PowerSteering: 2017 Toyota Yaris iA Review

PowerSteering: 2017 Toyota Yaris iA Review

By Liz Kim, August 04, 2017
  • 2017 Toyota Yaris iA front quarter left photo

    Introduction

    At their essence, cars exist to serve one purpose: to transport people and things from point A to point B. Everything else, such as comfort, style, performance, and entertainment, is extra. Sometimes, you just want to pay the least amount of money for a machine that will simply get you from here to there.

    Toyota answers that need in the form of the Yaris hatchback and Yaris iA sedan, its least expensive offerings in the United States. But because you use and interact with any vehicle on a day-to-day basis, and they are, even in their most basic form, a huge outlay of money, you want to feel a little bit of enthusiasm for your investment. Of Toyota’s two low-priced offerings, it is the Yaris iA that looks and feels like something more than the sum of its parts.

    Why is that? Essentially, the Yaris iA is a rebadged Mazda 2. Mazda does not sell its smallest car in the U.S. market, instead allowing Toyota to replace the badges and install a revised front fascia. Otherwise, the iA sedan is 100% genuine Mazda, and that goes a long way toward making it pleasurable to drive.

    For this review, we evaluated a 2017 Toyota Yaris iA with the optional automatic transmission. Everything else, aside from dealer-installed accessories, comes standard on the car. The price came to $17,935, including the $885 destination charge.



  • 2017 Toyota Yaris iA front quarter right photo

    What Owners Say

    Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the new 2017 Toyota Yaris iA, it’s helpful to understand who bought the previous version of this small car, the Scion iA, and what they liked most and least about it.

    Compared with the average buyer in the Small Car category, buyers of the iA are more likely to be women (55% vs. 51% segment avearge), are much younger in terms of median age (40 years old vs. 50 years old), and earn less money in terms of median household income ($54,028 vs. $56,458). Nearly half (49%) belong to Gen Y (those born 1977 to 1994) or Gen Z (1995 and later).

    Overwhelmingly, those who purchased a Scion iA identify themselves as price buyers (55%). Surprisingly, they are only slightly less likely to agree that they prefer to buy a vehicle from a domestic company (41% vs. 48%).

    Scion iA buyers are more likely to agree that their first consideration in choosing a vehicle is miles per gallon (89% vs. 84%). They also prefer to drive a vehicle that stands out from the crowd (71% vs. 56%) and offers responsive handling and powerful acceleration (85% vs. 81%). Otherwise, their sentiments about their vehicles align with buyers of all small cars.

    Buyers say their favorite things about the iA are (in descending order) the fuel economy, interior design, exterior styling, driving dynamics, and the infotainment system. Buyers indicate their least favorite things about the iA are (in descending order) the visibility and safety, climate control system, seats, engine/transmission, and storage and space.

  • 2017 Toyota Yaris iA rear quarter right photo

    What Our Expert Says

    In the sections that follow, our expert provides her own assessment of how the new 2017 Yaris iA performs in each of the 10 categories that comprise the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.SM

    Exterior
    Thankfully, in comparison with the Toyota Yaris hatchback, Mazda’s designers penned a conventional and proportional look for this small sedan.

    Overall, its appearance is unremarkable, lacking the flourishes of a Mazda 3 or the distinctive, cartoonish shape of something like a Fiat 500. Based on J.D. Power research data, most buyers seem pretty happy with the car’s exterior appearance, but I can’t say that I’m a fan of the oversized grille or the hood creases that lead to the fascia; they give the iA a quizzically angry countenance.

    If you can get beyond that, the standard 16-in. aluminum wheels are a nice addition, and the rear end looks just like a Mazda.

  • 2017 Toyota Yaris iA interior and seats photo

    Interior/Seats

    Interior
    Speaking of Mazda, creating a well-designed cabin is that automaker’s forte, and we can appreciably report that Toyota’s bean counters did little to intervene. Look up the plain-Jane interior of a Yaris hatchback and compare it with that of the iA and the differences will be immediately apparent.

    Most of the interior materials in the Yaris iA are of decent quality and are tactilely pleasing. Little flourishes like blue stitching on the seats, deftly integrated air vents, and a freestanding infotainment screen display do plenty to raise visual interest. In fact, the Yaris iA’s interior quality is superior to that of some of the bigger (and more expensive) lower-trim level Toyotas.

    If the look and feel of a vehicle’s cabin is important to you, the Yaris iA will satisfy. It’s no wonder the interior is one of the most favorite things mentioned by this car’s buyers.

    Seats
    Though the Yaris iA is a little car, its front seats proved quite comfortable, with enough bottom cushion angle that you won’t complain about thigh support. You will definitely want to opt for the dealer-installed center armrest, though, so that you have a place for your right elbow.

    As for the rear seat, well, small cars have small cabins, and even my little kids moaned about how little space there was in the back. Two adults will find it a drag to ride anywhere in this car and it is close to impossible to tote three abreast.

  • 2017 Toyota Yaris iA infotainment and climate control system photo

    Climate Control System/Infotainment System

    Climate Control System
    It’s been awhile since I drove a test vehicle that was not equipped with an automatic climate control system, but the 3-knob layout in the iA provided instant familiarity and easy use. The prominent placement of the knobs in the middle of the dashboard leaves little room for error, even when you’re keeping your eyes on the road.

    Infotainment System
    If the heating and air conditioning system is easy to use, the iA’s infotainment system is somewhat complex. Nevertheless, iA buyers don’t name it as one of the things about the car that they dislike, perhaps reflective of its younger buyers.

    A slightly modified version of Mazda’s Mazda Connect technology, its controls are located on the center console next to the shifter. The display screen is also touch-sensitive and there is a smattering of buttons on the steering wheel.

    The infotainment system offers fewer features than are found in a typical Mazda, which could make it easier to get used to. Be forewarned, though: there’s no radio tuning knob, satellite radio service, or any kind of smartphone-projection system. You’ll need to be happy with two USB ports and an auxiliary input jack.

  • 2017 Toyota Yaris iA rear seat and cargo area photo

    Storage and Space/Visibility and Safety

    Storage and Space
    Pop the Yaris iA’s trunk and you’ll find a surprisingly generous 13.5 cu. ft. of space, which is actually on par with many bigger sedans. It also offers a 60/40 split rear seat for greater cargo utility. Interior storage is not as generous; the center console and glove box are tiny while bins are rare to behold. You’re probably going to end up using the cupholders for most storage needs.

    Visibility and Safety
    Toyota offers the Yaris iA in a single trim level, which means that you get features like an automatic emergency braking system and a rearview camera standard. That’s very rare for this class of vehicle. I was also pleased to learn that this car gets top marks for crash protection from both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

    As far as outward visibility is concerned, slender windshield pillars and a sloping hood provide an excellent view forward from the driver’s seat.

  • 2017 Toyota Yaris iA cockpit photo

    Engine/Transmission/Fuel Economy

    Engine/Transmission
    A 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine is installed in the Yaris iA, capable of churning out 106 horsepower. As you might expect, this car is slow. Taking off from a red light, merging onto the freeway, changing lanes at speed on the highway—these are all situations in which you need to learn the car’s pacing and change your driving behavior accordingly. Plan ahead and give yourself plenty of space.

    While this is an engine that benefits from staying at higher revs (which is easier to achieve with the car’s standard 6-speed manual transmission), the 6-speed automatic nevertheless does a decent job of making the most of the few ponies that are available. A Sport driving mode boosts revs a bit, and there’s also a manual-shift feature that can help to make the Yaris iA more enjoyable to drive.

    Fuel Economy
    In combined driving, the EPA estimates 35 mpg with the Yaris iA. I got 34.7 mpg in mixed driving conditions, often with an aggressive right foot to make up for the lackadaisical engine response. While the 11.6-gallon gas tank isn’t large, you can get 400 miles of driving range between cheap fill-ups.

    It is worth noting that cars like the Honda Civic offer about 50 more horsepower than the Yaris iA, while getting about the same fuel economy. A Toyota Prius doesn’t perform better, but it gets about 50 mpg.

    Yes, these are bigger, more expensive cars than the Yaris iA, but I bring them up because it would most likely cost about the same to purchase a well-equipped, certified pre-owned compact car in almost-new condition as it does a brand-new, subcompact Yaris iA.

  • 2017 Toyota Yaris iA headlight photo

    Driving Dynamics

    The Yaris iA’s ability to confidently fling itself into corners reveals its Mazda lineage. On kinky roads, it dives into curves and sticks to them fairly well, revealing a lightness and liveliness that often eludes small, inexpensive vehicles. I could barely tell that it employs a primitive torsion-beam rear axle suspension.

    In any case, it’s hard to get yourself into too much trouble with a small, meek engine. And truth be told, the Yaris iA’s tires don’t let you carry too much speed around bends in the road. Nevertheless, the precise steering, well-modulated brakes (despite rear drums), and overall spirited response was a nice—and unexpected—surprise.

    And, of course, its diminutive exterior dimensions means that it’s a cinch to pivot and park into tight spaces.

  • 2017 Toyota Yaris iA front quarter left photo

    Final Impressions

    Not having a lot of cash to spend on a new car certainly limits choices. Thankfully, many carmakers still vie for those dollars with an array of subcompact vehicles that sometimes succeed at making you feel like you’re getting more for your money than you expected.

    The 2017 Toyota Yaris iA sedan is just that sort of car. It might be basic, but the nice cabin, free maintenance for 2 years or 25,000 miles, standard safety features, impressive interior materials, and the engaging driving dynamics make you feel like you’re getting a goodie bag.

    Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. supplied the vehicle used for this 2017 Toyota Yaris iA review.


    Additional Research:


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