• (4.6) 40 reviews
  • Inventory Prices: $3,146–$9,442
  • Body Style: Hatchback
  • Combined MPG: 32
  • Engine: 106-hp, 1.5-liter I-4 (regular gas)
  • Drivetrain: Front-wheel Drive
  • Transmission: 4-speed automatic w/OD
2009 Toyota Yaris

Our Take on the Latest Model 2009 Toyota Yaris

What We Don't Like

  • Center-mounted instrument cluster

Notable Features

  • Stubby design, miniscule overhangs
  • New four-door hatchback
  • Standard antilock brakes

2009 Toyota Yaris Reviews

Cars.com Expert Reviews

In the world of subcompact cars, things have improved greatly over the past few years. Today's smallest models offer a lot of room, good fuel economy and surprising levels of quality for small amounts of money. The Toyota Yaris is in this segment, and this is the first year the smallest Toyota has been available as a four-door hatchback; previously, only a two-door hatch and a sedan were offered.

Testing the new four-door hatchback, I found myself enjoying the driving experience more than I ever thought possible. However, its price tag is surprisingly high, I wasn't very comfortable in it and its ergonomics are downright poor.

Exterior
In the realm of really small cars, the Yaris isn't that unattractive. Its snub nose is probably its most striking attribute, and you can find it on both the sedan and hatchback. The sedan's body style is very traditional; it doesn't stand out on the road. The two- and four-door hatchbacks have a bit more utility and are more distinguishable.

Interior
There's one positive about the Yaris' interior that hits you right away: It feels like a more expensive car than it is (the four-door hatch starts at $13,305). One negative hits you about 20 minutes into a drive: It's incredibly uncomfortable to sit in and even harder to live with.

Let's tackle the positives first. The Yaris' materials are very nice: The plastics have nice graining, and there are few rough edges to be found. I'd even say the interior is more pleasing to the eye than the recently redesigned Toyota Corolla. The seat fabric seems like it would be very durable over the long haul, yet it still feels good to the touch. It's just too bad the seats are horribly unsupportive and offer little thigh support.

The Yaris certainly won't be the first pick for larger drivers. By the time my first commute home was done, my back hurt. For the record, I'm 5-feet, 10-inches and about average weight. By comparison, I thought the Honda Fit's seats were much more comfortable.

The other major problem with the Yaris' interior is its ergonomics. First, there's the instrument cluster, which is in the center of the dashboard. While this may work in other small cars, like the Mini Cooper, the Yaris' pale, amber-colored speedometer readout doesn't stand out enough to grab your eyes. I just kind of gave up looking at it and assumed that I wasn't speeding.

Then there's the stereo. The knobs for volume and tuning are so stubby and slippery it was a struggle just to turn up a good song when one came on the radio. Luckily, the air conditioning controls are simply done, with three huge knobs that have ridges to grab onto.

Don't get me started on the cupholders. There's only one traditional cupholder, and it's placed at the far back of the center console, behind the driver's right elbow. It was a pain to reach back to get a drink. Each door has a bottleholder, but then what do you do with two Slurpees? Two venti lattes? I wouldn't complain if there weren't a huge area in front of the shifter where Toyota could have easily put two more cupholders. Instead, it's just a flat area where you can place cell phones and change.

There are also little cubbies — big enough for the smallest cell phones and MP3 players — sprinkled throughout the front of the car. I didn't use any of them.

As for roominess, the Yaris is surprisingly adequate. The driver and front passenger have ample headroom and legroom. Even in the backseat there's a surprising amount of headroom, but your legs can't stretch too far. I wouldn't even think of squeezing a third person back there unless they were a very dear frenemy.

Performance
By far the biggest shock about the Yaris was how much pep it had. Yes, I'd call it pep. The 1.5-liter four-cylinder only produces 106 horsepower, but it sure moves the Yaris with a lot of zip. The little engine revs healthily even when paired with a four-speed automatic transmission, and it passes easily on the highway. Of course, that zippiness was most often with just one person in the car, though I didn't notice any decrease in performance when driving with my wife and 1-year-old son. I assume three adults in the back, however, would make the engine work much harder.

Wind and road noise aren't terrible for this class. The ride is also pretty comfortable considering the car's short wheelbase. That short wheelbase also lets you easily make a U-turn on narrow side streets, which comes in handy if you live in an urban area. (When Cars.com tested the Smart ForTwo we were shocked it couldn't make the same maneuver.)

Handling is superb and exactly what you'd expect from a tiny runabout. Turns are sharp and crisp. The steering wheel is a bit sensitive to even the slightest hand movement, but that level of responsiveness gives the car some sportiness. Body roll is excessive, however, and is the one real detractor in the driving experience.

Mileage is very good, as you'd expect. The Yaris achieves an EPA-estimated 29/36 mpg city/highway with the manual transmission and 29/35 mpg with the automatic.

Safety
The Yaris comes standard with antilock brakes and seat-mounted side-impact airbags, plus side curtain airbags for both rows. Electronic stability control isn't offered.

The Yaris received the top rating, Good, in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests, but it received a score of Marginal (second worst) in rear crash tests. That test simulates whiplash forces on a crash-test dummy.

Recently, IIHS released a damaging report on very small cars, including the Yaris, that showed significant damage in head-on collisions with midsize sedans. So while the Yaris' scores are good when compared to others in its class, buyers should remember that cars of this size are at a safety disadvantage against larger cars. The Fit is the only subcompact car that's earned IIHS' Top Safety Pick designation (when equipped with optional electronic stability control), but even it fared poorly in a head-on crash test with the larger Honda Accord.

Even after years of studying safety reports and testing hundreds of cars, I don't feel totally safe in cars with doors that shut with a tinny clank, like the Yaris' do. It's not a professional assessment; it's a personal one. In the end, reason won out and I put my son in the Yaris during my week of testing. Still, there are a lot of people who have safety reservations when it comes to cars this size.

Value
I came away from my time with the Yaris liking its performance a lot more than I thought I would, but there's no way I could live with its poor ergonomics and uncomfortable seating. The price tag will lure many to the table, though. Car shoppers should understand, though, that even a modestly equipped Yaris costs much more than the $12,205 you'd pay for the lowliest two-door hatchback Yaris, with its manual transmission and 14-inch steel wheels — and no stereo.

As mentioned, the four-door hatchback starts at $13,305 with a standard automatic transmission, but adding simple conveniences like power windows and door locks requires a $2,170 option package.

All told, my test car topped $17,000 with its optional alloy wheels and the destination charge. A similarly equipped Honda Fit with 15-inch steel wheels costs about $16,000, and the better-equipped Fit Sport with 16-inch wheels comes in around $17,500. So if you want things like power windows and locks, the Fit is the better choice. It's also roomier and has better safety scores. If you just want to spend as little as possible, the Yaris fits the bill and would make a serviceable choice if you want a $12,000 car, which is something Honda doesn't offer. Nissan's Versa is another possibility; it too is larger than the Yaris and comes in very basic trim levels with few frills.

Even the most basic Corolla has a full complement of side airbags and comes in at $15,350.

Yaris in the market
With such tough competition from Honda and Nissan, it's hard to recommend the Yaris over its roomier competitors. Its mileage isn't enough to warrant the tradeoffs in space and — with regard to the Fit — safety.

If all you really want is a truly inexpensive new car, then the Yaris will offer reliable, efficient transportation to meet your needs. However, if you're looking for a vehicle with even modest levels of convenience, like power windows, there are better options.

Send David an email 


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Consumer Reviews

(4.6)

Average based on 40 reviews

Write a Review

Traded my Yaris in for another Yaris

by JGarn007 from Annapolis, MD on November 25, 2017

My previous Yaris went 225,000 miles and was still going strong when I traded it in for the 2009 model. The Yaris is a no-frills economy car with great reliability and gas mileage. Gets 37 highway and... Read Full Review

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6 Trims Available

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Wondering which configuration is right for you?
Our 2009 Toyota Yaris trim comparison will help you decide.
 

Toyota Yaris Articles

2009 Toyota Yaris Safety Ratings

Crash-Test Reports

IIHS Ratings

Based on Toyota Yaris Base

Head Restraints and Seats
M
Moderate overlap front
G
Roof Strength
A
Side
G

IIHS Ratings

Based on Toyota Yaris Base

G Good
A Acceptable
M Marginal
P Poor

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
M
Overall Rear
M
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
G

Moderate overlap front

Chest
G
Head/Neck
A
Left Leg/Foot
G
Overall Front
G
Restraints
G
Right Leg/Foot
G
Structure/safety cage
G

Other

Roof Strength
A

Side

Driver Head Protection
G
Driver Head and Neck
G
Driver Pelvis/Leg
G
Driver Torso
G
Overall Side
G
Rear Passenger Head Protection
G
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
G
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
G
Rear Passenger Torso
G
Structure/safety cage
A
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers. IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal or poor based on performance in high-speed front and side crash tests. IIHS also evaluates seat/head restraints for protection against neck injuries in rear impacts.

NHTSA Ratings

Based on Toyota Yaris Base

Overall Rollover Rating

NHTSA Ratings

Based on Toyota Yaris Base

Overall Rollover Rating
Driver's
Passenger's
Front Seat
Rear Seat
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. NHTSA provides vehicle safety information such as front- and side-crash ratings and rollover ratings. Vehicles are rated using a star rating system from 1-5 stars, with 5 being the highest.

Recalls

There are currently 9 recalls for this car.


Safety defects and recalls are relatively common. Stay informed and know what to do ahead of time.

Safety defects and recalls explained

Service & Repair

Estimated Service & Repair cost: $4,100 per year.

Save on maintenance costs and do your own repairs.

Warranty Coverage

Bumper-to-Bumper

36mo/36,000mi

Powertrain

60mo/60,000mi

Roadside Assistance Coverage

36mo/36,000mi

What you should get in your warranty can be confusing. Make sure you are informed.

Learn More About Warranties

Warranties Explained

Bumper-to-Bumper

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

Powertrain

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

Roadside Assistance

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

Free Scheduled Maintenance

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

Other Years