What the heck is a Yaris? Literally, the name comes from a combination of Charis, the goddess of beauty and elegance in Greek mythology, and “ya,” a German word for yes. But most important, it’s an affordable car with the best fuel economy of any non-hybrid, up to 40 miles per gallon. And with two models available for less than $13,500, the Yaris is far more affordable than any new hybrid. I drove a hatchback version for a week, and my official Toyota Yaris review is that it’s a remarkably fun and efficient car. If you lament the loss of the Geo Metro, the Yaris is your modern-day remedy, but also twice the car the Metro ever was.
The Yaris may be new to America, but it has been Toyota’s best-seller in Europe for several years. Not only is that a sign of the car’s popularity and reliability, but anyone considering a Yaris can be confident that Toyota has had plenty of time to work out any kinks. The two versions of the Yaris are a two-door hatchback and a four-door sedan. Both may look small, but they’re surprisingly comfortable inside.
The Yaris hatchback is particularly roomy in the front seats, with its high ceiling and aerodynamic windshield. Legroom can sometimes be a challenge for backseat passengers, but there’s ample shoulder and headroom; I regularly filled the Yaris with people and heard far more positive comments than complaints. The hatchback has a tiny trunk, but if you don’t have passengers you’ll have decent cargo space by using the back seat or even folding it down. There also are compartments, cup holders and cubby holes galore; the Yaris truly maximizes its space.
Another fun interior feature is the stereo, which can play mp3 CDs. Plus, there’s an auxiliary plug through which you can wire in your iPod or other portable music device. The only thing I didn’t like about the interior was having the speedometer in the center of the car rather than directly in front of me.
The sedan version is 18.7 inches longer than the hatchback, providing more space for passengers and cargo, and making it as roomy as traditional compact cars such as the Ford Focus.
Outside, the hatchback Yaris has a spunky design that turns heads; many asked if it’s a hybrid just because it looks so different from anything else out there. The sedan has a more conventional appearance, but isn’t boring by any means. Both come in unique and attractive colors.
The Yaris’ engine has punch. I had no trouble getting up to speed on highways, and I enjoyed darting around and away from SUVs. With its zip and nimble handling, the Yaris is an absolute blast to drive. I had so much fun that I sometimes forgot to drive with fuel economy in mind; nevertheless, I averaged 36 mpg and only needed gas once after more than 400 miles.