I drove it like my dad paid for the insurance and tires, but the Toyota Yaris SE wouldn't whimper or whine. I didn't set out to harm the little car, but it had a smirky attitude and wanted to run. So I obliged.
The Yaris SE with manual transmission is a fun car. It's not fun like a Mini Cooper S or a Miata, but for a subcompact hatchback that seats five -- four of them in relative comfort -- it seemed a good deal at $17,340 as-tested, which included floor mats.
The 2012 Toyota Yaris is a complete makeover that is slightly larger with more angular and attitudinal styling. It is sold only in three- and five-door hatchback body styles; the sedan will continue only in fleet sales.
The wheelbase has been lengthened by two inches, to 98.8 inches, with overall length growing by 2.9 inches, to 153.5 inches. Height was reduced by a half inch, but there is more headroom and cargo room. The three-door has a 30.8-foot turning circle; the SE 5-door stretches to 36.7 feet. But the SE, with quicker ratio steering, takes just 2.3 turns from lock to lock versus three turns for the other models.
Yaris is sold in three trim levels, with entry-level L and LE models available in three- or five-door body styles. The sport-tuned SE is available only as a five-door. Both body styles are powered by a 106-hp, 1.5-liter, four-cylinder. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on the L and a no-cost option for the SE. A four-speed automatic transmission is optional and standard on LE. Fuel economy ratings are 30 mpg city, 38 hwy for the manual, 30/35 for the automatic.
Safety features include nine standard air bags, including a driver knee bag and seat-cushion bags. Other elements include Advanced Whiplash Injury-Lessening front seats, electronic stability and traction controls, ABS, electronic brake-force distribution and Brake Assist.
Also unique is a new single-windshield wiper with wet-arm system that sprays washer fluid (GM style) from the base of the wiper arm directly in the path of the blade. The single blade saves weight and improves visibility, Toyota says.
Standard equipment levels have increased along with the price. 2012 starting prices range from $14,875 for the three-door with five-speed manual transmission to $17,960 for the SE five-door with four-speed automatic. All models include air conditioning and a basic four-speaker, CD audio system with full connectivity via USB and auxiliary ports. LE and SE models add a six-speaker system with HD radio and Bluetooth music streaming technology. The LE also includes standard power windows and remote locking.
The front seats are now wider and sculpted to reduce fatigue. Yaris L has a one-piece folding rear seat, while LE and SE editions have a 60/40 split fold-down rear seat. The Yaris SE has a sport-tuned suspension, quicker ratio steering, four-wheel disc brakes and 16-inch alloy wheels. Body treatments include smoke-trim multi-reflector halogen headlights, fog lights, color-keyed grille with mesh insert and front and rear underbody spoilers, a rear spoiler and rear diffuser, set off by a chrome exhaust tip.
Inside there is a leather-trimmed, tilt-adjustable three-spoke steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, sport seats with six-way adjustable driver's seat and four-way adjustable passenger seat. And in case you wondered, Yaris is named for a Greek goddess symbolizing beauty and elegance.
2012 Toyota Yaris SE
--Body style: subcompact, 5-passenger, front-drive, 5-door hatchback
--Engine: 106-hp, 1.5-liter, DOHC, 16- valve; 103 foot-pounds torque at 4,200 rpm
--Transmission: 5-spd. man.
--Fuel economy: 30/38 mpg city/hwy; 87 octane
--Fuel capacity: 11.1 gallons
--Cargo space: 15.6 cubic feet
--Front head/leg/shoulder room: 39.5/40.6/52.5 inches
--Rear head/leg/shoulder room: 37.6/33.3/51.8 inches
--Length/wheelbase: 154.7/98.8 inches
--Curb weight: 2,295 pounds
--Turning circle: 36.7 feet
--Standard equipment includes: remote locking, power locks-mirrors-windows, cruise control, tilt (leather-wrapped) steering wheel, 6-speaker iPod/USB/Aux. audio system with voice control, 6-way adjustable driver's seat, 60/40 folding back seat, fog lights, 4-wheel-disc brakes, 16-inch alloy wheels and all-season tires.
--Safety features include: 9 air bags (including front seat-cushion air bags), vehicle stability control, traction control, ABS, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist
--Base price: $17,160, including $760 freight; price as tested
--Options on test car: carpeted floor mats $180
--Where assembled: Japan
--Warranty: 3-years/36,000-miles bumper to bumper; 5-years/60,000-miles powertrain
Mark Maynard is driving in cyberspace at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage. To find out more about Mark Maynard and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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