This is going to be a bit of a departure from my last review: going from 580 to 106 horsepower is a bit of a tough process. Forgive me if I didn’t take video, there isn’t terribly much exciting that this car can do while filming. To be quite honest, I expected to hate the little quirky Toyota. It has typical Toyota throttle and brake response: a little too much initial brake bite/throttle. It’s easily controllable and fairly straightforward to drive smoothly after a few minutes with the car. All of the voracious one hundred and six horses are harnessed by a simple 4 speed automatic, though a manual gearbox is available. The automatic transmission is comfortable, shifts fairly quickly, and works as you’d expect it to. The car is spritely around town but definitely lacks highway passing power. I’ll address the power issues in more detail later.
The suspension is firm, sporty, and well controlled. The Yaris feels remarkably stable at speed for a car with such a small wheelbase. Speaking of that wheelbase, the tires are pushed to the outside corners not only to improve driving dynamics, but also to add a feeling of spaciousness to the cabin. The interior is well made with some unique material choices here and there, such as the wood-inspired plastic dashboard, but overall the car is well made. I didn’t bother taking a picture of it as you really have to see and feel it for yourself. I’m sure it’ll be a polarizing thing: either you’ll love it or hate it. I’m a big fan. The seats are rather comfortable and sufficiently supportive as one would expect from a car of this ilk. The car has a strange and awesome single front windshield wiper that reminds me of early 90s DTM cars. The stereo, which I’m almost certain comes from Pioneer, works quite well, and has standard bluetooth streaming and calling capabilities. It sounds extremely clear and surpassed my expectations for car of this price. Cruise control and steering wheel controls are well laid out and easy to use. The chassis is communicative with good steering and a composed and tossable nature. All in all, the car is a quirky little thing that just makes you smile, whether looking at it or driving around in it.
My last paragraph will address the engine and transmission in opinionated detail. Here’s my only gripe with the little Yaris: the power train just isn’t up to the same level as the rest of the car. This car would be an absolute joy if it had the old-but-not-forgotten 2ZZ engine, the one found in the Lotus Elise (and the Toyota Celica, but a Lotus sounds so much cooler). At 1.8 liters and around 180hp depending on trim, the 2zz would be a blast in this platform. Even with the MR2 Spyder 1zz with around 140hp would be better than the anemic 1.5 liter that is in there. Toyota, all I’m saying is please put your glorious power train history to use. With legendary engines such as the 2JZ from the Supra, the smooth-as-silk V8 from the LS400, and even lesser known motors like the 3SGTE, 3SGE BEAMS, doesn’t the Yaris deserve greatness too? Please Toyota, if you’re listening, take this Yaris and put a better drive train in it. It deserves it, it really does.