by Adam Lynton
We'd forgive your confusion over just what car the 2019 Toyota Yaris is. Last year, walking into a dealership and ordering a car with the lonesome Yaris denomination would've seen you driving out in a hatchback; this year, you get the sedan that was formerly known as the Yaris iA, one of the last vestiges of the Scion brand. It's not even a true Toyota, but rather a rebadged Mazda 2, a subcompact that shares underpinnings with the CX-3 crossover. All of this culminates in a sedan that is very different from your usual Toyota - it looks and feels more like the Mazda on which it is based, yet still offers Toyota-like efficiency, comfortable cruising ability, and adequate safety features, all at a reasonable price. Across the range, you will find a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine under the hood, producing 106 horsepower and 103 lb-ft of torque. These numbers won't exactly set the stopwatches on fire, but the tried and tested powerplant is very efficient and effective. Against dynamically talented rivals like the Ford Fiesta and Kia Rio, the Yaris needs to be good, and in this case, the badge-engineered special delivers.
For 2019, the Yaris (previously the Yaris iA) is only available as a subcompact sedan and comes with new front and rear styling enhancements. The range is now broken down into L, LE, and XLE trims.
The 2019 Yaris Sedan boasts a new sport-inspired front grille that incorporates a honeycomb insert into a very modern, angular design. Additional exterior styling enhancements include black and chrome accents, with fog lights and a new rear lip spoiler coming standard on the LE and XLE models. Power exterior mirrors are now included on the L, while the LE and XLE trims have sport mirrors with LED turn-signal indicators. Daytime running lights are standard from the entry-level model, which rolls in on 15-inch steel wheels. The top two trims get 16-inch dark gray split-spoke alloys, while LED headlights are exclusive to the top-most XLE.
The 2019 Yaris Sedan measures in at 171.2 inches long, has a height of 58.5 inches, is 66.7 inches wide, and ride on a 101.2-inch wheelbase. This makes it quite similar in size to both the Honda Fit and Nissan Versa Sedan. Curb weights start at 2,385 pounds for the entry-level variant, 2,401 lbs for the mid-range model, and 2,482 lbs for the range-topping XLE. This is a much lighter sedan than the larger Toyota Corolla, with even the comparably sized Chevrolet Sonic being heftier by a little more than 300 pounds.
Seven colors are available for the 2019 Yaris, available across the lineup with no additional cost required for any of the options. The palette includes Frost, Chromium, Graphite, Stealth, Sapphire, and Pulse. Icicle White is a new option for 2019. We like the dramatic red of Pulse or the understated elegance of the Icicle color scheme, but all the colors are well suited to the Yaris' design.
All models in the range share the same powerplant, namely a 1.5-liter Mazda engine, delivering 106 horsepower and 103 lb-ft of torque. These outputs are a little anemic in comparison to other sedans in the class, with the Sonic offering 138 hp and 148 lb-ft, and even the Honda Fit doing just a bit better as well. Still, the Yaris manages to limp its way to 60 mph in around nine seconds (or just below if you have the manual 'box fitted), and forces itself to a top speed of 120 mph if you ask it to. This is actually par for the course, though, with few rivals managing much better. The Yaris Sedan is not exceptionally fast, but it has two brilliant transmission options that help take the edge off and turn an average drive, into a much more exciting experience. Using either a standard six-speed manual or a six-speed auto, the engine sends its meager power offerings to the front wheels and translates it to a cheerful, easy-going city driver.
All 2019 Toyota Yaris Sedan models are powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine with dual variable valve timing and injection. Producing 106 hp and 103 lb-ft of torque, the Yaris offers only a fraction less power than its rival, the Nissan Versa Sedan. The power is managed by either of two transmissions, a standard six-speed manual or an optional six-speed automatic gearbox. The latter is ideal for commutes in traffic, managing the little engine well enough, but it's slow to respond and overtakes require a fair amount of preemption. The manual is far superior, plating up a slick shift action and giving the driver hands-on involvement to get the most out of the four-cylinder motor, which once revved out, delivers enough punch for the Yaris' diminutive figure.
While it might have Toyota badges on the hood and tailgate, the bits beneath the surface of the Yaris are all Mazda, which bodes incredibly well for the ride and handling. Being a subcompact without a performance-focused engine, the Yaris thrives on momentum driving, carrying speed through corners to avoid the need to reaccelerate on the other side. The chassis brings poise and composure to the table, while scant weight and a well-tuned suspension mean there's little body roll and lots of fun to be had - more fun than any Toyota this side of an 86 has garnered for the last decade.
There's not much feedback from the steering, but the responses are direct and turn-in is crisp. Despite the suspension being eager to please, though, the Yaris also rides fairly well - absorbing most abrasions in its stride without being overly punishing on the occupants. But the short wheelbase and firmer setup do mean that larger bumps produce a fair bit of vertical motion, and it doesn't filter out the surface nearly as well as a Honda Fit.
Still, for dynamic ability and daily practicality, the Yaris strikes the sweet spot - Thank God for Mazda!
Excellent gas mileage is one of the Yaris' strong points. The star performer in this regard is the automatic gearbox, which allows the sedan to deliver EPA estimates of 32/40/35 mpg city/highway/combined. The manual versions achieve 30/39/34 mpg, which is still a step ahead of Nissan's Versa and even the Honda Fit. The Yaris can, with its 11.6-gallon fuel tank, manage a tick over 400 miles between fuel stops.
Supposedly able to seat five, the reality in this segment is that of those five, the three in the rear need to be no bigger than teenagers. That's the penalty paid for using the diminutive Mazda 2 platform, but it's one of the only downsides. The interior design is classy, high quality, and well laid out - feeling premium in a sea of hard plastics and utilitarian designs. In general, ergonomics are sound and the seats comfortable and supportive, but the driver's perch is a little too high for taller drivers and the limited steering and seating adjustment means that those taller than six-feet may struggle to get 100% comfortable. It's an all-round solid effort, and the Mazda infotainment system at the heart of it all is great in all areas except the lack of smartphone integration.
The five-seater Yaris Sedan offers 41.9 inches of legroom, 38.2 inches of headroom, and 53.1 inches of shoulder room up front. This is sufficient for most people, and even taller drivers will be alright - although the six-way driver's seat and tilt/telescoping steering wheel don't adjust enough for six-footers to get truly comfortable. We'd be hesitant to advise those who are substantially taller than six feet to choose any one of the vehicles in this segment, though, as it can get a little tight. The back is even tighter, with rear-seat space quite limited; two adults in the back will manage on shorter trips, but it's ideally suited for children only. Both the Kia Rio and the Honda Fit offer more space in the back.
Standard fare in the L and LE trims is cloth upholstery in Blue Black or Gray. The XLE offers the upgrade to leatherette in Black or Gray. For all models, the driver and front passenger get treated to sport bucket seats, which can adjust six ways for the driver, and four ways for the front passenger. It's only the top trim that gets a leather-trimmed steering wheel, though, and luxuries such as heated and ventilated seats don't even make it onto the options list.
The Toyota Yaris Sedan offers a trunk volume of 13.5 cubic feet, which is just a bit lower than average for the subcompact sedan class. The Kia Rio Sedan provides 13.7 cubes, while the Nissan Versa Sedan boasts 14.9 cubic feet - as does the Chevrolet Sonic. It's the Honda Fit that sets the standard though, with a whopping 16.6 cubic feet of capacity with the rear seats up - and hatchback practicality to boot. Although Nissan's Versa doesn't offer split-folding rear seats, the Yaris does - but it seems designers didn't think the whole process through, as the seats don't fold flat; loading bigger, oddly shaped items can be a problem in the Yaris Sedan, and you may need to find some other way to get your IKEA dresser home.
In terms of small-item storage, the Yaris offers cupholders where the center stack would be and slim door pockets. Together with a glovebox that is on the smaller side, the Yaris doesn't have much to offer.
The standard feature list may seem sparse, but for this segment, it is actually well specced. This includes air conditioning on the bottom two trims and automatic climate control on the top-spec models as well as remote keyless entry with push-button start on the top two trims. An integrated backup camera is standard across the range, as is cruise control, a digital clock, one 12-volt outlet, and an instrumentation cluster with temperature and warning messages display. Sport bucket seats in the front are either cloth or leatherette appointed, and a three-spoke steering wheel with audio controls can tilt and telescope - it is also leather-wrapped in the XLE trim. A low-speed pre-collision system is stock across all models, as is a tire pressure monitoring system and LATCH tethers on all rear seats. Heated seats are not available at all.
One of the highlights of the Yaris Sedan is the excellent infotainment system; a seven-inch touchscreen is mounted high in the center of the dash and is paired to a six-speaker AM/FM radio with satellite and high-definition radio compatibility. The screen is only touch-functional when stationary, though, and once rolling you need to use the iDrive-esque rotary controller on the center console which works flawlessly. SiriusXM is included with a three-month trial, and an auxiliary port - as well as two USB ports - allow for MP3 connectivity and device charging. The system also supports voice recognition, hands-free phone capability, and Bluetooth streaming. Navigation can be optioned on additionally, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not supported - the only real downside to the setup.
Despite two recalls, the Yaris Sedan scored an above-average rating of four out of five on the J.D. Power predicted reliability assessment. The recalls in question pertained to incorrectly printed labels for carrying capacity and load capacity, not a reflection on the vehicle's mechanical abilities. Still, it comes with a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. Two years of roadside assistance are also included with new purchases.
The NHTSA rated the 2019 Toyota Yaris Sedan with an overall safety rating of five stars out of five. Side crash tests were awarded full marks, too, while rollover tests obtained four out of five. The IIHS followed suit and scored the sedan its highest ratings of Good for five evaluations, with an Advanced score for front crash prevention systems.
All models are fitted with an Active Safety System, which incorporates EBD, stability control, traction control, brake assist, ABS, as well as a brake override system. A low-speed pre-collision system is also in place for all models, which scans the road ahead for potential hazards. A full complement of six airbags is fitted as standard for both driver and front passenger, as well as rear curtain airbags, while LATCH child seat restraints are present on all rear seats. A tire pressure monitoring kit, engine immobilizer, and child-protector rear door locks are stock features as well, with a rearview camera added for good measure across all trim levels.
If you're in the market for a four-door subcompact sedan, then the 2019 Toyota Yaris is a solid choice that offers a fun, yet comfortable ride, a good amount of standard kit, and exceptional fuel efficiency; added to this is the Toyota branding, which is known for its reliability. It does miss out on a few essential modern-day features in Android Auto and Apple Carplay, though, which younger smartphone-loving buyers will miss. Families of four who need to transport two young ones and all of their associated paraphernalia will find the Yaris sedan to be more than sufficient. If you need a bit more trunk space, it's probably worth checking out the Chev Sonic or the Nissan Versa instead. If power is what you're going for, you need to look elsewhere entirely.
But, although the Toyota Yaris Sedan might not be a master of practicality and straight-line acceleration, it certainly is a very decent jack of all trades that won't leave the majority of buyers wanting for more.
The 2019 Toyota Yaris Sedan is available in three models: entry to the range is through the $15,600 Yaris L, which can be had in either auto or manual at no additional cost. The LE version ups the price by $1,000 - also with either transmission - while the top-of-the-range XLE will set you back $18,700 and is only available with the automatic gearbox.
The Toyota Yaris Sedan is offered in three grades for 2019, L, LE, and XLE. Regardless of the model you choose, the 2019 Toyota Yaris Sedan is powered by the same 1.5-liter inline-four engine that churns out 106 hp and 103 lb-ft of torque. This engine is mated to a six-speed manual transmission in the L and LE (you can also opt for an automatic), while the top of the line XLE is exclusively paired with the six-speed automatic option.
The base L includes many standard features such as a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system, low-speed automated front emergency braking, plus cruise control, power mirrors, and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, which some rivals have as an option for the base trim.
The mid-range LE adds some additional features, such as a proximity key with push-button start, heated exterior mirrors with integrated turn signals, and some design elements like fog lights and a trunk spoiler.
Buyers can also go for the range-topping and fully loaded XLE model that ups the specification ante even further with rain-sensing wipers, automatic climate control, LED headlights, as well as leatherette-trimmed seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift lever, and parking-brake handle, which all brings a more luxurious feel to the cabin.
There's not much in the way of options for the Yaris Sedan, with most available additions being simple cosmetic accessories like a $275 rear spoiler. A center armrest for the front seats is a potentially worthwhile option at $145, while a navigation system will cost an additional $299. Sadly, that's it, and if you want a better-specced Yaris you'll have to move up the trim levels and accept what they've selected for you.
At this price range, and with the difference in MSRP between base and top-spec models being only around $3,000, it makes sense to opt for the top XLE trim. Still coming in cheaper than top-of-the-range Chevrolet Sonic or Honda Fit trims, the XLE offers the full complement of features and luxuries available for the Yaris range, including leatherette seating, automatic climate control, leather-trimmed steering wheel, push-button start, 16-inch wheels, and LED headlights. Although no further packages can be added on, it's the best of the 2019 Yaris range.
Like the Yaris Sedan, the Honda Fit is powered by a 1.5-liter inline-four, but the Fit's motor delivers 130 hp and 114 lb-ft of twist compared to the Yaris's 106 hp and 103 lb-ft. This makes the Honda a better choice for those looking for some added oomph and straight-line performance from their vehicles. However, that performance comes at the expense of fuel economy, as the Fit cannot match the Yaris' gas mileage figures. Larger families and buyers who frequently utilize their car for carpooling purposes will also prefer the Fit for its people (and stuff) moving capabilities since it offers more trunk space at 16.6 cubic feet compared to the Yaris Sedan's 13.5 cubes - a benefit of the Fit being a hatchback rather than a three-box sedan. The back seat of the Honda Fit is arguably a little more comfortable too. Pricing for the Honda Fit starts at $16,190 and goes up to $21,520 at the top of the range, while the Yaris is slightly less expensive, topping out at 18,700 for the XLE. While the Yaris Sedan offers much better value for money, the Honda Fit is the winner when it comes toe-to-toe with what the Sedan actually offers, with the addition of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay sealing the deal.
With an entry MSRP of just $12,460, the Nissan Vera represents one of the most affordable entry-level sedans on the market. However, the Toyota packs more standard kit, including 60/40 split rear seating, which the base model of the Versa does not, as well as more stylish looks in terms of the exterior design; the cabin of the Yaris is also streets ahead of the bare-bones feel of the Versa. While we cannot deny that the Versa has better cargo space and legroom, the Versa just feels like a low-rent sedan overall. It doesn't make much more power than the Yaris does, and - while coming close to the Yaris in terms of fuel efficiency - almost feels a bit like a step down in terms of quality in general. The Nissan doesn't hold a candle to the Yaris' dynamic drive either. We'd opt for the Yaris Sedan without hesitation.