Following the close of the youth-oriented Scion brand, Toyota slapped its own badges on the former iA and renamed it the Yaris iA. For 2017, not much else has changed. This isn’t entirely a bad thing. Falling somewhere below the Corolla, and closely based on the Mazda 2 design, a car no longer sold in the States, the Yaris iA is a fun, affordable 4-door option for anyone in pursuit of maximum fuel economy, reliability and overall value. With no hatchback, or any other body style option for that matter, and no extra packages or bespoke features offered, the decision making process is shortened to basically what color you want the car to be sprayed in. That said, the list of standard amenities is considerable, and includes unexpected niceties like power door locks and windows, a rearview camera, push-button ignition, a forward collision prevention system, bluetooth, voice recognition, iPod connectivity, a clean 7″ touchscreen infotainment display and more.
Though it won’t win any beauty pageants, you can’t exactly say the 2017 Yaris iA is boring in its appearance. Halogen headlights are aggressively angled downward, creating a fierce scowl over a large, open black grill. The chrome-tipped exhaust and 16″ alloy wheels help add a sporty element as well. On the inside you’ll find fabric-trimmed front seats that offer nice support, and a backseat perfect for the shorter members of your social circle. For its class, rear legroom is above average, with more trunk space than even the Toyota Corolla. Large rotary style knobs controlling the climate and radio are easy to reach, and the infotainment system already mentioned is one of the easiest to use I’ve ever encountered. All in all the interior is nicely appointed for this segment, it’s intuitive, comfortable and has a cheerful quality that reaches past its low price tag.
Handling in the new Yaris iA is playful and peppy. Unsurprisingly, some body roll is present, and under heavy cornering loads the front-wheel-drive configuration delivers a generous helping of understeer, but these are expected findings. With a 6-speed automatic bolted to the 1.5L 4-cylinder engine, acceleration is sluggish to say the least. No surprise considering output is a mere 106hp. This can make passing slow traffic at highway speeds and even maintaining your momentum on sharper inclines a challenge. All that lack of gusto does help create a very impressive 40 mpg on the highway though, pretty remarkable figure for a non-hybrid. To up the fun factor a bit I’d recommend the manual gearbox.
With the newly adopted iA into the Toyota family, the brand finally has a subcompact car to compete against the likes of the Kia Rio or Ford Fiesta. It may not bring the power of the turbo-charged Chevy Sonic, the longer list of options in the Kia or sporty flair of the Fiesta, but the new Yaris iA is feature-rich, has good Mazda bones, excellent fuel economy, a nicely appointed interior and a bigger back seat and trunk than all three of those other guys. All that with a price tag just over $17,000 and you begin to see the obvious appeal.
By: Brandon Randall