Toyota Yaris: Small Footprint; Big Value

The 2020 Toyota Yaris is subcompact model with hatchback and sedan choices.

If you take heed to various Internet reports, you may think that new car ownership is far beyond your reach. Indeed, in May 2019, Kelly Blue Book reported the average transaction price for a light vehicle (passenger vehicle) was $37,185.

But the average transaction price can be certainly misleading, as it is based on what consumers choose, including luxury models and well-equipped pickup trucks. The market for sub-$20,000 vehicles remains strong with most manufacturers offering multiple models. For its part, Toyota is represented by three models, including two Yaris subcompacts: a sedan and a hatchback.

That Toyota still offers any models priced below $20,000 is amazing, especially as most come with its Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 package of driver-assist technology features. These safety items aid drivers in avoiding accidents, while also reducing their insurance premiums. But the tech is not cheap: it can cost thousands of dollars per vehicle to offer a full suite. Toyota offers the tech to stay ahead of federal requirements and to supply consumers with what they want.

As for the Yaris, it doesn’t have TSS 2.0. Instead, it features low-speed forward collision warning, and forward automatic emergency braking. Why the omission of adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and other features? For the simple reason the Yaris isn’t really a Toyota.

Yes, the Yaris is branded by Toyota, but it is the work of Mazda, which is partly owned by Toyota and remains a strategic partner for several projects, including this model and an upcoming jointly owned factory in Alabama. The current-generation Yaris, introduced in 2017, replaces a Toyota designed and built-in-France vehicle. This one originally was developed for Scion and is still sold as the Mazda 2 in many other markets, but not in the U.S.



Design Highlights

Mazda’s design influence is all over the Yaris. In fact, save for the appropriate Toyota badging and thin upper grille, everything about the Yaris is a Mazda.

That’s not just a badge thing either, especially if you’re already a fan of the brand’s KODO (soul of motion) design scheme. The look includes curving lines, rounded edges, and pulled-in corners. It adds a distinctive look to each model, adding personality too.

The list of standard features is impressive with the hatchback as this model comes with fog lamps, heated side mirrors, alloy wheels, and a rear spoiler. LED lights are standard with the top trim model.

Inside, the cabin is a cut above what you’d expect in this segment with its split dashboard, choice materials, and spacious door pockets. Where cabins from another era screamed “cheap,” the Yaris’ interior imparts an upscale vibe.

The front seats aren’t especially comfortable, however, especially for tall passengers. My six-foot-frame felt alright, until I realized thigh support was lacking an inch or two of room that would have been desirable. As for the rear compartment, the space back there is also quite small, suitable best for a pair of youngsters. We think most people will opt for the hatch and the extra utility gained by folding down the rear seat.

The list of standard interior features includes full power accessories, push-button start, air conditioning, and cloth seats. Opt for the top-trim model and you’ll gain a tilt-and-telescopic steering column, imitation leather seats, and automatic climate control.


Tech and Safety

You won’t find lots of high tech features the Yaris, but you’ll enjoy enough to find the experience satisfying. At least that’s our opinion.

The 2020 Yaris has a 7-inch touch-screen display, a six-speaker audio system, Bluetooth, two USB ports and now comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone compatibility. The latter choice is new for this year and is a welcome feature, especially with the included turn-by-turn navigation features.

As for the display, it won’t look familiar to Toyota owners as the Mazda layout was kept with this model. Still, the panel features big icons and may also be managed by a control knob.

Toyota products also have a standard suite of safety features offered under the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 umbrella. But because the Yaris is, in fact, a Mazda, those features are not included with this model. TSS 2.0 is one of the more advanced packages offered and includes lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control. Although those features are absent, the Yaris does have low-speed automatic emergency braking with collision avoidance warning.



Under the Hood & On the Road

All versions of the 2020 Yaris are motivated by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. This one develops 106 horsepower and 103 pound-feet of torque and works with a six-speed automatic transmission (a six-speed manual gearbox is standard with the Yaris L sedan).

The Yaris is geared toward efficiency, with a 40 mpg highway rating. Keep this point in mind when pressing down on the gas pedal and the return on your effort is a token response, at best. Indeed, the Yaris simply shines as a Point A to Point B vehicle, as it delivers just enough propulsion to move this diminutive model.

We give the Yaris props for its decent steering and nimble handling. The brakes are firm, but we should remind you that the ride is bumpy at times – this vehicle simply isn’t large enough to consume most abrasions. Kudos for the manufacturer for delivering a smooth-shifting automatic too.



Choosing Your Yaris

Toyota offers the 2020 Yaris sedan in L, LE, and XLE trims and the hatchback in LE and XLE trims. The sedan starts at $15,650 and tops out at $18,750. The hatchback costs either $17,750 or $18,750. All prices do not include the $945 freight charge. There are no package options available, therefore you won’t find such amenities as a premium audio system, leather seats, or a 115-volt outlet.

Our pick for either body style is the top-trim XLE. This model delivers everything the Yaris offers and at a final cost below $20,000. Also, we’d choose the hatchback as it has more cargo-carrying space than the sedan.


Competitive Set: Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Nissan Versa, Volkswagen Golf, and Honda Fit.


2020 Toyota Yaris Specifications


Toyota 2020 Yaris
Segment Subcompact car
Price Range $15,650 to $18,750
Destination Charge $945
Standard Engine 1.5-liter, I4
Horsepower 106 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque (lb.-ft.) 103 @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission Six-speed manual or automatic
Seating 5
Curb Weight (pounds) From 2,385
Wheelbase (inches) 101.2
Length (inches) 171.2
Width (inches) 66.7
Height (inches) 58.7
Head room (f,r…inches) 38.2, 36.8
Legroom (f,r…inches) 41.9, 34.4
Shoulder room (f,r…inches) 53.1, 50.0
Hip room (f,r…inches) 48.6, 49.5
Storage (cubic feet) 15.9 (hatchback); 13.5 (sedan)
Gross vehicle weight rating (pounds) NR
Towing (pounds) NR
Payload (pounds) NR
Fuel regular
Fuel Tank (gallons) 11.6
EPA Fuel MPG (city/highway/combined) 32/40/35
Manufacturing Plant Mexico

Data compiled by Tom Keegan. Specifications supplied by the manufacturer.


See AlsoHighlights of the 2020 Hyundai Accent

Photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine. All rights reserved.

Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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