Dan Neil - Toyota Yaris

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Mar 23, 2007.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Toyota's lightweight

    [​IMG]
    Subcompact

    DAN NEIL
    March 21, 2007

    TOYOTA Motor Corp. is the colossus of roads. It is, or soon will be, the largest car company in the world. Its worldwide sales are up year after year, as are its profits, as are its stock prices. In the U.S., the world's largest car market, Toyota's sales rose an astonishing 12.5% in 2006, grabbing even more market share from the oxygen-starved domestics. To meet the demand, the company is putting down factories and expanding facilities in this country like it was playing automotive Monopoly.

    The company builds Lexus, the best-selling luxury brand in the U.S. It builds the Prius, the hybrid shuttlecraft with more green cachet than macrobiotic tofu. It created Scion, which in three years went from a Scrabble word to the last word in Gen-Y branding.

    So is this the company that can do no wrong? Not really.

    I give you the Toyota Yaris, a surprisingly routine and summarily undelightful B-class subcompact that feels as mailed-in as if it had a stamp on it. Cute? Sure, in an entomological way, i.e., it kind of looks like a bug you'd pin to a corkboard.

    Cheap? Oh yes, to a fault. The $11,530 MSRP (with delivery) can't make room for things like a radio/CD/MP3, anti-lock brakes, rear-window wiper or rear fogger, or split-folding rear seat. Our test car had another $3,210 of options: alloy wheels, power windows and doors, four-speaker audio with CD/MP3 player, ABS, front side-air bags, side curtain air bags. But up against other recent B-class urban runabouts — the Honda Fit, the Nissan Versa — the Yaris is less car for more money. And tinny. Compared with the sealed and muffled character of the Honda Fit, this thing's got more ring-a-ding than Frank Sinatra at Caesars Palace.

    Perhaps I'm just reacting to the wind shear. In the midst of Toyota's triumphal march across America — including a go at NASCAR racing and a full-court press in the full-size pickup segment (Tundra), both at the emotional heart of American car culture — the Yaris seems puny. Excellence has become so routine that, when one of Toyota's cars goes so far amiss, you have to wonder if this is the first thread of an unraveling Toyota mystique.

    But wait, it's only one car, right? Isn't it a huge inductive overreach to judge something as vast as a global car company on the basis of one model? And yet, cars don't work that way. Because they are products of huge collaborative systems involving everything from supplier networks to lunchroom politics, cars are definitely expressive, irreducible sums of the companies that make them.

    It isn't about bashing. Toyota is not immune to the same entropic forces that affect any large and successful organization, or nation, at the top of its game. Do you think Toyota's execs, engineers and workers are somehow smarter than those of GM? They aren't. Given time, the dialectics of decline will take hold at Toyota just as they have in Detroit. The unraveling has to start somewhere.

    [​IMG]
    The interior fixtures are modern, easy to use — and plastic.

    Which makes me eye the Yaris with suspicion. The Yaris came to our shores last year as a replacement for the Echo, which itself didn't inspire much Klingon love poetry. Like a couple of the Scion models, the Yaris is a transplant from the Japanese domestic market. It has been stretched and widened a bit for the U.S. market, though you might find that hard to believe in the backseat, which is about as roomy as a piece of Hartmann luggage. The rear seat is on sliders, but I can't imagine why you'd want less legroom. The car comes as either a sedan or three-door hatchback, the latter being the incredibly cute one.

    Sitting sideways under the beamish little hood is a 1.5-liter, 106-hp four-cylinder engine dressed with Toyota's faultless variable valve timing heads. The engine sends its 103 pound-feet of torque (at a brisk 4,200 rpm) through either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. At 2,290 pounds, this thing's a flyweight. The payoff comes in the car's 34/40 city/highway mpg. The great, suffering payback is in general drivability. The engine — having negligible low-speed torque — busts a gut on anything like a hill, and the gear spacing is such that you have to put it in first gear and flog the huskies for all they're worth. Flogged huskies do not a pleasant sound make.

    Toyota went slightly mad on the dieting. The Yaris sounds so hollow and reverberant you wonder if it shouldn't have just kept the Echo name. Meanwhile, the car tends to dance around in high winds and generally feels unsettled at highway speeds.

    As for handling, it has some. Actually, for a little car, the Yaris has some pretty acute body roll and lean. It reminds me of the old Jackie Stewart exercise in which he put a ball in a bowl affixed to the hood of a car to demonstrate the effects of smooth driving. Except in this case, the Yaris is the ball.

    It's not all bad. The build quality is excellent. The interior (with plastic fixtures inspired by a Super Soaker) is modern and easy to use. The upholstery is nice. That's all I've got.

    The irony is, of course, that Toyota made its bones in the U.S. market making cheap, superlative compacts. But the Yaris, after the Echo, suggests the company is losing its common touch. Have I been too hard on the world's biggest, and arguably best, car company? Don't worry. I think it will survive.

    [​IMG]
    Cheap to a fault

    Final thoughts: A giant stubs its toe.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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  3. XPX

    XPX New Member

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    I drove one, excellent city car...that's all I have to say. Take it out to highway speeds and you'll feel like a cockroach...its awfully slow and insecure. Better built than it's competitors but less equipped too. Resale value is excellent but brand new it is also more expensive than its competitors...what's the point then?

    I prefer the Honda Fit.
     
  4. Jake!

    Jake! Guest

    would the tundra count as the second?
     
  5. yofmatt

    yofmatt New Member

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    lol @ no one gives a fuck. I don't really either, that car should say fisher price on it
     
  6. great little car, very popular in Europe, should go over well as a first time car.


    Plus the tuner market is embracing it
     
  7. GBlansten

    GBlansten OT's Bean Doc OT Supporter

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    The Toyota Tundra uses the Yaris engine to power it's windshield wipers.

    I'd only get a Yaris if is came with a rear bagger attachment and had more power so it would bog down in the high grass.
     
  8. le_rocks

    le_rocks New Member

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    the instrument panel confuses me in that pic.
     
  9. Jake!

    Jake! Guest

    it is in the center of the dash :slap:
     
  10. disc108

    disc108 New Member

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    the article is very critical for a $11k car
     
  11. End

    End You've got that shotgun shine

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    How much is a Fit?
     
  12. le_rocks

    le_rocks New Member

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    :o so whats all that space in front of the steering wheel?
     
  13. ABSTRAKT

    ABSTRAKT per aspera ad astra

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    fit ftw
     
  14. autox

    autox OT Supporter

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    I'd definitely get a fit before I'd get that
     
  15. Jake!

    Jake! Guest

    there are much better used cars for the price
     
  16. Jake!

    Jake! Guest

    30 seconds on autotrader:
    2005 SAAB 9-2X, 14,300 mi, abs, ac, ps, cc, AWD,heated seats,4air bags, tinted windows, CD,power win/lock,alarm,etc... $14,600
     
  17. alltracman78

    alltracman78 New Member

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    :bowrofl:
     
  18. deusexaethera

    deusexaethera OT Supporter

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    I'd rather have the Scion xB. Gotta love the Xtra Boxy.
     

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