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Green Test Drive: The Yaris

 Posted by on September 14, 2009
Sep 142009

By Clint Williams
Green Right Now

A small price tag and big fuel economy are the principal attractions of the Toyota Yaris, but the new-this-year five-door liftback version has other charms. Take, for example, not one, not two, but three glove boxes, including one behind the steering wheel.

The four-door hatchback joins a two-door hatchback and a four-door sedan among the versions of the subcompact Yaris. Also new this year for all three body styles are an anti-lock brake system, front seat-mounted side airbags and front and rear curtain side airbags as standard equipment.

The Yaris is powered – although powered may be too strong a word – by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 106 horsepower. It’s not as weak as it sounds. The engine, mated with a four-speed automatic transmission, provides plenty of power to merge onto freeway traffic.  (And crash ratings are new models are good.) If you’re looking for thrills, you’re not looking at a Yaris to start with. What people looking at a Yaris will be looking for is good fuel economy. And they will find it. The EPA fuel economy estimate is 29 miles per gallon in city driving and 35 mpg on the highway.

Steering is light, good for parking lots, but too light for anything over 15 mph. There is little road feel coming through the steering wheel.

While the Yaris is small – the liftback’s wheelbase is 96.9 inches, five inches shorter than that of a Toyota Corolla – the cabin is quite roomy for four adults, with plenty of rear legroom. A 60/40 split rear seat that slides, reclines, and folds completely flat provides nearly 26 cubic feet of cargo room. It’s easy to slide in the box containing a 32-inch flat-screen television.

The Yaris liftback starts as low as $13,305, but most buyers will certainly want the Power Package that includes power door locks, windows, and mirrors and the fold-flat rear seats. The test car, which also had remote keyless entry ($230), had a sticker price of $16,505.

There are now a lot of cars in that price range, but the Yaris is worth checking out if you don’t want to spend a lot of money now or later.

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