You do realize they still make small cars.
In an age where the SUV and crossover are the bane of our existence, we often forget that a small car will do. The advantages are clear – if you don’t need a lot of space and can carry average-size folks and their luggage across town or further afield, then you really don’t need an SUV. Especially one that may be of the same size as your small car.
If you choose a small car for, say, your first-year college student or your first job while living in the city that does not offer off-street parking, you might be in luck.
The 2020 Toyota Yaris sedan has been with us for five years now. You may know the story: Toyota and Mazda agree on a joint production plant in Mexico, Toyota takes a car that is not sold in the USA by Mazda, slaps on the Scion badge (along with a different front clip) and call it the iA. Then, Toyota folds the Scion brand into their own. In turn, the Yaris name is applied to this car. The rest is, well, history.
There has been changes to the Mazda-turned-Toyota for 2020. First off, there is a hatchback version joining the lineup. Secondly, both models receive some visual updates that seem subtle, but helpful for its cause. In all, it is still the same Mazda2 that American dealers cannot get turned into Toyota’s littlest car.
It is not to say that this is all bad. It is actually pretty decent. First off, the Yaris sedan is pretty handsome and very easy to spot in a parking lot or on the street. You will like the dark finished alloy wheels if you choose the XLE model I tested here. Doors open wide for passengers and the trunk is loaded from the bumper to fill up to 13.5 cubic feet before you fold down the rear seats.
If you know your cars, then you know that you will be stepping into a Mazda. Though you will have to admit that it is an aging Mazda, using the single dial for the speedometer flanked by two small TFT screens on each side. The steering wheel is thick, and the shifter is short. You will also like the logic of the switchgear all around the cabin, including the knob that operates the infotainment system.
That infotainment system is all Mazda. There is nothing Entune about it. Therefore, you have to go to screen to operation to get set up. Once it is set up, you can use either the knob, its associated buttons on the console or the steering wheel controls for volume, presets, or music file selection.
The Yaris XLE sedan offered leatherette seats that offer good cushion support and ample comfort. I had plenty of space up front, but there is limited space in the back. Probably best if you had four averaged-size adults on board, or two children in the back seat.
Powering the Yaris sedan is a 106-horsepower 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Don’t let the numbers fool you, as this is a revvy little motor. It does highway work with ease and can handle the hustle and bustle of the city. There will be moments when you have to push the throttle harder to get up to speed or make a lane change.
The six-speed automatic shifts smoothly without hesitation. The result is a good fuel economy average of 37.2 MPG. Not bad for this little car.
You will be surprised by the solid ride in this Yaris sedan. It is quite absorbent over rougher patches of road. Having such a suspension setup is helpful in places such as Chicago, where this vehicle was driven. I did feel a tad of roll through the turns, but overall handling is very confident and sure.
If you like tight turning radiuses and sharp steering, the Yaris sedan has it. The response from the wheel is good, but it does tend to not stay on-center at speed on the highway. Some control is needed to keep and even keel through windy situations. However, the brakes are good overall. Combined solid pedal feel with great stopping power at all wheels – something I don’t normally say about rear drum brakes. You would think they’re discs back there.
Pricing starts at $15,650 for a Toyota Yaris L sedan with a manual transmission. My XLE sedan tester came with a sticker price of $19,705. If you want the hatchback, you will have to upgrade to the LE trim level for a base price of $17,750.
There are a few things to take away from the 2020 Toyota Yaris sedan. One, it is a fun little car that is a good commuter, city dweller, and overall inexpensive car to own. Secondly, there is plenty of Mazda DNA that makes this Toyota fun to drive. And, lastly, leave the rest-of-the-world spec Yaris alone. If it did come our way, I would fear it would be more expensive than the prices stated above.
But, we do have this Yaris for our consumption. It is just right for what Toyota wanted as an entry-level car. Of course, a little Mazda seasoning helps, but it is the badge that speaks volumes for being the small car you want after all.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Toyota Motor North America
All photos by Randy Stern