2006 Toyota Yaris Sedan
– Tight build quality
– Low running costs
– Good interior room
– Weak engine
– Susceptible to crosswinds
– Cheap stereo
Toyota sure is coming out with a lot of unique cars nowadays. All of these new nameplates concentrate on the practical side of the automotive spectrum, and the all-new subcompact Yaris sedan is one of these new crops of funky ducklings. Our Yaris sedan test drone is the replacement for the trendsetting but horribly disfigured Echo, and even though it still looks like half a car, it is aesthetically pleasant in a peculiar way, both inside and out.
The four-door Yaris sedan is essentially a Yaris hatchback with a luggage trunk slapped onto its rear end, but the two cars have very different styling. The sedan has a relatively long wheelbase for its overall size, with truncated front and rear overhangs. This obviously allows for more interior room, and it shows once you step inside this tall car. The dashboard design is refreshing and very Star-Trekky, but ultimately houses a limited number of functions, as expected from this segment. The Yaris is priced aggressively to compete with the likes of the Honda City and the Chevrolet Aveo, and such cost-cutting has its drawbacks. Excluding the seats, all other interior surfaces are made of hard plastic. The plastics do look good though, and has a better texture than that found in many big American cars. The futuristic dash doesn’t have floating LCD screens popping out of it, but it does have sturdy pop-out cup-holders, a metallic-look console with cool dials and an oddly-located central gauge cluster whose ludicrousness we still can’t get over. There are also a few other nooks and crannies spread out around the front passenger area, including a centre console box that doubles as an armrest. The stereo options are totally basic, good for getting traffic updates, but not something you’d use to throw an outdoor dance party with. The basic models get a radio cassette player with 2 speakers, while higher models get a CD player with a whopping 4 speakers. Luckily, Toyota uses a standard double-DIN space in the dash for the stereo, so it is easily replaceable with an aftermarket unit, as many young folks eventually do. A driver-side front airbag is standard, while only higher models get an additional passenger-side one.
The seats are designed to accommodate people of every shape and size, so they aren’t exactly well-bolstered, but the grippy cloth material is very upmarket in look and feel, while matching the door inserts. The front passengers have no shortage of headroom or legroom, while the case for the rear passengers is largely similar, much to our astonishment. The long wheelbase and tall roof has given the Yaris room similar to some midsize cars, so it really makes you wonder if anyone really needs cars any bigger than this if all you want is breathing room. If you also crave luggage trunk space too, suitcase room is impressive for a compact although, comparing unfairly, not nearly as cavernous as the Camry. However, the split rear seats in the higher models fold flat, leading to almost wagon-like cargo capacity.
For the Middle East market, the Yaris is equipped with a puny 1.3-litre inline-4 that struggles to pump out 84 hp at 6000 rpm and 120 Nm of torque at 4400 rpm. We had to rev its nuts off to merge with fast-moving traffic at a reasonable speed, but we did appreciate our super-smooth 4-speed automatic taking the pain away from shifting gears constantly to keep the engine in its power band, which is what you’d have to do if you go with the standard 5-speed manual. We also appreciated the little motor’s refined roaring-tiger growl, unlike new Audi engines which sound like coughing cows. In slow-moving traffic jams, the engine feels zippy and responds with a nice jump to moderate throttle inputs, while easily keeping up with that Ferrari in front and giving back eye-popping savings in fuel costs.
The Yaris drives well for the most part, with its diminutive size being both a blessing and a curse. It is blessed with tight handling rivalling many powerful cars and even some actual sports cars. It has a decent dose of body roll when zigzagging it with the soft steering, and our tester’s 15-inch alloy wheels aren’t even wrapped in aggressive rubber, but the Yaris can be made to corner tighter simply by lifting off the throttle and letting the back slide outwards ever so slightly, which is an amazing handling trait for a front-wheel-drive Toyota. We are so sure of its athleticism in tight curves that we believe it can outrun rear-wheel-drive behemoths like the Dodge Charger and the Chevrolet Lumina on snaking mountain roads. The only problem with the tall and lightweight Yaris is that it is more susceptible to crosswinds and passing trucks on the highway than heavier cars, making for constant steering corrections as the cars gets blown slightly off-course with each gust. It also allows a fair amount of wind and road noise to enter the cabin above 100 kph, and gets a little bouncy at speeds over 120 kph. The interesting bit is that after 120 kph, its stability does not deteriorate further and remains positively consistent all the way up to its as-tested top speed of 160 kph.
Braking performance is pretty decent for the car equipped with discs at the front only, probably thanks again to being light on its feet. The light pedal feel means you have to get used to braking while pressing on nothingness with your foot and feeling the car slow down, but we got used to this rather quickly. ABS with Brake Assist is standard on all Yaris models, which is a plus in this market segment.
The affordable Yaris sedan is a much-needed addition to the Toyota line-up saddled with two hatchbacks and a relatively expensive Corolla. It is light-years ahead of the embarrassing Echo in terms of drivability and refinement, while managing to look less goofy than the competition from Honda and Chevrolet. And being a Toyota, it will last forever.