The Toyota Yaris has been completely redesigned for 2012. Wheelbase has grown by 2 inches and overall length by 2.9 inches, with the roofline dropped by 0.6 inches and tire size increased.
Longer and lower, the all-new 2012 Yaris looks sportier and more aggressive; it brings a solid 0.29 coefficient of drag, helping slip Toyota's subcompact to an EPA-estimated 30/38 City/Highway miles per gallon when equipped with the 5-speed manual transmission.
Even better for some, cargo volume has been increased a whopping 68 percent in the 5-door, with more headroom and passenger space.
The Yaris has nine standard airbags, counting four for airbag curtains, as Toyota does. The front seats are as sporty and comfortable as any we've found in that class, and feature Toyota's Advanced Whiplash Injury-Lessening (WIL) design, supporting the upper body from head to lower back. Like all new cars nowadays, the new body uses an impact-absorbing structure with high-strength steel to better distribute collision forces.
The wheelbase is 98.8 inches, a fraction longer than the Ford Fiesta, Honda Civic and Mazda 2, but a fraction shorter than the Chevy Sonic; however its length is inches less than those cars. The Yaris is called a five-seater, but don't count on it.
The 2012 Toyota Yaris comes as a 3-door or 5-door Liftback. A sedan version is not available. After decades, it seems the eminently practical hatchback/liftback body style is starting to prevail over the smoother looking but less functional compact sedan.
Yaris comes in three trims: L, LE, and SE (5-door only). The Yaris L and sport-tuned Yaris SE come standard with a tight 5-speed gearbox, while a new 4-speed automatic transmission is optional; Yaris LE only comes with the new automatic, which is compact, lightweight, and lower friction.
Standard equipment in all models has been increased, and options are reduced to make buying simpler. Considering equipment, compared to last year's prices, there's no increase in the base L models and a small increase in the LE and SE models.
The Yaris uses a famously strong 1.5-liter, 16-valve, four-cylinder DOHC engine with variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-i), producing 106 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 103 pound-feet of torque in a broad curve peaking at 4200 rpm.
It has electric power steering, resulting in good road feel without losing easy low-speed turning. Suspension changes in the 2012 Yaris include re-tuned front MacPherson struts and rear torsion beam, for a better ride and tighter corning; this is an improvement we could feel, and applaud. The front stabilizer bar has been increased to 24.2 mm (0.95 in.), and tire sizes increase to 15 inches on the Yaris L and LE models, 16 inches on the Yaris SE, our test model.
The Yaris SE is the hot rod, with quicker steering, more expressive styling and a sportier interior. Its front disc brakes are larger, and it's fitted with alloy wheels and wider profile P195/50/R16 tires.
Standard safety equipment includes frontal dual-stage airbags, front-seat mounted side airbags, driver's knee airbag, and roll-sensing airbag curtains front and rear. Yaris features Toyota's Star Safety System, including stability control, traction control, ABS with EBD, and Brake Assist. Standard equipment includes Smart Stop Technology, Toyota's system that defaults to the brakes when both brake and gas pedal are pushed. Also standard is Toyota Care, covering scheduled maintenance and 24-hour roadside assistance for two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first.
The 2012 Toyota Yaris comes in 3-Door and 5-Door versions, all of them using the 1.5-liter engine with a choice of 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual, all with front-wheel drive.
Yaris L ($14,115) comes as a 3-door Liftback with a standard 5-speed manual transmission, or with the 4-speed automatic ($14,480). Yaris L 5-door Liftback comes only with the automatic ($15,140).
All Yaris models come well equipped, with cloth upholstery, air conditioning, power door locks, six cup and bottle holders, AM/FM/CD player with MP3 and WMA playback, USB and auxiliary ports, cargo storage cover, electric power steering, ventilated front disc brakes, cold weather package, halogen headlights, intermittent wipers, and 15-inch steel wheels. Power windows and cruise control are not standard.
Yaris LE 3-door ($15,480) and Yaris LE 5-door ($15,960) come standard with the automatic transmission, adding power windows, power mirrors, remote keyless entry, steering wheel audio controls, and audio system with HD radio, six speakers and Bluetooth music streaming technology. Cruise control is optional.
Yaris SE 5-door comes with the 5-speed gearbox ($16,300) or 4-speed automatic ($17,100). Yaris SE features a sport-tuned suspension, quicker steering ratio, bigger front disc brakes, rear disc brakes, and P195/50R16 tires and alloy wheels. It adds smoke-trim multi-reflector halogen headlamps, integrated fog lamps, color-keyed grille with sport mesh insert, front and rear underbody spoilers, rear spoiler and diffuser, and chrome-tipped exhaust. Inside, there are sport seats and sporty instrumentation, with analog speedometer and tachometer, and digital display. A leather-trimmed three-spoke tilting steering wheel includes audio controls and standard cruise control. The driver's seat adjusts six ways and passenger seat four ways.