The 2018 Toyota Yaris is Toyota's least expensive vehicle, putting its priorities on low-cost ownership and easy around-town driving. Yet it offers high-tech safety equipment, good resale value, and a new face and interior that give it a bulldog-like playfulness. While it's not much fun to drive, it's worth a look if you'd rather pinch pennies than burn rubber.
You'll Like The 2018 Toyota Yaris If...
With its advanced safety features, low price and efficient and inexpensive operation, the Toyota Yaris checks a lot of boxes. The hatchback body means practicality, and the updated styling is certainly eye-grabbing, and maybe even cool from some angles.
You May Not Like The 2018 Toyota Yaris If...
Despite its aggressive appearance and "SE" trim level, there's little that's sporty about the Toyota Yaris. Take your performance dollars to the Ford Fiesta ST or even the turbocharged Chevy Sonic. Also note that the Honda Fit has better and more flexible cargo space thanks to its flip-and-fold rear seats.
The 2018 Toyota Yaris gets a visual tune-up this year, with a more aggressive nose and tail. Inside, all Yaris models get SE-levels of interior trim. Note that the Yaris is a different car from the Yaris iA, which itself is a refugee from the now-defunct Scion brand.
Toyota has worked hard to keep the Yaris from feeling cheap, and it is most evident inside. The door tops and other surfaces have a soft-touch finish, and the simple dash design cleanly integrates Toyota's touch-screen infotainment. However, there are shortcomings. There's no telescoping steering wheel available, making it hard to get comfortable. Rear-seat passengers are going to feel cramped, and that's whether you pick the 3-door or 5-door Yaris. Behind the seats is some decent cargo space though, and the manually adjusting front seats are pretty comfortable.
Whether you choose the 3-door or 5-door model, the 2018 Toyota Yaris has the same exterior dimensions, the primary distinction being the slightly sportier look of the 3-door. If you plan on using that rear seat frequently, the 5-door offers much better access. We like the new nose, and the way it gives the little Yaris an aggressive, bulldog-like look. But this is French bulldog, not English, and the squat proportions make it kinda cute. The SE adds a bit of visual pizazz like black trim and a rear spoiler.
Toyota’s Yaris offers a lot of things at its modest price tag, but driving passion isn't one of them. With only 106 horsepower available it's a slow ride to 60 mph, and neither the rubbery and vague 5-speed manual nor antiquated 4-speed automatic really help acceleration feel anything better than barely acceptable. Toyota has tuned the suspension for comfort, and it delivers a smooth-for-a-small-car ride. The Yaris SE is moderately better, with a slightly stiffer suspension, but without any additional power. That said, it's fine for just put-putting around town, and it's likely the sensible types attracted to the Yaris will be more thrilled with the parking-lot maneuverability afforded by the little Toyota's diminutive size. However, note that competitors like the Chevy Spark and Honda Fit offer a CVT automatic or more gears, which improve both performance and fuel economy.
The least you can pay for the 2018 Toyota Yaris L with a manual transmission is $16,520, which includes the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) and the $885 destination charge. On the other side of the equation is the 5-door Yaris SE with an automatic transmission, a combination that puts you out $19,945. That's not bad for a new Toyota, but it's on the high side for the subcompact segment. Both the Ford Fiesta sedan and hatchback squeak in below the Yaris, as do the Hyundai Accent and Nissan Versa Note. Before buying, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their new Yaris. While this Toyota's initial price is slightly higher than the competition, it is expected to hold its value better than most, trailing only the Honda Fit in residuals.
Most prominent among the standard features is the Toyota Safety Sense-C suite of active safety features, new last year. In addition, you get power windows and locks, air conditioning, and an infotainment system with a 6.1-inch touch screen, Entune, AM/FM/CD player, HD Radio, USB port and Bluetooth wireless connectivity. However, this is a base model of an already-cheap car, so the base model is missing power-mirror adjustments, cruise control and steering-wheel-mounted audio buttons, all standard on the LE model that also adds keyless entry and an automatic transmission. All models include ToyotaCare, which grants two years/25,000 miles of scheduled maintenance and roadside assistance.
If you want more stuff in your Yaris, you have to climb the trim ladder. We mentioned what the LE adds; if you want all the things, you'll have to step up to the SE. That brings along a "sport-tuned" suspension, LED daytime running lights, projector-beam headlights with LED accent bar, 16-inch alloy wheels, and interior and exterior accents. One quick pro tip: If you want a 5-door Yaris with a manual transmission, the SE is the only way to go. The SE also adds a larger touch screen (7.0 inch) and navigation.
SAFETY SENSE-C TECHNOLOGY
The Safety Sense-C suite of high-tech collision avoidance warns drivers of a frontal collision or if they're drifting into the next lane. It can even automatically apply the brakes in an emergency. Impressive, especially considering it was just a few years ago that this tech was rare even on luxury cars.
While the availability of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto has taken the bloom off the Entune rose, it's nice to see that even the least expensive Yaris hatchback comes with the system's 6.1-inch touch screen, USB port with iPod connectivity, Bluetooth hands-free phone compatibility and voice control.
Under the Hood
There's one engine for the 2018 Toyota Yaris: a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder that's good for 106 horsepower. It sends this to the front wheels through either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic. That's not a lot of power, and the transmissions' gear count is low by today's standards, but the Yaris holds its own around town. Out on the highway though it's the Little Engine That Barely Can, and that goes double if you want to pass someone; instead, we suggest learning the power of patience. The clunky manual feels antiquated in its operation, too. Fuel economy is pretty good though, and the little engine goes just fine on regular-grade gasoline.
106 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
103 lb-ft of torque @ 4,200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 30/36 mpg (manual), 30/35 mpg (automatic)
The 2018 Toyota Yaris is the kind of no-frills econobox that, decades ago, established Toyota as a player in the U.S. But the definition of "frills" has changed, and with it our expectations of what modest dollars can buy. So the 2018 Yaris gets aggressively updated styling this year with a new nose and tail. Standard equipment includes collision warning, automatic braking and lane-departure warning, something that can't be said of primary rivals the Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, Ford Fiesta and Nissan Versa. Yet the Yaris still offers the kind of easy driving and low cost-of-ownership experience one expects from a Toyota, even a little bitty one. With two years of complimentary maintenance, strong resale value and overall practicality, the 2018 Yaris is a compelling subcompact choice.