New Car Review: 2012 Toyota Yaris

Front view of red 2012 Toyota Yaris
The 2012 Toyota Yaris 5-Door front view.

As unloved as the last-generation Toyota Yaris was, this new one will surprise a lot of people. We were among the Yaris' few fans here at TireKicker...considering it a perfectly good sedan in its class...but with a lot of competition at its price-point. It wasn't helped, among automotive journalists or buyers, by the fact that it wasn't an especially attractive car.

Well, Toyota has fixed that, with a 5-door Yaris design for 2012 that pictures don't do justice to. It is an utterly contemporary small car, with clean, crisp lines. It just plain looks good as you walk up to it.

Rear 3/4 view of 2012 Toyota Yaris in urban setting
2012 Toyota Yaris rear view.

In fact, in midlevel LE trim, the Yaris now has a polished, agressive look to it.

In 5-door form, your choices are the base L at $15,140, the LE at $16,100 and the SE at $16,400.

Our LE's standard gear included 15-inch steel wheels with wheel covers (the SE bumps you up to 16-inch alloys as shown above), anti-lock brakes, 9 airbags, tire pressure monitoring, color keyed outside mirrors (they're black on the L), air conditioning, remote keyless entry, power door locks and window, a tilt steering wheel with audio controls, an AM/FM/CD/mp3 audio system with HD Radio (AM sounds like FM, FM sounds like CD and many FM stations have additional channels that are usually commercial-free) and iPod connectivity and Bluetooth.

In fact, standard gear is all our tester had, apart from cruise control ($250) and carpeted floor mats ($180). With $760 added for delivery and handling, the bottom line came to $17,290.

The 2012 Toyota Yaris interior.
The inside is every bit as improved as the outside...if not more so. The funky center-of-the-dashboard speedometer is gone, replaced by a clear, legible gauge cluster directly in front of the driver. And materials have taken at least a two-level jump in the right direction.

Power? Well...it's 106 horses through a four-speed automatic transmission. This is not a pocket rocket. But as a reasonably-priced, comfortable, well-built commuter car, the Yaris has definitely moved up on our list of choices this year.

2012 Toyota Yaris 5-Door

Base price: $16,100

As tested: $17,290

Likes: Exterior and interior styling, attention to detail, quality of materials, fuel economy.

Dislikes: The looks now suggest a level of performance the car can't deliver. An engine/transmission upgrade and some suspension part swaps could probably fix that.

EPA estimate: 30 mpg city/35 mpg highway.