The Hyundai Accent owns the small car category in Canada. It had a comfortable lead over the Toyota Yaris at the end of 2018. TheKia Rio, Nissan Versa, were in a tight race for third with Chevy Spark and Honda Fit hot on their heels. But, with the exception of the Spark and Yaris, sales were down across the sub-compact class as Canadians flock to crossovers.
Toyota has never been one to shy away from a good fight
In pursuit of a larger slice of this shrinking pie, Toyota has given the tiny Yaris a new look for 2018. It also gets additional standard safety features, new wheels, and a revised interior. Heated front seats, backup camera, and hill start assist are all now standard across the board.
The 2018 Toyota Yaris Hatchback comes in CE, LE and SE trim levels. Pricing starts at just over $15,000 for a three-door CE with a manual transmission.Next up is the five-door LE at $16,700 with the manual. At this point you also get air conditioning; remote keyless entry, cruise control, and power adjustable heated exterior mirrors.
The line-topper is the five-door SE hatchback at $18,350, again with a manual tranny. It also comes with a six-speaker audio system with satellite radio, and both USB and aux inputs. This version also boasts upgraded seats, 16-inch alloy wheels, and projector-style halogen headlamps.
Competitors can match the Yaris for price and features. But they cannot match the name.
This is a Toyota, promising exceptional quality, reliability and resale value. These traits are more important at this end of the price spectrum, where expendable income is hard to come by. Toyota knows this, and has worked hard to make sure Yaris owners have a positive experience. It figures that when income increases, they will stay with the brand when it comes time for a replacement.
The tester was the top trim SE with a four-speed automatic transmission. Most competitors offer at least six speeds in their automatic transmission. It took a few days to realize the Yaris was short a couple of cogs. The throttle has been tuned for plenty of initial tip-in power, giving the impression there is more under the hood than is the case. Keep your foot in it for a long period of time, as is necessary to reach highway speeds, and the little four starts to run out of breath pretty quickly.
Around town, it feels rather sprightly – and stingy. The upside of lightweight and an efficient engine, is impressive fuel economy. I recorded several sessions at less than 7.0 litres/100 K despite a heavy right foot and no attempt to save fuel. Despite the skinny tires and beam-type rear suspension, the Yaris provides a decent level of ride comfort without falling over itself when pushed in the turns
The Yaris has one large single wiper, a unique but effective way to clean the windscreen. It also has a very effective heater, quickly warming the interior after a cold start during the recent, lengthy cold snap. There is a surprising amount of space for a vehicle that casts such a small shadow.
There is little provision for small items, and the cup holders are too close together
Toyota is pushing safety as a way to draw away from the pack. It’s least expensive vehicle, carries a suite of active (preventative) and passive (protective) safety features on all trim levels. The Toyota Safety Sense package, includes pre-collision warning, lane departure alert, automatic high beams, backup camera and hill-start assist.
Model: 2018 Toyota Yaris SE 4 five-door hatchback
Engine: 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, 106 horsepower, 103 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel
Transmission: four-speed automatic
NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 7.9 / 6.8
Length: 3,945 mm
Width: 1,695 mm
Wheelbase: 2,510 mm
Weight: 1,050 kg
Price: $19,350 base, $21,067 as tested, including freight
Competition: Chevrolet Spark, Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio,
Options on test vehicle: none