• Jun 7th 2008 at 8:01PM
  • 87

2008 Toyota Yaris – Click above for high-res image gallery

Read a few car reviews and it's easy to walk away with the impression that we're a jaded lot; only interested in performance, luxury, and price. Any vehicle that doesn't have stupendous amounts of the first two for the tiniest pile of the latter gets kicked to the curb. It's true, driving cars that don't belong to us facilitates a certain view into how the other half lives that could definitely ruin one on lesser vehicles. On the other hand, there's an entirely different type of enjoyment to be extracted from cars that forego ostentation without ratcheting up the crap factor. Toyota's Yaris will never be mistaken for a Lexus, but it's neither the absolute nadir, nor ultimate zenith of autodom, meaning it has a shot.

Photos Copyright ©2008 Dan Roth / Weblogs, Inc.

We're not exactly sure what to make of the little three door Yaris. It wears Toyota badging, yet the design is deliberately weird enough to wear Scion indicia. Indeed, Toyota's supposedly hipper sub-brand offers the xD, a five-door on the same architecture as the three and four-door Yaris models. You'd think that Toyota could get away with more conservative styling. Once upon a time, Tercels wore lines cribbed from E36 BMWs, while the Yaris team apparently looked toward the Elgin Pelican for inspiration.

The S version tries a little harder visually with Toyota's half-awkward bodykit and a red "S" on the liftgate denoting nothing at all. If the three-door shared the nose of the sedan, it wouldn't be so bad. As it is, Nunez nails it when pointing out the Yaris belongs in the PokeDex. Someone, somewhere, will undoubtedly love the looks, so let's just say that we think the true beauty (if yould call it that) of the Yaris lies inside.

While stubby on the outside, the interior is surprisingly accommodating both front and rear. Six-footers might not be pleased getting stuck in the back seat, but fill the Yaris with a quartet of mid-five-footers and nobody can honestly gripe. All four seats even slide fore/aft. Cargo capacity behind the rear seat is limited for loads of pea stone, but holding the carpool's laptop bags won't be a problem. Hatches are excellent at packing big functionality into small footprints, and when piloted solo, folding the rear seats ups the usefulness tremendously. For the way many folks use their cars, a 3 door Yaris is more than enough.

Attentive interior design is what lends the Yaris a bigger feel inside than its tinytastic dimensions initially suggest. Driver and passenger cupholders cleverly fold out of the dashboard, and the slender center stack with its vertically arrayed HVAC controls stays well clear of kneecaps. There's even storage cubbies on either side of the center stack, as well as two covered bins in the top of the dashboard and a conventional glovebox on the passenger side. Those dual bins are made possible by the centrally located gauge cluster. The merits of such an arrangement have been debated ever since the Echo debuted, and we kept losing our place when trying to glance at the cluster. Given some time with the car, it'd become a non-issue.

The big inside-small outside execution has charm, though the Yaris doesn't lead its class. Honda's Fit, admittedly a little larger, can be crammed with more gear, and the materials Toyota renders the interior of the Yaris with aren't particularly inspiring. On the plus side, there are power windows, locks, and mirrors, air conditioning, and the audio system has an auxiliary input, as well as the de rigeur CD slot, though we did miss cruise control. Less pleasing is the collection of slightly-different plastics, each wearing a separate surface texture and variation on black. Some areas of the dashboard and door panels are quick to pick up unsightly scuffs, and the lids of those dash storage compartments felt vulnerable to being snapped off in a fit of overexuberance. None of this proves detrimental in practice, and perhaps only auto writers addicted to sybaritic luxury will care. The interior is very cleverly thought out, with a lot more space and storage than expected, and on-target ergonomics.

Another invisible area of Yaris beauty can be discovered at the scales. At 2,340 with the four-speed automatic like our car had, the Yaris weighs what small cars used to weigh. That moderate weight means the handling feels nimble and maybe even a little flingable. Ride quality is supple enough that the Yaris once again masks the fact that it's just a little thing. Bumps are absorbed, rather than bouncing the Yaris all over the place. Crosswinds and passing semis likewise leave the Yaris unperturbed. None of this is to say that the Yaris feels sporty, it doesn't, and again, the Fit will whip it. On the plus side, the decent ride and minimal chassis slop won't fatigue in the daily grind, and even deliver mild entertainment.

Hauling the chassis around is Toyota's 1NZ-FE four cylinder. VVT-i variable valve timing allows the 1.5 liter to belt out 106 horsepower and 103 ft-lbs of torque with a husky voice. While the motor is throaty, it's not rough. Even though some of us feel automatics are out of place in small cars, the Yaris is still plenty responsive and has enough snort to handle everything short of leading a police chase. The best part of the Yaris, and possibly the most important given the historic fuel prices we're currently paying, is the mileage. We were surprised and pleased to discover that not only did the 11 gallon tank last a week, but when that week is filled with less than gentle mixed driving, the Yaris will cheerily deliver 36mpg, besting its EPA estimate.

Four dollar per gallon gasoline has fueled a firestorm of interest in smaller, more efficient cars - as evidenced by the latest sales numbers. The Yaris has a low buy-in price, under $12,000, and ours rung the register for a reasonable $17,000, about the same as the more attractive Suzuki SX4 Crossover that also offers AWD and now a navigation system, and is a more willing dance partner. The SX4 can't attain the fuel economy of the Yaris, however. While the Yaris is not designed for extroverted excitement, high mileage is newly sexy, and the design kinkiness will likely attract eyes attached to wallets, too.

Photos Copyright ©2008 Dan Roth / Weblogs, Inc.

Autoblog accepts vehicle loans from auto manufacturers with a tank of gas and sometimes insurance for the purpose of evaluation and editorial content. Like most of the auto news industry, we also sometimes accept travel, lodging and event access for vehicle drive and news coverage opportunities. Our opinions and criticism remain our own – we do not accept sponsored editorial.

I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.

    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      "Nunez nails it when pointing out the Yaris belongs in the PokeDex."

      Yeah, but if you own it for a couple years and raise it a few levels, it will evolve into a Corolla!
      • 7 Years Ago
      not all in the whole life is power, speed or "style"... personally appreciate the Yaris's reliability and fuel economy
      • 7 Years Ago
      How do you spend $17k on a Yaris?
      • 7 Years Ago
      True on the 5 door. Have seen a few sneek down from Canada, neat little cars, but not sold here. Why I have a base Honda Fit now, with 50K on the clock already.....
      • 7 Years Ago
      I bought my 08 Ford Focus at a Ford/Toyota/Scion dealership. Tried the Yaris/Xd cars but kept asking "why?" when comparing them to the Focus. Cheap plastic, hard-as-a-rock seats, small, underpowered and almost a costly as a a Focus SES (got a good deal on the SES too). Gas mileage was comparable.
      Again, why?
      • 7 Years Ago
      Wow, alot of hoopla over a Yaris? Our '07 Focus get an average of better mileage, is larger and has much better handling and doesn't have THAT look. We average 32-35 combined driving all the time...
        • 7 Years Ago
        Do you read? The reviewer said he averaged 36 mpg (which is greater than 35 mpg). I also would like to point out the irony that the general consensus is that the new focus is one of the ugliest cars currently produced, so its funny that you are trying to say something about how the Yaris looks.

        ... The Yaris is worse than the Focus, but the new Focus isn't a great car by any means. There are a bushel of cars that are better than the Focus. The only ace in its hand is sync. The rest of the car is very dated and very mediocre.
        • 7 Years Ago
        But the Focus looks worse and gets better mileage than these testers got. It's also too big. That said, I like Sync a LOT.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Oh nardvark, how you're so right. :)
      • 7 Years Ago
      What an ugly car!!! what? only 36mpg, I average 37-38mpg with my cobalt, and at least my cobalt doesn't look like something that would come out of rabbits butt. I guess the best thing about the yaris-- at least on impact in a accident,the pain wont last long!
      • 7 Years Ago
      Put the guages Where They Belong(like they did with the xD, when they dumped the Scion xA...)In FRONT of the driver..and get 40+ MPG, then I'll buy one..for now..I'll wait for the clean diesel jetta numbers(after 6 months of testing from edmunds, motorweek, and this site, etc...) or the 40+ turboed(120-140HP as reported on autoblog, and numerous other sites)...chevy(coming out in 09).....
      or the Fiesta(dump that name, Ford..Verve sounded soooo much better), 40MPG car.
      It will be 3 doors, too(but cooler looking than the Yaris, andf more MPG, it appears... a Mazda 2 in disguise, basically).
      And Honda is claiming a 15-18K hybrid soon, by end of 08?
      Ummm..why buy this again?
      If it's slow... it should get 45 MPG..but, oh, wait..then that would make the Prius look bad...wouldn't it?
        • 7 Years Ago
        prius hums along @ 90 mph just fine
      • 4 Years Ago
      I have an ECHO. It is a 1.5 with automatic transmission. The car is very quick on take off. People get embarrassed thinking I am racing them and the reaction from them is one of "pedal to the metal" because they think I am racing them. Sadly for them...I am just lightly pressing the pedal. I love this little car. 33 mpg with very agressive city driving, 42 mpg with interstate driving. Seems to have a better turning circle than a 1970 VWbug I fondly remember. The Yaris has pretty much the same underpinning from what I have heard. If it was a little more solid feeling I would rate it a 11 on a scale of 1-10. It gets a 10. I am real happy with this car in the 70,000 plus miles I have had it. I think the little 2 door car is cute as a button in the black paint and well tinted windows. So criticize the cars all you want. They do exactly what they were meant to do. I have actually been surprised by the joy I feel in this car. I enjoy it more than I did the 2001 Pontiac Grand Am GT I had. Never felt connected to the road in that car.
      • 7 Years Ago
      As a motorcycle rider ,anything with more then 2 wheels is "lesser vehicle". On that note I do appreciate a well designed neat vehicle,even econobox's.......When it comes to four wheelers I really prefer simpler to extravagent,with a few side trips to muscle cars..Which originially were base model coupes with honkin great motors stuffed in em.......And pick ups of course. The best aftermarket part you can get for a bike..........Or in other words while reading about exotica is fun, I'd probably walk out of a Chevy dealer with a Cobalt SS rather then a Vette ,even with an unlimited budget.
        • 7 Years Ago
        That's a pretty circumlocutory comment, Al.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Heh, that's cool. You see cars as lesser vehicles, I see bikes as roadkill...
        • 7 Years Ago
        No way to say this without sounding rude, I really dont mean to be, but when I see comments like this, I must ask.... Why do you even read Autoblog? Since a car to you is simply transportation when needed? I know there are tons of motorcycle websites, I ride and frequent some of them... Thanks in advance for your 2 cents on this?
      • 7 Years Ago
      17k for a Yaris? Are you nuts? For that money, buy a Civic or something
        • 7 Years Ago
        Cody, this Yaris tops out at $17k; a similarly equipped Civic would likely cost more than that. The Civic has moved upmarket so much that bringing the Fit to American buyers was an easy choice.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Shouldn't that be called a hatchback really, rather than a liftback which contains both hatch and fast-backs
    • Load More Comments
    Share This Photo X