As gas prices creep into the $4 range, the redesigned 2012 Toyota Yaris has become even more appealing than in the past. Admittedly, the three- or five-door lift back won't fulfill the needs of all drivers and their families as far as space is concerned. But if you are looking to eke out more than 30 mpg in city/highway driving, this subcompact is well worth a test drive.
A sole 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine develops just 106 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 103 pounds-feet of torque at 4200 rpm for a pleasant and comfortable drive. Available as a five-speed manual or a four-speed auto transmission, the wheelbase of Toyota's entry-level car has been stretched by 2 inches and the length by 3 inches overall, though the height has been reduced by 0.6 inches.
Unlike its predecessor, the revamped cabin now boasts a robust and flat-bottomed three-spoke steering wheel. And the previously centered multi-instrument panel is in front of the driver for convenience.
Offered as the basic L, LE and the sporty SE, the Yaris starts at $14,115 and peaks at $17,200, depending on transmission choice. Toyota claims EPA figures of 30/38 mpg for manual and 30/35 mpg for automatic with its 11.1-gallon fuel tank. We earned about 32 mpg in a week's driving on city roads and highway.
Kudos to the carmaker for packing the affordable vehicle with standard safety features such as dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver knee airbag, stability and traction control, antilock brakes, side-impact door beams and tire pressure monitoring system.
The agile, roomy and practical Yaris gets the job done reasonably well. And it assures you of tremendous savings at the pump. What more can one ask for in a ride as fuel prices spiral out of control?
Wheelbase: 98.8 inches
Length: 154.7 inches
Suspension: independent MacPherson strut front; torsion beam rear
Steering: power-assisted rack and pinion
Web site: www.toyota.com