2018 Toyota Yaris Review

2018 Toyota Yaris - The 2018 Toyota Yaris hatchback gets sportier styling and is generally fun to drive.


A top car mechanic and restorer has told me most people will buy any car as long as it looks good. Maybe so. A sportier appearance promises to help sell the 2018 subcompact Toyota Yaris, and its frugal nature may also help move it from dealer lots.

The new Yaris hatchback, which shouldn't be confused with the larger Mazda-based Toyota Yaris iA, comes with two or four doors. (Why some call four-door hatchbacks "five-door" vehicles seems odd. Anybody ever see anyone use the hatch entrance as a door?)

The 2018 Toyota Yaris looks sportier with a bold front fascia that features a new grille and updated headlight design. The rear has wider horizontal tail lights and a revised lower bumper to give the car a wider-looking "hot hatch" look. The 155.5-inch-long Yaris  really doesn't look all that small, although it has only a 98.8-inch wheelbase.

The Yaris comes in L, LE and SE trim levels. I tested the top-line sporty SE, which has a unique front piano black mesh grille and chrome trim. It also has a sport suspension, rear spoiler and 16-inch machined alloy wheels with dark accents that carry wider (50-series vs. 65-series) tires. The SE thus is the most fun-to-drive Yaris version.

My test car had an electronically controlled 4-speed automatic transmission with a responsive manual-shift feature, although the Yaris is available with a 5-speed manual in the two door L and four-door SE. A four-speed automatic seems old-fashioned, but Toyota probably figures the car's engine works best with a four-speed automatic. Or it's just trying to keep the car's price down. In any case, the automatic's console-mounted shift gate is notchy-likely to prevent drivers from selecting the wrong gear.

List prices, excluding delivery and processing charges, range from $15,635 for the base two-door L hatchback with the manual transmission to $19,060 for the SE four-door hatchback with the automatic. The SE with the manual costs $18,260, and the L with the automatic is $16,385.

All Versa versions have a sophisticated 1.5-liter 106 horsepower dual-overhead-camshaft four-cylinder with variable valve timing. It provides lively acceleration to highway speeds but delivers just average 65-75 passing times. The engine loves to rev but drones when asked to work hard. Still, it's reasonably quiet for a small four-cylinder. Fast cruising in no problem, partly because the car has been given a quieter interior.

Only regular grade fuel is needed, and estimated fuel economy is 30 miles per gallon in the city and 36 on highways with the manual and 30 and 35 with the automatic.

My test SE's thick steering wheel controlled the electric power steering, which was fast (2.65 turns lock-to-lock) and had a firm feel and decent road feedback. The car stayed flat in curves taken at above-average speeds. Its handling was helped by its wider tires, sport suspension, stabilizer bar, vehicle stability control and traction control.

However, the short wheelbase and firm suspension occasionally resulted in a jerky ride. Thus, I wouldn't call the SE a comfortable long-distance car. However, higher-profile tires and such may allow the L and LE versions to have a more comfortable ride.

Four-wheel disc brakes are controlled by a pedal with a linear feel and bite hard.

The base Yaris L comes with standard items such as air conditioning, tilt (but not telescopic) wheel with integrated audio controls, integrated backup camera display and power door locks and windows. Both the L and LE have an Entune Multimedia bundle that includes a 6.1-inch touch screen display, AM/FM/CD player, MP3/WMA playback capability, six speakers, auxiliary input jack, USB 2.0 port with iPod connectivity and control, hands-fee phone capability and music streaming via Bluetooth and Siri Eyes  Free.

The SE gets what Toyota calls a "big-car-kind" of audio upgrade with Entune Audio Plus with connected navigation app using a 7-inch high-resolution touch screen.

The LE adds power mirrors, cruise control and steering wheel audio controls. The SE includes LE interior upgrades and sport-fabric trimmed seats with contrast white stitching, piano black interior trim accents and the audio upgrade.

My test car's doors opened wide for easy entry and placement of child seats. The car is rated as a five-seater, but while three adults can sit comfortably, drivers with long legs will wish their seat moved back further. And a tall occupant behind the driver will want a little more knee room. At least the center of the rear seat has a soft cushion. The large, comfortable front sets offers decent side support.

The hatch opens high and wide, but the small cargo area couldn't hold an average week's worth of groceries. However, flipping the 60/40 split rear seat backs forward greatly enhanced cargo space.

The analog and digital instrumentation can be quickly read, and the touch-screen display is simple to use. Climate controls are conveniently handled by large round dashboard dials, although twin cupholders are placed a little low in the front console, where the automatic shift lever sometimes partially blocks them. Rear occupants get a single cupholder placed at floor level at the end of the front console. The interior is generally attractive but has a good amount of  hard plastic, which at least is easy to clean.
The four-door model's front doors have storage pockets, and the dual extendable sun visors have (unlit) vanity mirrors.

A clever feature is a wet-arm windshield wiper system that sprays washer fluid from the base of the wiper arm directly into the blade's path for improved cleaning. (Why haven't other automakers thought of this?) All Yaris versions come with a standard rear window wiper.

There are nine air bags, including side curtain shield bags, lane departure alert, and Toyota's Star Safety System, which includes electronic brake force distribution and Smart Stop technology.

The heavy hood is held open by a prop rod, but the important engine oil filler tube is located front and center.

The Yaris has a rigid body structure that makes it feel ready for tough urban driving wars. The SE is especially handy in such combat.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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