Toyota Yaris ideal for consumer-driven buyer, first-time drivers – warts and all

My tester this week is more suited in the busy streets of Chicago or New York, where roads are tight and parking spots are even tighter (and harder to come by). Equally, my tester is not as good on the highways and open roads of suburbia. But, that doesn’t mean the 2016 Toyota Yaris isn’t able to function as a versatile, daily commuter. And it’s also ideal for a first-time driver.

This entry-level, subcompact car does many things well and some things not so well. For starters, it’s tiny size means it’s quite agile. Parking it is a breeze in any situation. Master your parallel parking skills with this maneuverable and minute Yaris. It also does well on fuel economy. As a daily driver, you’ll notice a great deal of fuel savings almost instantly with fewer trips to the gas station. But, if your commute has significant highway miles, the Yaris will poke along at highway speeds and should remain in the middle lane as it is underpowered.

For this model year, the subcompact Yaris is mostly unchanged.


2015_Toyota_Yaris_L_003On looks, the Yaris can be categorized as that gelatinous term of “cute”. It’s not a sexy car or an aggressive-looking car. Rather its simple, but that doesn’t mean unattractive.

The Yaris has a big grille with smaller, squinty head lamps. The hatchback back end is where the Yaris’ looks excel. It’s well styled and the rear spoiler adds a morsel of sportiness to it. In the world of hatchbacks, the Yaris is handsome and timeless.

My 14-year-old freshman daughter found it to be quite appealing, and that’s probably one of the main demographics of the Yaris. It’s an ideal first car due to its price point, smaller size and smallish engine.


The 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine is pokey. It has a mere 106 horsepower. Compared to almost any other hatchbacks out there, it’s quite pedestrian. To make matters worse, there’s only a four-speed automatic transmission. There’s an optional five-speed manual, but both transmissions are lagging and far behind the times. The entire powertrain of the Yaris is in desperate need of an upgrade.


2015_Toyota_Yaris_LE_004When it comes to affordable, smaller cars, often it’s the interior that suffers. Not the case with the Yaris, as the interior is one of its best features. The clean, simple cabin is comfortable. Getting in and out of the Yaris is quite simple, thanks to high-mounted front seats. Kudos to Toyota’s engineers on the ideal seat position and structure for this car. Driver and front passenger will be quite comfortable and will find the touch points to be adequate. Don’t expect uber-soft touchpoints and you won’t be disappointed, but nothing inside the Yaris feels “entry level.”

The back seat is surprisingly adequate. Adults could easily fit in the back seat of this hatchback. It wouldn’t be great for long road trips, but as a car for your high school or college student to drive a few friends to school and back, it would be fine.

Behind the second row is 15.6 cubic feet of storage space. This is a little small when compared to other hatchbacks.

The technology featured in the Yaris will serve you well. The simplicity of the touchscreen and interaction with your smart phone and devices is fantastic for an entry-level car. It employs Apple Car Play and Android Auto, which younger drivers will appreciate. There’s also a USB port for phone charging and connection.

The Yaris comes as both a four and two-door hatchback. My tester was the four-door version, which is the best option if you expect to use the Yaris for more than two people, as entering and exiting can be more of a challenge in the two-door hatchback.


My tester was the LE trim which comes with 15-inch alloy wheels, power side mirrors and keyless entry. The top-of-the-line SE trim is only available as a four-door, while the L and LE do offer the two-door option. MSRP of my tester was $18,265. The bare-boned L trim can be had for $15,000, making it the best choice for economy-minded buyers. The few added niceties of the LE trim don’t really warrant the extra price, as there are not even armrests for the driver.


Fuel economy for the Yaris is exceptional. It has an EPA rating of 30 mpg/city and 36 mpg/highway. In a week’s worth of mostly suburban and non-highway driving, I averaged 33 mpg.

The Yaris is one of the toughest vehicles I’ve had to review. It can’t be judged for what it’s not, but rather for what it is. That being said, the drive performance of the Yaris is altogether boring and uninspiring. It takes away from many of its other quality features. As someone who likes to have even a morsel of fun behind the wheel, you can’t find it in this hatchback – sadly.


2016 Toyota Yaris LE

Price/As tested price…………………………. $18,265/$18,265

Mileage…………………………………… 30 mpg/city; 36 mpg/hwy

Engine……………………………………… 1.5 LITER, 4-CYLINDER

Horsepower…………………………… 106 hp/103 lbs./ft.

Transmission…………………………… FOUR-SPEED

Drive Wheels………………………………… FRONT-WHEEL DRIVE

Final Assembly Point……………………………. ONNAING, FRANCE

Jimmy Dinsmore
For several years Jimmy Dinsmore has reviewed new vehicles, offering up a unique look and an interesting voice in his weekly column. Jimmy looks at vehicles from the consumer’s point of view. Light on the technical jargon, and lacking the cynicism that pervades many other auto reviews, Driver’s Side treats each vehicle fairly, offering a light-hearted take. Email him at - and follow him on Twitter @driversside.