Stick Shift: 2020 Toyota Yaris Hatchback

The 2020 Toyota Yaris delivers much of what you’d expect at this point in its lifecycle. Four skinny wheels, turned by a low-powered 4-cylinder engine. Encased in a simply designed, budget friendly package. Though the looks won’t turn heads, the Yaris is at least somewhat elevated with 16” alloy wheels and four doors for easy access to every part of the cabin.

Once inside, you’ll notice that Toyota has done a commendable job of making the most of the many low-end materials in use. It was a  smart move to keep SofTex leatherettes and plastics all matching black on black. With handsome dark blue stitching. The result creates a premium look beyond what’s actually there. Especially if you’re only looking. Some of the illusion dissipates the more you touch and handle the cheap dials and control knobs. Fortunately, a leather parking brake, shift knob and steering wheel offer a tactile treat. 

The weakest link of the interior are the low quality seats. Narrow and uncomfortable. I don’t imagine the 2020 Toyota Yaris being the first pick for any long road-trip. With little legroom in the back, uncomfortable seats all around and a leaky cabin with too much wind and road noise. You would quickly feel drained of any desire to explore the open road with no map or particular destination in mind.

 A 7.0” touch display is tacked onto the dashboard. Like a last-minute decision. It’s oversized control knob awkwardly placed deep at your side, behind the handbrake. Same with the volume knob. Neither are very easy to reach, or naturally positioned. Usually requiring that I took my eyes off the road to make simple adjustments. Graphics are simple and unremarkable as well. A useful back-up camera is a nice touch. Even if the image is low res and way too over-exposed. 

The 2020 Toyota Yaris isn’t all boring and stripped down to the basics though. There are power windows and locks. Bluetooth, and other voice-activated connected services. USB ports, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The hatchback design gives it that sporty compact feel and allows easy access to a moderate amount of cargo space.

The 1.5L 4-cylinder winds like an asthmatic lawnmower. Sport mode seemed to offer little redemption with its performance. The 6-speed automatic transmission always seemed to struggle to know which gear it should be in as well. At least the 2020 Yaris was able to manage 35 combined mpg.

Ultimately, the Toyota Yaris is a bit of a question mark for me. I’m not sure who exactly it’s designed for. It could be the perfect ‘starter car.’ Ideal for a teenagers first set of wheels. If it wasn’t for its small size, which naturally makes it less safe on a road more and more full of trucks and big SUV’s. As a father myself, it’s not what I’d be buying my daughter when she turned 16.

Maybe for a more experienced driver in search of something completely practical. With no frills or expensive extras. Strictly a point A to point B mode of transportation. About town. Never cross-country. I don’t know, maybe a Postmates delivery driver. Definitely not Uber or Lyft, as the back seat wouldn’t be accommodating enough. I love the idea of a reliable, economical option, but remain unconvinced that the Toyota Yaris is the best option, or even a good option for it.

Price as tested: $19,680.00

By: Brandon Randall

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