Reviews

2012 Toyota Yaris Walk Around

The new 2012 Yaris actually looks a little bit hot. It's longer, lower and wider, which might begin to change the Yaris image. Especially the SE, which has wider tires, alloy wheels, spoilers and diffusers, and body-colored touches.

Its new aggressive stance comes from a bold nose and head-on view, with wide headlamps having integrated turn signals. The side profile shows a steep beltline and curving shoulders that flow to the rear.

The Yaris now comes in eight colors, including Super White, Classic Silver Metallic, Magnetic Gray Metallic, Black Sand Pearl, Absolutely Red, Lagoon Blue Mica, Wave Line Pearl and Blazing Blue Pearl. The car's lines are now cool enough that in black or gray metallic, it actually looks powerful, in a subcompact sort of way.

Interior

We love the sport seats in the Yaris SE. The new high-quality fabric is rugged and the fit is all-around excellent. The bolstering is always there for you, without grabbing you. The seats are wider than before, but you don't slide around in them. They're designed to reduce fatigue, and although we didn't take any long trips in our Yaris, we can't imagine backaches being a problem. The Yaris chassis and ride feel solid, and we think the seats have a lot to do with this. But it would feel solid anyhow.

There's decent room in the rear for a subcompact, with 33.3 inches of legroom. The rear bench seat in the L model folds flat with one knob, while the LE and SE models have a 60/40 split folding rear seat. You can fit a relatively huge amount of stuff in the Yaris now, with cargo volume increased by 64 percent in the 3-door and 68 percent in the 5-door. The cargo space behind the seat has been lengthened by 5.7 inches and widened by 2.1 inches; capacity with the seat up is 15.3 cubic feet on the 3-door and 15.6 cubic feet on the 5-door.

The interior offers a high level of detail with upgraded materials and a more sporty design. The dashboard is pleasing, and Toyota has moved the speedometer to in front of the driver where it belongs; the previous Yaris located the speedo in the center of the dashboard, so the structure could be used in right-hand-drive cars, to reduce cost.

There's a nice, small tachometer to the left of the speedo, which has good clear numbers with a digital window showing time, temp, odo, twin trip meters, clock, fuel mileage, and average speed. The instrument lighting glows red and cool at night. The shift knob and thick steering wheel grip feel good in the dark. It's a new three-spoke, with a flat bottom to stay out of the way of a driver's knees when climbing in and out.

Cabin conveniences are especially important in a subcompact, and the Yaris has good ones. Climate control knobs are as simple and easy as they come. It's got a roomy glovebox, six cup and bottle holders, door pockets, and cubbies near the shift lever, although no center console between the seats, where the emergency brake lever is located. There's good legroom in front, 40.6 inches.

But we wonder what happened to Toyota's thinking, with the radio/sound system. For teenagers only. The buttons are too small to push, and some of the icons are too small to even see, and our eyes are fine. The interface is confusing, a dial with four arrows, no idea what they're for, just a big knob you push and turn that does something different each time. Music mode or talk mode appears, that's all it does. Spin and nothing happens. We found it frustrating. What's more, the reception was lousy. Twenty miles outside the city limits, and we couldn't get the biggest FM station in Portland.

Back to the upside. Great, safe, high beams with the standard Halogen headlamps. A terrific one-arm windshield wiper that sprays fluid directly onto the path of the blade.

Finally, one of the most important things: the Yaris is quiet inside. The engine isn't buzzy, and there's tons of new sound insulation. The doors close with a healthy thunk.

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