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Economy meets versatility

<p>Toyota’s top-selling subcompact Yaris has picked up a lot of fans along the way since it first appeared, in hatchback form, in mid-2005 as a replacement for the previous Echo model.</p>

Yaris hatchback comes in many guises



A big reason for the Toyota Yaris’ appeal is the low entry-level pricing, but just as much can be attributed to the car’s wide variety of offerings.





Toyota’s top-selling subcompact Yaris has picked up a lot of fans along the way since it first appeared, in hatchback form, in mid-2005 as a replacement for the previous Echo model. Sufficient fans, in fact, to register 34,202 sales in ‘06 — almost twice that of Hyundai’s Accent, the segment runner-up — and snag 33 per cent of the Canadian subcompact market.


A big reason for its appeal is the low entry-level pricing, but just as much can be attributed to the car’s wide variety of offerings.





The Yaris RS offers the convenience of a standard flat-folding 60/40-split back seat.





Your model choices begin at $13,725 but that will only get you a bare-bones 3-door hatch in CE trim. Opt for a Yaris 5-door hatchback and you’re starting at $14,995, which also brings a better-equipped LE trim grade. Both body styles also come in sportier RS trim, the 3-door at $16,965 and the 5-door commanding a $17,695 tariff. The RS includes standard 15-inch wheels and tires (14-inchers on the CE and LE) and anti-lock brakes — though the latter are optional on other trim levels.


There’s even a recent 4-door sedan addition to the range, starting at $14,530. The sedan is mechanically identical to the hatchback, but rides on a slightly longer wheelbase. This doesn’t translate into much additional rear seat space but does help minimize ride choppiness over sharp bumps and dips.


On the safety front, side airbags are available on the Yaris sedan, but you can’t get side impact or side-curtain airbags on the hatchbacks.


As with all Yaris models, a 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder engine developing 106 hp propelled our 5-door RS hatchback. It doesn’t sound like much power, but it zips through traffic quite nicely and pays off on the highway, where a 120 km/h cruising pace required just 3100 rpm. Sedate drivers will find this engine decently refined and well-mannered at all times.


Everything else about the Yaris is nicely relaxed, too. The response to steering input is measured and fluent. Push hard enough and the front tires will lose their grip and start to slide, but who would ever corner that hard on public roads? The steering feels effortless, it handles tight spots well, and there’s a nice pedal feel under braking.


Although the body is quite narrow, the Yaris’ flat rear bench, with no wraparound at the ends, makes the most of the width available. Our RS also offered the convenience of a standard flat-folding 60/40-split back seat (other models get only a one-piece backrest that flops down onto the seat cushion).


Behind the wheel, you perch quite high on a seat cushion that supplies marginal thigh support, and the whole seat/wheel/pedals relationship seems faintly out of sync. As well, the heat/vent controls are rather low on the centre stack.


That said, what we have here is an affordable, fuel efficient, urban runabout for one or two occupants. If that’s what you’re looking for it should fill the bill quite nicely. Well over 40,000 buyers have already driven that point home.


















2007 Toyota Yaris RS




  • Type: Subcompact 5-passenger hatch. FWD




  • Price: $17,695




  • Engine: 1.5-litre L4 DOHC




  • Horsepower: 106 @ 6000 rpm




  • Torque (lb-ft): 103 @ 4200 rpm




  • Highlights: Ride comfort, overall refinement, handling manual transmission shift quality, fuel economy, split-fold rear seatback.