The current incarnation of the Toyota Yaris is over 10 years old now. Yes, it has undergone some esthetic modifications and its interior has been retouched, but the model has been essentially the same for too long now.
In the industry as it is now, that’s unacceptable. Well actually, there’s one way that it could be acceptable. We’ll get to that in a bit.
Before I describe the Yaris and go through its pros and cons, I’ll start with an essential point. Which is, if you’re buying a 2018 Toyota Yaris, you’re not buying a car with issues. In fact, it is pretty much indestructible, and if you so desired you could still be driving it in 2038.
And that’s a big reason why it sells so well (although, not quite as well as it did in its heyday).
Another selling point is the rock-solid reputation of the brand. If this model carried anything but the Toyota badge, we’d likely be talking about it in the past tense.
All of this adds up to a car that is good but doesn’t necessarily represent a good buy in its segment.
While the styling of the Yaris is still acceptable thanks to changes made to the exterior design over the years (with the back end getting a better grade than the front), the mechanical components housed within date from another era.
Exhibit A is the 1.5L 4-cylinder engine. There’s no questioning is exemplary, but it’s coarse and consumes far too much for the number of cylinders it has. During my week-long road test, I was never able to lower the average fuel consumption below 8.0L/100 km. During the same week, a Honda Accord, twice the size, gave me a total of 6.8L/100 km.
Hard to believe!
The engine isn’t solely to blame for this. The automatic transmission that’s mated to it doesn’t have 6 speeds, as is pretty much standard for the category, but a measly 4. Four! That was perfectly acceptable… in the 1980s.
But in 2018? Really? Meanwhile the manual transmission that serves the base model has only five gears.
Once on the highway, the engine sheds some screechy tears, and the RPM dial hovering around 3,000 announces that you won’t be saving much on fuel. And this is one of the primary reasons people buy a subcompact car in the first place.
And there in a nutshell is the problem with the 2018 Yaris.
Given how reliable the car is, it could be forgiven for its aging insides if Toyota had the decency to stick on it a price tag that reflects the value of the technology it offers.
So, a Toyota Yaris at $9,995 make sense. Plus it would be a nice gesture to thank a clientele that has remained loyal to the brand over the decades. That condition for making this car an acceptable purchase that we mentioned earlier on? This would be it.
But at around $19,000, which was the price tag on our tester? Um, no. Some might even find that insulting.
Here’s another problematic aspect for the Yaris. For the past 10 years, its rivals have been modernizing, and today they offer newer and much better-equipped cars. The new Kia Rio and Hyundai Accent, for example, offer more for less.
In terms of the driving experience, the Yaris lags even further behind! The Accent in particular offers a more responsive, comfortable ride, and much better sound insulation.
There’s also the Honda Fit. It is superior in every respect, and its interior is miles ahead of the Yaris. And it too is indestructible!
We could go on.
The reality is that, when you take away reliability, there’s nothing the Yaris does that its competitors don’t do better.
At the wheel
So what’s it like to drive the 2018 Yaris? From what you’ve just read you might think it’s on the level of getting a root canal. But’s not as bad as all that, we should make that clear.
The seats, for one, are relatively comfortable and the car rides comfortably, at least on well-paved roads. When the road surface gets rougher, the older vintage of the chassis comes into play, while the back end jumps around a bit.
With only 109 horses under the hood, its performance capabilities are rather modest, and produce quite a racket! To get anywhere, you need to put the pedal down to the max. Often. Passing other cars on country roads? Let’s just say it requires making quick calculations and the ability to accurately judge oncoming vehicles’ speeds. Better to play it safe.
Power isn’t everything, you say. But what we’re referring to is not speed, per se. It’s more that when you get on a highway onramp, trusting that you can safely merge with heavy traffic should be a given.
In the Yaris, it’s necessary to calculate your move with care.
As for the brakes, well, make sure you judge your distance well. The brakes are not that sharp, and braking distance is just too long, in our view.
Steering? Adequate, but no more than that. It certainly doesn’t give you much of a feel for the road.
All of which relates back to our first and main point: the age of the model shows through in every element.
As we made a point of saying early on, the Yaris is not a bad car. Its problem is that it’s an aging product that is suffering for the inaction of its manufacturer, which has been content to make only minor changes for too many years now.
Its fantastic reliability means that we can’t not recommend the 2018 Yaris. But before you shell out $20,000 for a technologically outdated car, you would be wise to look elsewhere.
Another option might be to shop around for a 2010 or 2011 edition of the Yaris itself. You’ll get it for a third of the price and it will last you just as long.
Clearly, Toyota has to renew its Yaris. In its current form, the car is becoming difficult to take seriously, especially with the price tag attached to it.
Consumers deserve better.