Toyota has given its Yaris subcompact hatcback a refresh for 2018 aimed at making this entry-level model more desirable. Among the changes are updated styling, new wheel designs and making heated front seats, a backup camera and hill-start assist as standard.
We'd call Toyota generous for adding the backup camera, but come May 2018 this useful safety feature will be mandatory in every new car in Canada. That said, it joins the pre-collision system, lane departure alert and automatic high beams that were carried over as standard kit from last year's car.
Note that these changes are for the hatchback only, and don't apply to the Mazda-built Yaris sedan, which is only being stocked by dealers in Quebec and must be special-ordered elsewhere in Canada.
Both cars' mechanical make-up is unchanged. The hatchback's 1.5L four-cylinder makes 106 hp and 103 lb-ft of torque and comes paired with a choice of a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. The sedan also uses a 1.5L but gets more sophisticated six-speed manual and automatic transmissions.
Toyota redesigns the Yaris about as often as its competitors redraw their subcompacts, but you can tell this company's focus is on its more profitable models, namely crossovers like the RAV4 and the upscale Lexus RX. The Yaris is pleasant enough to drive, but lacks the polish you'll find in cars like the Hyundai Accent and Ford Fiesta, even though those cars are just as old as the Yaris. And Toyota's reluctance to update its smallest car's powertrain means it has fallen well behind the fuel economy leaders in the subcompact class, and is even less efficient than some much larger cars, like the turbocharged Honda Civic.
Among our least favourite things about the Yaris is the driving position, which would be better if the steering column adjusted for reach as well as angle.
The Yaris comes in three- and five-door body styles, and three trim levels.
Three-door models come in CE trim and include a 6.1-inch touchscreen stereo, Bluetooth, lane departure alert, pre-collision system, automatic high beams, backup camera, hill-start assist, four-speaker stereo, 15-inch steel wheels and a rear wiper/washer.
The five-door version starts out in LE trim, adding air conditioning, keyless entry, cruise control and power-adjustable and heated side mirrors.
Finally, the five-door SE adds in satellite radio, six-speaker stereo sport seat fabric, leather-trimmed steering wheel and shifter, 16-inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler, projector-style headlights, fog lights and LED daytime running lights.