power steering was responsive and easy to manage in the city, and its turning circle was tight. This is a relatively small car, so it fits in most parking spaces quite easily. A high rear trunk lid does obstruct vision when backing into a parking space.
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The 2007 Toyota Yaris sedans start at $14,530, and that includes the 1.5 litre engine, standard five-speed manual transmission, electric power steering, front disc/rear drum brakes, 175/65R-14 inch tires, body-coloured bumpers, tachometer, AM/FM/CD with MP3/WMA with four speakers, tilt steering wheel, height-adjustable driver’s seat, intermittent wipers, manual mirrors, 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks, rear centre folding armrest, digital clock, front and rear cupholders.
Standard safety features include driver and passenger dual-stage front airbags, five head restraints and five three-point safety belts, front adjustable shoulder belts, front seatbelt pretensioners and load limiters, anchor points for child seats, rear child door locks. Interestingly, the 2007 Yaris Hatchback is not available with side or curtain airbags.
For $15,430, Package B in the sedan adds 185/60R-15-inch tires, power door locks, keyless entry, coloured door handles, front and rear splash guards, chrome trim on the trunk, and blacked-out side window frames.
For $16,625, Package C adds air conditioning, anti-lock brakes, power windows, and body-coloured power mirrors.
For $17,555, Package D adds front seat-mounted side airbags for front passengers, and side curtain airbags for both front and rear passengers.
Add $1,000 to all trim levels for the four-speed automatic transmission. Air conditioning is also available as a stand-alone option for $1,150. Freight and delivery is $1,090.
A separate Aero Package available on the base model ($3,030) includes side skirts and rear spoiler, fog lamps, alloy wheels, ABS, power windows, power mirrors, coloured door handles, keyless entry, power door locks, chrome trunk trim and blacked out window frames ($17,560).
A quick price comparison reveals that the 2007 Yaris sedan with Package C, which includes air, ABS, and power windows, is less expensive than a 2006 Yaris Hatchback LE with similar options (Package B) but without the split folding rear seatbacks. Options do vary, but it would seem that the sedan is not priced higher than the hatchback. You can do the math at www.toyota.ca.
The 2007 Yaris sedan is on sale now.