It used to be that picking a small car was pretty easy: there just weren’t that many candidates, plain and simple.

Now it’s like trying to pick a puppy from the pound. There are plenty of cute choices with all kinds of bark and sass, and more keep arriving every day it seems.

In that respect, the Yaris was more of an old dog than a young pup, but the upgrades for the 2012 model year at least keep it fresh enough to belong with newcomers such as the Mazda2, Hyundai Accent, Chevy Sonic and Ford Fiesta.

The first-generation Yaris that lasted for five model years wasn’t the liveliest runner on the track, but a roomy interior and low price kept it on the front burner. As well, the tiny Toyota could be had in two or four-door hatchback body styles, as well as a four-door sedan.

 

There’s no word if a trunk-equipped Yaris will again be built, but both hatches return in slightly enlarged formats.

The upgraded, crisper-looking Yaris will remain among the more popular small-car picks, even as the entire category adds variety at a steady clip.

Indeed the pound is getting bigger and the new pups are getting everyone’s attention, but at least the Yaris now has enough bark to be noticed.



Engine


Toyota is sticking with the familiar 106-horsepower 1.5-litre four-cylinder and five-speed manual transmission.

The optional four-speed-automatic is lighter than before and features reduced friction, but offers negligible improvement in fuel economy.

The Yaris’s current 7.0 l/100 km city and 5.7 highway rating with the four-speed automatic is nowhere near category leading, but a gasoline-electric hybrid that’s apparently being readied for a 2012-calendar-year introduction could elevate the Yaris to the head of the pack.

More cargo space

Overall length has been increased by about 7.5 centimetres, with much of that stretch occurring between the front and rear wheels where it aids passenger and cargo volume, the latter increased by up to 68 per cent, according to Toyota.

Despite the size adjustment, the car’s 1,045-kilogram weight remains about the same.

Base model

Toyota has yet to release final content specs, but base models are traditionally only available as two-door hatchbacks and stick to the basics. This model also features a one-piece folding rear bench while a 60:40 split-folding seat is standard in other trims.

Air conditioning is normally included as part of an upgrade package, along with power door locks, remote keyless entry and a four-speaker audio system. You can also expect a sport package in the lineup.

Toyota Yaris

What you should know about the 2012 Toyota Yaris:


  • Types: Two- /four-door, front-wheel-drive sub-compact hatchback.

  • Engine (hp): 1.5-litre DOHC I4 (106).

  • Transmission: Five-speed manual; four-speed automatic (opt.).

  • Market position: The growth in sub-compacts over the past few years has been significant, fueled by rising gas prices and fuel-economy standards. However, with hot new competitors, Toyota can no longer afford to rest on its name.

  • Mileage: 7.0 l/100 km city, 5.7 highway (automatic).

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