2012 Toyota Yaris: Sized for the Times

In an era of diminished expectations, the 2012 Toyota Yaris appears to be just the ticket.

It doesn't cost a whole lot; it's very functional; it's filled with safety features and it offers good fuel economy. Frankly, it is not all that different from the previous edition of the popular small car, but it features incremental improvements in just about every area.

For instance?

Well, the wheelbase is 2 inches longer -- not a huge difference, but enough to offer better interior room. That wheelbase increase is accompanied by a 2.9-inch increase in the Yaris's overall length, again not groundbreaking but enough to make the Yaris seem more comfortable. In fact, these simple tweaks give the new Yaris 68 percent more cargo space plus additional headroom, despite the fact that the roofline is actually a fraction of an inch lower. The rear liftback is one of the keys to the Yaris's versatility.

Don't expect sizzling performance (reduced expectations, right?), but both three-door and five-door models are powered by a sophisticated 1.5-liter, 16-valve, four-cylinder DOHC engine equipped with variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-i).

The tried-and-true engine produces 106 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, and 103 pound-feet of torque at 4,200 rpm.

All Yaris L, LE and SE models are available with a new four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission -- somewhat surprising since so many cars are being equipped with six-speed automatics these days. A five-speed manual transmission is available on L and SE models only, but it doesn't turn the Yaris into a sports car.

With nine standard airbags, the all-new Yaris offers an impressive array of safety features.

Standard driver and front-passenger dual-stage airbags (SRS) are complemented by front-seat mounted side airbags and a knee airbag for the driver. Roll-sensing side airbags are fitted to both front- and rear-row seats, but that's not all on the safety front. The Yaris features Toyota's Star Safety System, which includes vehicle stability control (VSC), traction control (TRAC), an antilock braking system (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and brake assist. The new Yaris also features Smart Stop Technology, Toyota's brake-override system. One unexpected cool feature is the single windshield-wiper with wet-arm system for reduced weight and better performance.

You want stuff? You got it.

All Yaris models include standard electric power-steering, power-assisted ventilated front disc brakes, power door locks and a cold-weather package. Other standard features include air-conditioning, six cup- and bottle-holders and a cover for the cargo area.

The base suggested price is $14,115 for the L-grade three-door liftback with a five-speed manual transmission. The SE-grade five-door liftback with a four-speed automatic transmission costs $17,200. Fuel economy for the high-volume automatic version is expected to be 30 mpg in the city and 35 on the highway.



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Driving Today: 2012 Toyota Yaris: Sized for the Times