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2012 Toyota Yaris SE 5-Door Liftback

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Published on Wed, Jul 25, 2012

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

2012 Toyota Yaris SE 5-Door Liftback

By Reed Berry As I reflect on many years of driving, I have owned quite a variety of cars. I haven't purchased a lot of vehicles because, quite frankly, I'm the type of person who likes to keep a car for a long time, drive it to death and get my money's worth. My first car at the age of 16 was a used 1966 Buick Riviera with a white exterior and white leather upholstery. What the heck was I thinking? I must have looked like a teenage pimp. Since then, parked in my driveway have been a Buick Skylark, a Honda Civic, not one but two Daihatsu Charade hatchbacks (remember those?) and a Saturn SL2. Two years ago, when my Saturn didn't pass the smog check and the mechanic simply started shaking his head rather than telling me the extent of the needed repairs, I knew it was time for something newer and more dependable. On the way home from failing my smog check, I stopped at my local Toyota dealership, left the troubled Saturn as a trade-in, and drove home in a shiny new 2010 Toyota Yaris.


I knew at the time I wanted a Yaris. They are small, practical and economical and, since a close friend owned one, I already knew how much fun to drive they can be. Two years later, I continue to enjoy my Yaris but, now that the opportunity to road test a newer model has presented itself, I have jumped at the chance to spend a little quality time with a 2012 Yaris 5-door liftback. It will be interesting to see how this popular vehicle has changed in just two years. The exterior has changed somewhat, but retains the short, sloping hood that virtually disappears once you are seated in the vehicle. I appreciate this design element because, personally, I would rather have an unobstructed view of the road ahead rather than staring at the hood of the vehicle I’m driving. The sculpted front end and wrap around headlights give the car a distinctive look that I consider to be a cut above many of the small cars currently on the market. A bolder, sportier grille is yet another improvement in the plus column. Upon entering the vehicle, a number of additional changes are apparent. The most noticeable as a Yaris owner is that the instrument panel has been moved from the center of the dash to the driver’s side. Admittedly, when I bought my Yaris, glancing toward the center of the dashboard to check my speed and fuel level took a little getting used to but it has actually been pretty cool and it gives the car a rather futuristic look. Also, positioning it in the center resulted in what could be considered a hoarder’s dream come true – not one…not two…but THREE glove box/storage compartments. There is one on the driver’s side and two (one above the other) on the passenger side.


Apparently, Toyota decided to return to a more conventional layout by moving the instrument panel to the left and reducing the number of glove boxes to one. Normally, I wouldn’t be in favor of this change because sometimes raised instruments panels tend to block a portion of the driver’s view through the windshield but, in this particular case, Toyota designers have done a good job of providing a low profile instrument panel that leaves the driver’s view unobstructed. Thankfully, the bare-bones instrument panel with warning lights of previous Yaris models has been replaced with a panel featuring actual gauges. Now for the bad news – the dash itself looks very, for lack of a better word, cheap. I have never seen brushed plastic before. Wood grain has its own distinct appearance and brushed metal certainly has a rich look, but the textured ‘brushed’ plastic look in the Yaris just isn’t attractive. Considering the attention to detail throughout the car, the appearance of the dash is rather disappointing. Entertainment and convenience features have seen some changes, as well. The new Yaris features an above-average sounding six-speaker sound system with AM/FM/CD/MP3. The main advantage is that the sound system features HD Radio so, if you enjoy listening to talk radio on AM as I do, it will sound as crisp and clear as if you were listening to FM. For safe – and legal – hands-free cell phone use while driving, Yaris features Bluetooth with Voice Command. There is also a USB port and iPod connectivity, but accessing the iPod jack in the glove compartment seems a bit inconvenient.


Clearly, with 1.5-liter 106-horspower 4-cylinder engine, Yaris is not the most powerful vehicle on the road. But, is it enough power for this car? Yes. Paired with a 5-speed manual transmission (a 4-speed automatic is available) in the test vehicle I’m driving, acceleration is impressive and it reached freeway speeds almost effortlessly. My car has an automatic transmission and performs well but, needless to say, a manual transmission makes Yaris feel a little sportier and more agile. The car handles well on just about any road surface that I have encountered thus far. Yaris is a front-wheel drive vehicle with sport-tuned power steering and suspension, so it is definitely a solid performer. I have noticed that the turning radius in the new Yaris isn’t quite as tight in my 2010 model, but unless you plan on making U-turns in someone’s driveway or on very narrow streets, there’s no need for that tight a turning radius. That of the new Yaris is certainly acceptable. But here is what really makes the 2102 Yaris SE worth considering. The price and value. The test vehicle I’m driving is priced at under $18,000, and that includes only one listed option ($180 for carpeted floor mats and cargo mat) and a delivery processing and handling fee of $760. Everything that I’ve mentioned so far is standard equipment on this vehicle, as is a variety of other amenities including a leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob, cruise control and remote keyless entry.


This is truly a lot of car for the money. Yaris will save you even more money with its miserly fuel usage. With EPA estimates of 30 mpg in the city and 38 on the highway, you’ll see more of the highway and less of your local gas station. Certainly, Yaris isn’t the answer to everyone’s automotive needs. If you are looking for a head-turning sports car or tire-smoking muscle car, Yaris isn’t for you. It is a worthy choice, however, for someone who seeks a value-packed economical daily driver. For information on Toyota products:


SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2012 Toyota Yaris 5-Door SE Liftback Price: $16,400 (base) $17,340 (as tested) EPA fuel economy ratings (miles per gallon): 30 city / 38 highway Engine type: 1.5-liter DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder Horsepower: 106 @ 6,000 rpm Torque: 103 @ 4,200 rpm


Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive Transmission type: Five-speed manual transmission (four-speed electronically controlled automatic available) Steering: Sport-calibrated electric power steering; power-assisted rack-and-pinion Suspension Front: Sport-tuned independent MacPherson struts Rear: Torsion beam Brakes: Front: Power-assisted ventilated disc brakes Rear: Disc brakes Wheels: 16” alloy wheels Dimensions Overall length: 154.7 inches Overall width: 59.4 inches Overall height: 58.1 inches Curb weight: 2,295 lbs


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