by Adam Lynton
The Toyota Yaris Hatchback briefly disappeared in 2019, with the artist formerly known as the Yaris iA taking over the sole duty of flying the Yaris flag. But the hatchback body style has made a return this year as an all-new subcompact hatchback, based on the Yaris sedan, which makes it fundamentally a Mazda 2 (a subcompact no longer on sale in the US) in Toyota drag. In this guise, the Yaris Hatchback enters its third generation, sharing a meager 1.5-liter four-pot engine with the Yaris Sedan that delivers outputs of 106 horsepower and 103 lb-ft of torque. The front-wheel-drive engine is mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox. Unfortunately, and unlike the Yaris Sedan, the Hatchback is not available with a manual gearbox at all. Even with most manufacturers pulling out of the subcompact class, the Toyota Yaris still faces stiff competition from the new Kia Rio5 and the highly respected Honda Fit.
The Toyota Yaris Hatchback is constructed on an entirely new platform this model year, derived from the overseas Mazda 2 hatchback, which in this case is manufactured by Mazda for Toyota. The exterior of the new Yaris subsequently exudes its Mazda DNA, with its design almost identical to that of the Mazda. The Yaris' powertrain has been equipped with a six-speed automatic gearbox that now runs things as standard. Smartphone integration in the form of both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality has been made standard, along with an active and low-speed pre-collision safety system. The new Toyota Yaris Hatchback is available only as a mid-spec LE model or as a top-spec XLE model.
The design of the new Yaris Hatchback is very Mazdaesque - ahead of the extended hood is a large center mesh grille bordered by chrome trim and sharp fascia contours, it's headed by Toyota's signature badge that's flanked by dual air intakes. Halogen projector-beam headlights, fog lights, and rear combination lights are standard as of the LE, with LED automatic headlights with integrated LED daytime running lights standard on the XLE. Both models are equipped with 16-inch Dark Gray split-spoke aluminum wheels. An integrated high-mounted rear spoiler and single chrome exhaust make up the rear view.
Mazda's platform has subsequently made the new Yaris Hatch a little bigger than the Yaris Hatch of old, its 101.2-inch wheelbase is 2.4 inches longer than before, and with an overall body length of 161.6 inches, the new Yaris Hatch is 6.1 inches longer than the old one. Both models ride with a ground clearance of 5.5 inches, however, the new model is slightly shorter in stature, 0.5 inches so, with a height of 58.9 inches. Both share a body width of 66.7 inches. The new Yaris Hatch is, on average, around 80 pounds heavier than the old model, with the LE presenting a curb weight of 2,396 lbs and the XLE a curb weight of 2,445 lbs.
There are seven cost-inclusive exterior color options available for both models of the Yaris Hatchback, including Chromium, Graphite, and Pulse. None of the hues are particularly striking and the two colorful hues, Sapphire and Pulse, have the Yaris look somewhat tacky. It's unfortunate that Mazda didn't lend its Soul Red Crystal exterior hue to the Yaris Hatch as well as any car would look "fire" dressed in that. Chromium is an otherwise decent option as the only one that really accentuates the Yaris's unique contour lines while complementing the standard Dark Gray alloy wheels.
It would be an understatement to say that the Toyota Yaris is no hot-hatch; it's a far cry from anything even remotely fast. With its meager 106 hp and 103 lb-ft 1.5-liter naturally aspirated engine and six-speed automatic gearbox, the Yaris accelerates from 0-60 mph in a lackadaisical ten seconds or more, depending on its mood on the day. The Honda Fit, which comes equipped with a more powerful four-cylinder engine and a manual gearbox option is considerably quicker than the Yaris, accelerating from 0-60 mph a full two seconds faster for a time of eight seconds. It's a shame that the six-speed manual gearbox that's featured in the Yaris Sedan is not available for the Yaris Hatchback - with that gearbox the Sedan manages to knock off more than a second on the Hatch's 0-60 mph time for a time closer to around 8.7 seconds. Vehicles in this class are generally not rated for towing in the U.S. and are typically unavailable in all-wheel-drive, with a front-wheel-drive system coming standard across the board.
The Toyota's 1.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine is a familiar one for the Yaris nameplate, having been utilized even in 2015 when the iA was still badged as a Scion. The engine hasn't even received any tune-ups or any level of refinement since then; it still delivers meager peak outputs of 106 hp and 103 lb-ft. The Yaris's new six-speed automatic transmission is a bitter-sweet improvement. While far better than the previous five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmissions that were on duty before - both of which were awful and considerably outdated - it is a bit slow and unintuitive.
The four-pot motor is competent in general; it's a far cry from punchy, but considering how light the Yaris Hatchback is, it can actually feel somewhat peppy pulling away from traffic lights. The meager outputs are just fine for commuting around town and at low to mid-speeds. It's on the highway, however, where acceleration dies down quickly. Thus, while scooting around the city streets will be comfortably smooth and consistent, getting up to highway speeds and performing overtakes will be gradual and planned-for affairs. The transmission is smooth but consistently slow - the responses could definitely be faster but hey, at least it ain't a CVT.
Like most subcompact hatchbacks, the Yaris carries a penchant for the tight city streets. Its small size, light weight, and tight turning circle make it a somewhat nimble little hatch. Its Mazda-sourced chassis is soft-tuned to deliver a comfortable ride quality, and while most road imperfections and typical undulations are suitably absorbed, any slightly larger bumps will unsettle the chassis significantly. The Yaris exhibits plenty of body roll around corners and tight bends, too, because of its soft-tuned underpinnings, but there's still a good amount of composure, and the chassis seldom feels loose or unstable. However, it's a budget-oriented vehicle, which means balancing an optimally comfortable ride with hot-hatch handling dynamics would be a difficult feat regardless. On the plus side, the cabin is exceptionally quiet and devoid of vibrations, which is another advantage to using the Mazda platform.
Where Mazda's contribution benefits the Yaris the most is in its steering; an impressive level of feedback from the front end of the hatch is ceded through to the driver via the steering wheel, which is not a typical trait for vehicles in this class. The steering effort adjusts according to the speed the Yaris is traveling at, light at low speeds for easy maneuvering, and hefty at higher speeds for added control. The brakes provide suitable stopping power and the brake pedal is consistent and easy to modulate in everyday driving conditions.
The Yaris's new six-speed automatic gearbox has done wonders for the hatch's gas mileage. While the old Yaris Hatchback returned gas mileage estimates of 30/35/32 mpg on the EPA drive cycles, the current model returns 32/40/35 mpg city/highway/combined - a substantial improvement, making the Yaris one of the best in its segment. The Honda Fit still manages to outperform the Yaris, however, with its base CVT-equipped model returning 33/40/36 mpg. But that's from only a single model, with all other models coming out on the short end in comparison to the Yaris. The Yaris's small 11.6-gallon gas tank accords the hatch with a maximum range of 406 miles on a full tank of gas.
A lot of Mazda's design ethos shines through in the interior of the Yaris as well. While the cabin does exude a budget-friendly impression, it's nevertheless a significant improvement over the interiors of the old Yaris and other Toyota products. The build quality from the outside-in is good: panel gaps are even, fixtures and fittings are firmly attached, and both the fabric and leatherette upholstery feel soft to the touch, yet adequately durable. The cabin is ergonomically presented too, the seats are nicely positioned at moderate seating heights and in-line with the door side armrests, but there are no center armrests for front and rear passengers. Another benefit of the Mazda platform is a surprisingly spacious interior where even adults up of six feet tall will find ample head and legroom in both the front and rear seats. Cargo volume is naturally affected by the hatchback design.
There is seating for up to five passengers in the Yaris Hatchback, but because of the Yaris's rather narrow structure, shoulder room in the cabin is limited, meaning the center rear seat may be uncomfortably tight with both rear outboard seats occupied. The seats are reasonably comfortable, though; they're well cushioned and contoured for support, the steering wheel features tilt and telescoping adjustability, and both front seats are six-way manually-adjustable. A suitable driving position should be easy for most people to find. Outward visibility from the driver's seat remains unhindered all-round, the controls are all in easy reach of the driver. Ingress and egress are no effort at all thanks to the moderate step-in height and roomy interior.
The interior color and material schemes for the Yaris Hatchback are rather simplistic, with standard gray fabric-upholstered seats complemented by gray cloth upper door trim and a gray center dash strip in the LE. Blue Black fabric-upholstered seats are optional for the LE (thankfully) which are complemented by black cloth upper door trim and a dark gray center dash strip. The seats in the XLE can be upholstered in either gray or black leatherette upholstery. A polyurethane steering wheel is standard in the LE, with a leather-wrapped steering wheel featured only in the XLE; both models get chrome door handles and chrome gear lever console trim.
There's 15.9 cubic feet of cargo room in the hatch of the Yaris Hatchback - that's half a cube more cargo room than the old Yaris Hatchback, and relatively close to the Honda Fits class-leading 16.6 cu.-ft. The Fit still has its famous rear magic seats over the Yaris though, offering unprecedented levels of passenger and cargo-carrying versatility. Nevertheless, the Yaris's 15.9 cu.-ft. hatch is good for about a week's worth of grocery shopping for the mid-size family. There is some versatility offered in the 60/40 split-folding rear seats, which can be folded down to expand cargo room. However, the shape of the cargo bay is a little impractical, meaning that the figure you see isn't always the figure you can use.
There's not much in terms of in-cabin storage. For front passengers, there are door side pockets with thin bottle slots, a tiny small-items tray ahead of the gearstick, two cupholders, and a medium-sized passenger-side glovebox compartment. There is only a single seatback map pocket behind the front passenger's seat, while in the rear of the center console is a small open cubby for loose change.
The Yaris LE, as a traditionally mid-spec model, comes standard with a decent selection of features as standard; there's a whole lot of value here considering the Yaris is a budget-friendly vehicle. As standard, you'll find a Smartkey system with remote keyless access and push-button start, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, six-way manually-adjustable front seats, and 60/40 split-folding rear seats. Power doors and windows with driver-side one-touch up/down functionality are also standard, and there's a day/night rearview mirror and manual air conditioning. In terms of standard driver-assist features, the LE and XLE both come equipped with an integrated rearview camera, cruise control, and a low-speed pre-collision system. All the XLE gets over the LE is a leather-wrapped steering wheel with added multi-function controls, a leather-wrapped shift knob and handbrake, automatic climate control, auto on/off headlights, and rain-sensing wipers.
Both Yaris models are fitted with the same infotainment setup, a seven-inch touchscreen display that's linked up to an AM/FM, HD, and SiriusXM radio compatible stereo with a six-speaker audio layout. The SiriusXM radio connectivity comes with a three-month trial, and other standard functionalities include Bluetooth wireless audio streaming and hands-free smart device operation, voice recognition, and Stitcher and Aha application connectivity. Both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard as well. The media hub in the lower front console comprises two smart-charging USB ports and a single auxiliary input jack and 12-volt power outlet. An integrated navigation system is available for installation to both models.
Its still early days for the Toyota Yaris Hatchback, but no recalls have been commissioned for the vehicle as yet. The 2018 and 2019 year models of both the Hatchback and Sedan have been recalled, however, once for an incorrect load carrying capacity label and again for non-permanent text on the load capacity label. J.D. Power has not yet availed the 2020 Yaris with a predicted reliability rating, but Toyota vehicles are generally renowned for their reliability. Toyota covers the Yaris with a typical three-year/30,000-mile basic warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
The 2020 Toyota Yaris Hatchback received a top-notch overall crash test safety rating of five-stars from the NHTSA. The IIHS is yet to evaluate the current model year Yaris Hatchback for its crashworthiness but has, however, evaluated the 2019 Toyota Yaris Sedan which shares the same platform as the current Yaris Hatchback; this model received top ratings of Good for five specified crash tests.
Neither of the two Yaris Hatchback models come with many safety or advanced driver-assist features as standard, but both feature six standard airbags, a rearview camera, cruise control, and a low-speed pre-collision system, at least. Both are also equipped with an active safety system that comprises dynamic stability control, a traction control system, brake assist, electronic brake-force distribution, an anti-lock brake system, and a brake override system. There are no other standard safety or advanced driver-assist technologies available for either of the Yaris Hatchback models.
The all-new Toyota Yaris is certainly better than what it used to be, in almost every way. It's still a super affordable entry-level vehicle offering a whole lot of value for money, and even as a budget-friendly vehicle, comes standard with a favorable array of features. The infotainment system is installed with full smartphone integration and with a boat-load of functionality, the stock sound system is decent, and there are plenty of device connectivity points. It's a reasonably comfortable car too. While to no extent a hot-hatch, it's a relatively fun city runabout. It's competent and nimble in the city streets and considerably fuel-efficient too. Though a true car enthusiast may be disappointed with the Yaris, it would make a great first car for most first-time drivers. It's practical enough for everyday use, whether hauling a few passengers to school or work, or just picking up groceries. The Yaris Hatchback could really have done with a manual gearbox just to make the most of an otherwise underwhelming engine, but aside from that, it's a great option as a starter car or affordable daily runabout.
The LE, which is considered a mid-spec Yaris model compared to the sedan lineup, starts things off with an affordable MSRP of only $17,750. This is followed by the top-spec XLE with a sticker price of $18,750. That makes the hatchback derivatives more or less the same price as their sedan counterparts. Those prices are, however, excluding Toyota's $955 destination and delivery charge as well as any tax, registration, or licensing fees.
There are just two Yaris models to choose from: the LE and XLE. Both are equipped with the same underpinnings and a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox.
Differences between the two trim lines are very minimal; the LE comes equipped with standard halogen projector headlights and standard variable intermittent windshield wipers, on the inside, it features a standard polyurethane steering wheel and fabric seating upholstery, the steering column is tilt and telescoping, the front seats are both six-way manually-adjustable, and manual air conditioning is standard.
The XLE is fitted with LED automatic headlights with integrated LED DRL's, it also gets rain-sensing variable intermittent windshield wipers. Moving to the inside of the XLE sees a leather-wrapped steering wheel, gearshift knob, and handbrake, leatherette upholstered seats, and automatic climate control.
There are no packages available for either of the Yaris Hatchback trims, and only a handful of standalone options are noteworthy. There is a $399 navigation system upgrade that incorporates onboard navigation to the infotainment system - but whether it's a necessity or not is debatable, considering both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality are included as standard, meaning Google Maps or Apple Maps will be accessible via your respective smart device.
Considering the top-spec XLE model is only $1,000 more than the mid-spec LE model, it's definitely our recommended pick from the two-strong Yaris lineup. The XLE's leather-wrapped steering wheel, gearshift knob, handbrake, and leatherette seating are a considerable improvement in comfort and quality to the cabin of the Yaris hatchback. The automatic climate control and steering mounted controls also improve the premium feel of things. It also comes with upgraded lighting systems including LED automatic headlights and DRL's. That's about it though as there are no notable packages or options to throw in, but as far as budget offerings go, it's a pretty solid subcompact.
The Honda Fit lineup comprises two more models than the Yaris's, including a base-spec model which offers far greater affordability, and a luxe model, which brings in features and value far beyond that of the top-spec Yaris. Some may find the base-spec Fit appealing for its super low-cost, and it's also more fuel-efficient than the Yaris, returning EPA estimates of 33/40/35 mpg when equipped with the CVT automatic. However, that's all it has going for it in its cheapest form, as it makes do with a tiny infotainment display, low-grade audio system, and no smartphone integration. The mid-spec Fit model has the option of a six-speed manual gearbox though, which - while less fuel-efficient - delivers a level of driver engagement that carries its own appeal to many. This model is also at the same level as the Yaris in terms of infotainment. But the higher you climb on the Fit hierarchy, the better it gets, with more practicality, more features, and higher levels of safety, thanks to Honda Sensing functionality. Apart from features, the Yaris and Fit both deliver a similar ride quality and levels of enjoyment, but the Fit takes the win for practicality, versatility, and for having a better engine with a manual gearbox.
The Toyota Corolla Hatchback is in a class of its own, literally; while the Yaris is classified as a subcompact hatchback, the Corolla is classified as a compact hatchback. It's a little bigger overall, which means more passenger room and greater cargo capacity. The Corolla is also equipped with a larger, more powerful engine that feels more competent at lugging the hatch around. The Corolla's engine, when equipped with the CVT automatic, is also a little more fuel-efficient on the highway. Furthermore, there's a six-speed manual gearbox available within the Corolla lineup, offering those who prefer some driving fun over fuel economy some added engagement. The Corolla is also more capable when it comes to handling dynamics, and it rides a little more comfortably too - the perks of being built on a newer, more expensive platform. The Corolla is the more enjoyable driver's car and comes outfitted with a few more features than the Yaris at the standard level; it is, however, $2,540 more than the Yaris, so some may find that the Yaris delivers greater value at its price. But overall, the Corolla is a better car and arguably worth the extra clams.