Due to reader request, we've gone "Big on Little" in Chicago. By extension, the new bottom-rung Toyota Yaris, an intriguing option for small, frugal and first-time car buyers warrants closer exploration.

Autoblog spent some time in and around the diminutive twins, and have found that despite their status as transportation for the cost-concious, there are some surprising differences amongst the Yaris' two bodystyles (Sedan and Liftback) that warrant closer examination.

Yes, both models secret Toyota's 1.5L four-banger that features VVT-i ('Yota speak for variable valve timing), which offers 106 horsepower and 103 lb.-ft of torque, and both come yoked to a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. But for such an inexpensive offering, Toyota has made some surprising investments, doubling-up on tooling costs for key interior bits, etc., affording both distinct personalities despite their common underpinnings.

On the exterior, the two offer completely different looks, with no visible sheetmetal or major trim carryover. The grille on the sedan (seen above) is a mature effort, echoing that of the 2007 Camry. Conversely, the Liftback trades in prominent horizontal vanes for a more youthful, tight-knit black hatch pattern.

(Exhaustive side-by-side comparison including tons of high-res photos after the jump!)

 

Light fixtures and glass are model-distinct front and back (the hatch's headlamps are almost Pontiac Solstice-esque), with the overall affect being a cheeky bauble for the liftback, and a more buttoned-down, restrained four-door. Even side door glass differs, with the three-door's meandering windowline necessitating a fixed quarterlight adjacent to the side mirrors.

Moving inside, eagle-eyed spotters will observe that the dashboards are actually model-specific moldings. In particular, their center consoles are actually model-specific fittings. In the sedan, the HVAC controls are arranged in a triangular constellation on the center console, and they are buttressed by some clever storage bins on either side. Four-door buyers also get convenient (if a little flimsy) fold-down cupholders for both driver and passenger. Also worth noting is that despite the Yaris' center-mounted gauges, dashboards don't appear to have constructed with left-hand-drive and right-hand-drive interchangeability in mind.

 

On the hatch, errr... Liftback, the center console HVAC feature a three-dial vertical array, along with distinct double-tier "side" storage cubbies, good for a cell phone, coins, or perhaps even a small drink. The big advantage the Liftback has in storage terms is a bespoke double-element glovebox... the sedan makes do with a single unit and a more prominent airbag housing.

With both bodystyles, the overall interior aura remains a bit austere, a fact partly attributable to the center-mount gauge binnacle (which leaves only an unfriendly expanse of polymer between the driver's eyes and the windshield). Panel fit appears solid, but plastic graining and quality appears a half-step down on Honda's Fit. Seats (with distinct cloth for both) feature bottom squab ratcheting mechanisms, but unlike on the 2007 Hyundai Accent, front and rear height can't be adjusted independently). Rear seat room is surprisingly generous in both, though obviously ingress/egress and view out flatter the sedan. Similarly, available cargo space favors the Liftback when the 60/40 split rear seat is folded, so the coupe or sedan question could come down to which owners plan on toting more: tots or cots.

Those seeking further details on the Yaris would do well to look here.

 


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