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Nov 032011
 

By Clint Williams
Green Right Now

The 2012 Toyota Yaris is better than the car it replaces – evidence that increasing competition in the small car market benefits drivers.

The redesigned 2012 Yaris offers a leaner profile, but with more interior space.

The redesigned Yaris looks less cute – and that is a good thing. Earlier versions of the Yaris looked like a big bubble. The more aggressively styled (relatively speaking) 2012 Yaris is longer and lower. The wheelbase is now 98.8 inches, two inches longer, while the overall length of the car is nearly three inches longer at 153.5 inches.

The longer wheelbase gives the 2012 Yaris a more solid ride – the 2011 at freeway speeds felt a bit sketchy. The big payoff, however, is room for your stuff. The new Yaris has nearly 16 cubic feet of cargo space – a 68 percent increase over earlier models.

The exterior is not as cute, but the interior is less quirky. Again, mostly a good thing. The center-mounted instrument cluster has been shifted to the left and now is more easily viewed through the steering wheel. The downside, the glove box behind the steering wheel is gone. Always liked that.

The 2012 has a comforting array of safety features that include anti-lock brakes, brake assist, traction control, stability control and nine air bags.

The 2012 Yaris is still powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine generating 106-horsepower. The engine is mated with either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. The combination is enough to get you onto the freeway safely. Drivers shopping for thrills aren’t kicking the tires of a Yaris.

The drive train is pretty thrifty. The EPA fuel economy estimate is 30 miles per gallon in city driving and 35 mpg highway. We got an average of 35 mpg, according to the car’s trip computer.

Also thrifty: standard equipment includes normal factory-scheduled maintenance and 24-hour roadside assistance for two years or 25,000 miles.

The base MSRP will range from $14,115 for the L grade three-door liftback with a five-speed manual transmission to $17,200 for the SE grade five-door liftback with a four-speed automatic transmission.

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