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2012 Toyota Yaris Review By Larry Nutson

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2012 Toyota Yaris - A Good Looking Fuel-Sipper

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

These days the oft-posed question is: What car do I buy that will get good fuel economy and reduce the amount of money spent at the gas pumps? And the second question that follows is: How much do I have to spend to accomplish this objective?

All the buzz has been electric vehicles. But, is the buzz over on EVs or just subsiding? Hybrids have been on the market for a number of years and their popularity continues to grow.

I just spent some time driving the new 2012 Toyota Yaris. The Yaris is distinctly Toyota and offers both good value and good fuel economy. And just a few weeks ago I drove Toyota’s newest Prius, the Prius c…the newest Toyota hybrid based on the Yaris architecture. Both are very competent cars.

So let’s assume for a moment we are in our local Toyota dealer shopping for a new car to replace the Toyota Sienna or Sequoia that is too big for our needs of today. In other words, the kids have all moved out and we need a second car to supplement our Camry sedan. (Toyota loyalists we are!)

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The Yaris has been redesigned for 2012 and is offered in five models, a 3-door and 5-door L and LE and a sport-tuned SE 5-door. All are hatchbacks or as Toyota refers to them, liftbacks. The lowest priced L-trim level has an MSRP of $14,115 for the 3-door and $15,140 for the 5-door. All models are offered with a 4-speed automatic and only the 3-door L and 5-door SE can be had with a 5-speed manual. My week-long test drive was in a 5-door SE with the 4-speed automatic priced at $17,200.

EPA mileage estimates are 30 city mpg and 35 highway mpg for the automatic. With the manual trans the highway rating improves to 38 mpg. Now let’s go back and look at the new Prius c with the lowest priced “One” model listed at $18,950 and with EPA ratings of 53 city and 46 highway mpg. The Prius c is only offered as a 4-door and automatic, so for the sake of comparison we’ll look at the Yaris L 4-door with automatic priced at $15,140.

To keep things simple we’ll leave out direct equipment comparisons and assume gasoline costs $4.00 per gallon…and that might be low. The price difference on our two Toyotas is $3810 and that’ll buy 952.5 gallons of $4 gasoline. The payoff for hybrids is in city driving. A Yaris getting 30mpg city could be driven 21,908 miles before the total cost equaled the purchase price of the Prius c. My point here is to do the math when shopping and think about how many years it will take to balance out you total costs and get your ROI…return-on-investment.

If it were me buying, I would go for the Yaris if my commute was all highway and go for the Prius c if I did mostly city driving. Of, course the number of miles you drive each year also weighs in here too.

Back to the Yaris which is all-new for 2012 with a two-inch longer wheelbase and nearly 3 inch increase in length, but still at a very city-friendly overall 153.5 inches. Overall height is reduced slightly more than a half-inch and cargo space is increased a whopping 68%.

Powering the Yaris is a 1.5-liter, 16-valve, four-cylinder DOHC engine equipped with variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-i), producing 106 hp at 6,000 rpm and 103 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,200 rpm. The front MacPherson-strut and rear torsion-beam suspension have been re-tuned for better ride and improved driving feel. The front stabilizer bar has been increased to 24.2 mm (0.95 in.). Standard tire sizes are increased as well to 15-inch on L and LE versions, and 16-inch on the SE. Electric power steering provides good road feel at highway speeds while aiding low-speed parking maneuvers and reducing fuel consumption.

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Steering wheel height and angle is not the most comfortable and somewhat awkward requiring too-much arm elevation, however it has been improved from the previous Yaris. A neat feature is the single-windshield wiper with wet-arm system that sprays washer fluid from the base of the wiper arm directly in the path of the blade for improved cleaning and wiping action.

The interior is all-new with improved sound-absorbing and insulation. Front seats are wider and provided good support and seat fabric is smart-looking and sporty. Yaris L models feature a one-piece folding rear seat, while LE and SE editions include a 60/40 split fold-down rear seat. Cargo volume is increased by 64 percent in the 3-door and 68 percent in the 5-door. Cargo capacity with the seat up is 15.3 cu. ft. on the 3-door and 15.6 cu. ft. on the 5-door and increase to nearly 26 cuft with the seat folded.

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For more fun and style the SE has a sport-tuned suspension, quicker ratio steering, 4-wheel disc brakes, with the front disc nearly an inch larger in diameter than L and LE versions, and P195/50R16 tires and alloy wheels. On the outside the SE gets, smoke-trim multi-reflector halogen headlamps, integrated fog lamps and color-keyed grille with sport mesh insert, color-keyed front and rear underbody spoilers, rear spoiler and rear diffuser, and a chrome exhaust tip and SE badge.

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Inside, in addition to more-sporty instrumentation and a leather-trimmed tilt three-spoke steering wheel, sport seats help add shoulder-level support for more comfort and control. The Yaris SE also includes a six-way adjustable driver’s seat and four-way adjustable passenger seat with sport fabric trim. Toyota’s has a comprehensive warranty including 36-month/36,000 mile basic new-car warranty, a 60-month/60,000 mile powertrain warranty and against corrosion with no mileage limitation. And something you don’t often get in a low-priced car is Toyota Care. A complimentary plan covering normal factory-scheduled maintenance and 24-hour roadside assistance for two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first.

So if you are cross shopping other brands don’t forget to calculate the cost of maintenance when comparing to the Yaris.

Larry Nutson