Toyota enters the revitalized U.S. market for small and inexpensive cars with its 2007 Toyota Yaris, a model name that has appeared in Europe since 2000. But the 2007 Yaris, both the U.S. and European version, is a serious upgrade from the previous non-U.S. version. It uses Toyota's new styling, evidenced in its round nose, and has all of Toyota's strong build quality.
But this car is also designed to hit a rock-bottom price. Our test car, a three-door hatchback model (a sedan model is also available), has a base price of $10,950. Unfortunately, gadget fans won't find much to entertain them in a car designed for this low-end segment. Our Yaris had the $1,290 Power Package, which included a decent-sounding audio system with an MP3/WMA single-CD slot and an auxiliary input jack.
The power train is similarly basic in the 2007 Toyota Yaris, with the engine being its technology high point. The 1.5-liter four-cylinder power plant uses Toyota's VVT-I intelligent variable-valve timing and electronic throttle control. The five-speed manual is nothing to write home about; an equally unexciting four-speed automatic is available as well. Active safety equipment, such as traction control and even antilock brakes, is also sacrificed to keep the price in the bargain basement.
Although we focus on tech here at CNET, we found that the 2007 Toyota Yaris's low-tech nature does make it fun to drive, with a bit of hooliganism thrown in. For more normal purposes, it's comfortable enough for a commute and functional enough for errands around town, although it doesn't offer the luxury of navigation. It falls short in many departments for road or weekend trips. In this era of high gas prices, its fuel economy will be a welcome relief.
At this price level, the 2007 Toyota Yaris doesn't offer much in the way of cabin gadgets. However, Toyota has managed to keep the interior from looking cheap. The manually adjustable front seats are comfortable, and the cloth feels soft but tough. Fit and finish on the dashboard seem solid, and the materials have a nice texture. But an inexpensive build means less sound insulation, as we recorded 73 decibels during our sound-level check.
The instrument cluster--what there is of it--is centrally mounted on the dash. This arrangement makes it harder to monitor the speedometer, but this car doesn't go all that fast. The speedometer has a nice electroluminescent look, and a small LCD with a paper-white background sits to the right of it, displaying fuel level and trip information. These are nice touches on a down-market car.
The stereo fills a double-DIN slot at the top of the stack. Interestingly, the spec sheets say that without the Power Package, the Yaris merely comes prepped for a stereo, so expect a gaping hole in the dash. This is also a very aftermarket-friendly dash, with a size suitable for some pretty swanky head units. The stereo included in our test car had a single-CD slot that played MP3 and WMA discs. The controls make it easy to navigate folders and tracks, and the display shows ID3-tag information. An auxiliary jack behind the shifter allows for an MP3 player.
The audio quality in the 2007 Toyota Yaris is not bad, due to the fact that the seating position is high and the four speakers are set near floor level. This arrangement keeps any one seat from being blasted by one speaker, with the sound welling up from below. It's not really immersive, but there's some clarity at average volumes. Higher volumes ruin the quality quickly.
As expected, navigation, Bluetooth, and voice command are not offered on the Yaris. But Toyota has used the space left over by the lack of electronics creatively, putting odd little compartments everywhere. It has a glove box, as well as a compartment above the glove box. There is also a similar-size compartment above and behind the steering wheel, along with one in the lower dash by the driver's left knee. Other little cubbyholes can be found on either side of the stack.