2012 Toyota Yaris

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$4,522–$11,022 Inventory Prices
Key Specs
Our Take
Road Test
Photos
Reviews
Safety & Recalls
Warranty & CPO
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Key Specs

of the 2012 Toyota Yaris. Base trim shown.

  • Body Type:
  • Combined MPG:
    32-34 Combined MPG
  • Engine:
    106-hp, 1.5-liter I-4 (regular gas)
  • Drivetrain:
    Front-wheel Drive
  • Transmission:
    5-speed manual w/OD
  • View more specs

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Design more &quot
  • serious&quot
  • Better interior quality
  • Better driving dynamics

The Bad

  • Four-speed automatic's highway performance
  • Some cheap interior pieces on base model

Notable Features of the 2012 Toyota Yaris

  • Redesigned for 2012
  • No sedan version
  • New version larger than previous model

2012 Toyota Yaris Road Test

Bill Jackson

Smaller vehicles are becoming more popular as gas prices stay high and the economy sputters. For the past few years, the Toyota Yaris subcompact sedan and hatchback have been trying to compete in this market against newer and more recently redesigned models. Now, for 2012, Toyota has redesigned its Yaris; the new version is slated to go on sale in October.

The 2012 Toyota Yaris has improved looks, ride, handling and cabin materials, but it's hurt by its highway performance and by gas mileage that doesn't match its segment's leaders.

Exterior
The new 
Toyota Yaris has a wheelbase that's 2 inches longer than the previous version, and the car is 3 inches longer overall. The first thing you notice, though, is that, like a teenager, it's shed its baby-like appearance and now sports more chiseled, angular features.


Toyota gave the Yaris a downward sloping belt line, so the car looks more aggressive when viewed from the side. I thought the old Yaris was cute, but the new Yaris looks more like a real car, frankly, and that's a good thing.

Toyota has ditched the sedan version of this model-year Yaris, saying buyers chose hatchback versions 70 percent of the time. The Yaris will be sold in three trim levels: L, LE and sporty SE, with the L and LE available as two- and four-door hatchbacks with 15-inch steel wheels.

SE versions are available only with four doors, and they also get fog lights and different front styling, plus a rear "diffuser" treatment, chrome tailpipe and rea...

Smaller vehicles are becoming more popular as gas prices stay high and the economy sputters. For the past few years, the Toyota Yaris subcompact sedan and hatchback have been trying to compete in this market against newer and more recently redesigned models. Now, for 2012, Toyota has redesigned its Yaris; the new version is slated to go on sale in October.

The 2012 Toyota Yaris has improved looks, ride, handling and cabin materials, but it's hurt by its highway performance and by gas mileage that doesn't match its segment's leaders.

Exterior
The new 
Toyota Yaris has a wheelbase that's 2 inches longer than the previous version, and the car is 3 inches longer overall. The first thing you notice, though, is that, like a teenager, it's shed its baby-like appearance and now sports more chiseled, angular features.


Toyota gave the Yaris a downward sloping belt line, so the car looks more aggressive when viewed from the side. I thought the old Yaris was cute, but the new Yaris looks more like a real car, frankly, and that's a good thing.

Toyota has ditched the sedan version of this model-year Yaris, saying buyers chose hatchback versions 70 percent of the time. The Yaris will be sold in three trim levels: L, LE and sporty SE, with the L and LE available as two- and four-door hatchbacks with 15-inch steel wheels.

SE versions are available only with four doors, and they also get fog lights and different front styling, plus a rear "diffuser" treatment, chrome tailpipe and rear spoiler. They also get smoked-lens headlamps and 16-inch alloy wheels.

Interior
The interior is one area where the new Yaris is clearly and vastly superior to the old one. I felt the previous model was a bit plain-looking, and many of the controls felt spindly and cheap. Even on 2012 L models, things are improved. I still wouldn't put the Yaris at the top of the class, but now I wouldn't disqualify it from competition.

That said, Toyota does tend to have conservative interiors, and the Yaris is no exception, but materials are competitive with the segment. You're aware you're in an entry-level vehicle, but nothing looks really cheap — with the exception of the plastic trim in L models in place of the higher trims' soft-touch pieces. That material has a weird texture and isn't pleasant to look at.

All 
Toyota Yaris trims get standard air conditioning and a CD stereo with auxiliary and USB jacks. In this version, Toyota dumped the controversial center-mounted gauges in favor of a conventional layout. The switches and controls feel solid and well-connected. SE models stand out for their leather steering wheel and gearshift. Both are among the best in this class and are a clear step up from the lower trim levels, which have a rubber or plastic coating and are just average.


Toyota Yaris L trims have four speakers, manual windows and a fold-down rear bench seat. LE and SE models get power windows, a six-speaker stereo, 60/40-split folding rear seats, steering-wheel audio controls, and soft-touch dash and sill inserts. (Those inserts are hard plastic in the L.)

On top of that, 
Toyota Yaris SE models add cruise control — a stand-alone option on the Toyota Yaris LE — sport seats with more bolstering and different fabric, and that leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift. You can check a list of pricing for the various trim levels here.


The Yaris isn't the roomiest small car, but I never felt cramped while driving it. Backseat room is a mixed bag: I'm over 6 feet tall and carry most of my height in my torso, so while I thought legroom was fine, I found myself pinched for headroom. Others of different body shapes might see it differently. If you frequently give rides to tall people, expect to have to share legroom between front and rear passengers.

Driving
If the 2012 Yaris is a step up in its exterior and interior styling, the driving experience is where it starts to stumble.

I tested all 
Toyota Yaris trims in a mix of highway, city and Southern California hill country driving. With the five-speed manual transmission, the Yaris is a competent performer. It felt light and responsive, moving away from lights well enough and passing easily for a modestly powered vehicle. The engine is a 106-horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 103 lb-ft of torque.


With the new four-speed automatic, which is available on all trim levels, the Yaris is fine for moving through the city. It accelerates well from stoplights and out of low-speed corners. It doesn't hunt for gears — as transmissions with lots of gears sometimes do — while either accelerating or decelerating.

From about 45 mph and up, though, the Yaris struggled when I needed it to give me more power. Like any automatic transmission, the Yaris' gearbox has to downshift gears to offer more power, which it does fairly quickly. When it has to downshift to 2nd, though, the engine makes a lot of noise before popping kind of quickly into 3rd. It just takes too long for the thing to get going.

The automatic makes the car feel very underpowered, especially when you compare it with the manual version. Because most people will buy the automatic, that's a real problem.

It's also a shame, because the 
Toyota Yaris' ride and handling have improved. Even in the L and LE, which have softer suspension tuning than the SE, body roll isn't outrageous for this segment, and it handled bumps and potholes better than a lot of its competitors. It didn't make crashing or banging sounds that made me think I'd broken something, either. The SE also strikes a nice balance with a sporty ride that doesn't beat you to death.


The Yaris' steering complements all this. SE models have a different electric power steering program that Toyota says offers less power assistance and a little more road feel than the L and LE. Having driven them all, I can say I did notice a slight difference in feedback between the SE and other models, but feedback is generally good for all trim levels. I doubt anyone would find the SE too much work to drive.

Considering its segment, the Yaris is quiet on the highway.

Mileage
A major reason buyers choose small body-type cars is because they get better mileage. What follows is a comparison of mileage figures for the Yaris and several competitors. We compared base models, because while all Yaris trims get the same mileage, some competing cars boast higher mileage that can only be had in more-expensive trim levels or with pricier option packages.

Small Car Fuel Efficiency
Car Base mpg
(city/highway)
Transmission
2012 Toyota Yaris 30/38 5-speed manual
2012 Toyota Yaris 30/35 4-speed automatic
2011 Ford Fiesta 28/37 5-speed manual
2011 Ford Fiesta 29/38 6-speed automatic
2012 Hyundai Accent 30/40 6-speed manual/6-speed automatic
2011 Nissan Versa hatchback 26/31 6-speed manual
2011 Nissan Versa hatchback 24/32 4-speed automatic
Source: Toyota and EPA

These numbers indicate the Toyota Yaris is competitive within its class, but that it falls behind when you compare automatic versions, especially where the Accent is concerned. Also, while some competitors do offer those higher-mileage variants, Toyota doesn't. So, based on a sheer comparison of the numbers, the Yaris trails the higher-mileage trims.

Safety
The new Yaris comes standard with nine airbags, including rollover-sensing, side-impact curtain airbags for both the front and rear seats, as well as a knee airbag for the driver. As it is a new model, it has not been crash-tested.
Yaris in the Market
The small-car field is getting much more competitive, to the point that carmakers have to evolve or die. A shabby entry will be left on dealers' lots.

I thought the previous 
Toyota Yaris had a lot of room to improve, and Toyota has proved me right by improving the 2012 so much. I can't put it at the top of its class, though opting for the manual transmission would offset the highway performance and mileage problems. SE models are fun enough to drive, and they offer a nice compromise on ride and comfort. That trim is the strongest Yaris version out there, but Toyota expects only 15 percent of buyers to choose the SE.

Send Bill an email  

 


2012 Yaris Video

The previous-generation Toyota Yaris left us cold. Luckily, the redesign of the 2012 Yaris addressed many of the old model’s issues.

Latest 2012 Yaris Stories

What Drivers Are Saying

Exterior Styling
(4.2)
Performance
(4.0)
Interior Design
(4.0)
Comfort
(4.1)
Reliability
(4.6)
Value For The Money
(4.3)

Latest Reviews

(5.0)

fuel efficient, reliable, a great perfomer

by georgebg from fairfax on June 19, 2018

My wife and I bought this vehicle brand new in January of 2012. To date, we have put 100,000 miles in 6.5 years. As you can see, that's a good amount mileage . The engine and transmission behave as ... Read full review

(5.0)

Great Little Car!

by MarjyK on March 28, 2018

I've only had this car for a few weeks, but I love it. Even though it's a 2012, it was in mint condition with low mileage. It's zippy and very comfortable. The only negative is that it does pick up a ... Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2012 Toyota Yaris currently has 4 recalls

IIHS Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2012 Toyota Yaris L

IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
good
Overall Rear
good
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
good

Moderate overlap front

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

Other

Roof Strength
good

Side

Driver Head Protection
good
Driver Head and Neck
good
Driver Pelvis/Leg
good
Driver Torso
good
Overall Side
good
Rear Passenger Head Protection
good
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
good
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
good
Rear Passenger Torso
good
Structure/safety cage
acceptable
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers.

Manufacturer Warranty

  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    36 months / 36,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    60 months / 60,000 miles

  • Roadside Assistance

    24 months / 25,000 miles

CPO Program & Warranty

Certified Pre-Owned by Toyota

Program Benefits

24-hour roadside assistance, trip-interruption services, Carfax vehicle history report, travel protection and toll-free assistance line

  • Limited Warranty

    1 year / 12,000 miles

    Comprehensive: 12 months/12,000 miles from date of purchase. Powertrain: 7 years/100,000 miles from original in-service date ($50 deductible) Note: In AL, FL, GA, NC and SC, 7-year/100,000 mile limited warranty coverage begins Jan. 1 of the vehicle's model year and zero (0) odometer miles and expires at the earlier of seven years or 100,000 odometer miles. Hybrid: 8-year/100,000 mile warranty on Factory HV Battery for Toyota Hybrid Vehicles.
  • Eligibility

    Under 6 years / 85,000 miles

    Vehicles receive a 160 point inspection and reconditioning.

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Yaris received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

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.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

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.

What is included in 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).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

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.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker