The 2013 Toyota Yaris continues in its role of providing inoffensive, inexpensive travel with the promise of Toyota-style reliability--and the current model, the second year of a complete redesign, adds more appeal in the form of crisper styling and an improved interior.
The Yaris, however, loses out on the green kudos usually award to the Toyota range. The similarly-sized Toyota Prius C, rated at 50 mpg combined by the EPA, handily beats the Yaris, at just 32 or 33 mpg combined, depending on which transmission you specify.
Perhaps it's designed to appeal to a different sort of customer. There are hints of the larger Corolla and Camry to the styling, and while there's little to really catch the eye, it's not unattractive either. Sharp creases and chunky lines abound, giving the car a reassuring impression of solidity. That solidity is genuine, as well as implied: The stronger body structure and additional airbags have earned the Yaris excellent safety ratings--including the coveted Top Safety Pick status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
If you like a degree of choice when it comes to engines, you might be disappointed. The sole powerplant is an unremarkable 106-horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder. Two transmissions are available; a five-speed manual, and a four-speed automatic.
The five-speed manual is more fuel efficient, returning an EPA-rated 33 mpg combined, with 37 mpg on the highway and 30 mpg city. The automatic lags behind, with 32 mpg overall, 36 highway and 30 city. The manual is also the more pleasant car to drive, the old-school four-speed auto delivering languid performance and getting rather noisy at higher engine speeds. Next to the Prius C, it's all a bit old-tech.
The electric power steering is nicely weighted, though, and SE models get a stiffer but still comfortable suspension tune that doesn't sacrifice comfort.
Whether as a three-door or five-door hatchback, the Yaris is sized for tight city streets, and that means that you trade off some interior space for maneuverability and parking ease. While front-seat accommodations are right on par with vehicles like the Corolla that are a class larger, what you give up in return is back-seat space.
There are plenty of bins and other storage space, although cargo volume and versatility is not nearly as 'magical' as in the brilliantly designed Honda Fit. It's a pleasant enough interior, though, with nice materials and detailing plus a straightforward new instrument-panel design, with the gauges directly in front of the driver.
For 2013, Toyota has stepped up its game with the inclusion of the former Tech Audio package in all Yaris trims--even the base Yaris L. That means six-speaker sound, SiriusXM satellite radio compatibility, HD Radio, an auxiliary input, a USB port, iPod connectivity, automatic sound leveling, Bluetooth hands-free calling, and Bluetooth audio streaming capability are included across the model line--a significant advantage for a model that starts at around $15k.
That said, the 2013 Yaris keeps it simple; you still won't find a navigation system, heated seats, or leather upholstery on the options list at any trim level.
For more details, see the full review of the 2013 Toyota Yaris on our sister site, TheCarConnection.
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