In addition to a single-disc CD player that supports MP3-encoded discs, the six-speaker stereo also features an AM/FM tuner with an HD Radio receiver. USB/iPod connectivity and an auxiliary input give users two options for bringing their digital audio into the car. Unfortunately, Toyota's engineers decided to play hide and seek with the connection points. A bit of digging reveals that the USB and 3.5mm audio input can be found tucked in the upper, passenger-side corner of the glove compartment--possibly the farthest point from the driver's seat on the entire dashboard. Average-size drivers can forget about quickly plugging in to either of these points without contorting and stretching their body. If you've got a USB key that you can leave in the glove box at all times, or you don't mind not having visual access to your iPhone, this isn't too big of a deal, but the proximity issue rendered these audio connections all but useless for me.
Fortunately, the Yaris' connection options don't end there because the stereo also integrates Bluetooth audio streaming as a standard feature. However, even this system behaved oddly during our testing. For starters, the stereo featured support for displaying metadata on its three-line monochrome display, which is great. However, if the audio app currently playing on the smartphone didn't supply the Yaris with data to display, the stereo would get confused and lock the volume at its current level, which is not great. You could still listen to the output audio, you just couldn't adjust the volume or access the play/pause or skip audio controls. So, although I was given access to third-party audio apps like Pandora, Spotify, and DoggCatcher, the only app on my Android phone that could be described as "fully functional" was the stock Music app. Switching back to a metadata-supplying app (such as the aforementioned stock Music app) fixed the lockout, returning volume and skip controls to my fingertips. Eventually, I devolved to simply setting the receiver's volume at near maximum and making on-the-fly volume adjustments using the smartphone--far from what I'd consider an "optimal" or "safe" solution.
Bluetooth hands-free calling is a far simpler affair. Although the Yaris' stereo doesn't support voice command, its monochrome display does present the driver with caller ID info for incoming calls and features memory and redial functions. Likewise, holding the Call button activates the system's microphone, giving access to the paired phone's own voice command system. For some, this will be an annoyance, but for fans of Google's Voice Search, Apple's Siri, or third-party voice command apps (like Vlingo In Car or Dragon Go) this limitation turns out to be a great feature.
The stereo has a two-band EQ with two presets--music and voice, optimized for music or spoken-word programming such as talk radio or podcasts, respectively--and that's pretty much where the Yaris' cabin tech ends. There are no driver aid technologies available at any trim level--unless you count the standard stability control system as an aid.
As car tech packages go, the Yaris keeps it simple. If you need more (perhaps navigation or a rearview camera system), the stock double DIN receiver looks like it pops out easily enough. A more functional receiver would definitely be my first nonperformance mod--the Bluetooth audio issues drove me that mad--but I think many prospective Yaris owners would be happy enough with the system as-is.
In sum: It's a car--no more, no less
Toyota's promotional materials for the 2012 Toyota Yaris proudly proclaim that "It's a car!" Not that it's the most stylish car, the fastest car, or even the most efficient, but merely that it is one. If that's the best that Toyota can think to say about the unassuming Yaris, how could I hope to say more in a full review?
As it turns out, there's not much more to say than that. The Yaris is, in many ways, a quintessential driving appliance. It's unassuming, uneventful, and generally uninteresting. But none of that stops it from being a pretty good car for those looking for basic, reliable transport. Its cabin is comfortable and airy. There's plenty of storage space with its spacious hatch and fold-flat rear seat. And although the stereo isn't nearly as good as, for example, Hyundai's base system, it's probably good enough for most economy car buyers.
Oddly, our Yaris was badged as an SE model, but the spec sheet described the vehicle as a three-door LE model. Toyota's online configurator doesn't even acknowledge a three-door SE model's existence, listing only the five-door model at the SE trim level, which further adds to the confusion. Regardless of the number of doors, you'll want to at least start at the LE trim level, because stepping down to the Yaris L loses a pair of speakers, HD Radio reception, Bluetooth connectivity, remote door unlock, and power windows. You'll also want to test drive your Yaris with the five-speed manual transmission, because none of our editors was a fan of the four-speed slushbox that our tester was equipped with.
The new 2012 Yaris LE three-door starts at $15,625. There aren't many options available, but our tester arrived with $180 floor mats and a $250 cruise-control system. Add a $760 destination charge, and you'll have our $16,815 as-tested price.
For about the same amount of cash, you could have a Honda Fit or a Mazda Mazda2, but neither of those vehicles offers Bluetooth without spending considerably more cash. (Getting Bluetooth on the Fit, for example, requires jumping up to the nearly $20k navigation-equipped model.) For my money, I'd find myself looking twice at the more powerful, better equipped, but less expensive. People with a few extra bucks to spend could, for only about $1,000 more, add the Sync-equipped Ford Fiesta hatchback to the fray--not a bad choice with its superior cabin tech package--or just get an aftermarket stereo to replace the Yaris' OEM unit.
|Model||2012 Toyota Yaris 3DR|
|Power train||1.5-liter four-cylinder, four-speed automatic transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||30 city, 35 highway mpg|
|Observed fuel economy||N/A|
|Bluetooth phone support||Yes|
|Disc player||Single-slot CD|
|MP3 player support||Standard analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, USB connection, Bluetooth audio streaming, iPod connection|
|Other digital audio||HD Radio|
|Audio system||Six-speaker audio system|
|Price as tested||$16,815|