2012 Toyota Yaris

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$14,115

starting MSRP

2012 Toyota Yaris
2012 Toyota Yaris

Key specs

Base trim shown

Overview

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

4 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

  • L

    $14,115

  • Base

    $15,360

  • LE

    $15,625

  • SE

    $16,400

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 2012 Toyota Yaris trim comparison will help you decide.

Notable features

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

2012 Toyota Yaris review: Our expert's take

By

The verdict:

Versus the competiton:

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  

 

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.2
  • Interior design 4.0
  • Performance 4.0
  • Value for the money 4.5
  • Exterior styling 4.2
  • Reliability 4.6

Most recent consumer reviews

5.0

Very reliable, good mileage.

I love this car. in 20 16 I found it on Craig's list, used, 2012, 24,000 miles. I never cared for Toyota but my sister has a friend that has one and loves it. My Hyundai was totaled and I needed a car right away. Best car I ever had and I've had many, mostly Fords. I never had any issues with it, keep it serviced though. So why did Geico raise my insurance premium? The reason I was told is Yaris is not a good enough car, too many problems and hard to get replacement parts and 2012 year is considered too old. I now only have 34,939 miles on it. I had other cars insured by Geico. This doesn't make sense.

5.0

Super little car

Bought my Yaris when it was 8 months old it’s just gone over 51k in its 8 years. Love my super special Yaris with its leather interior, mag wheels, tinted windows and special paint job. Can’t see myself changing any time soon.

4.9

If you can find one used, don't hesitate.

I've driven Toyotas since 1971. LOVE THEM. My Tercel was incredible. But then I bought a Yaris and it was even better (except it has an odd manual clutch, and I've never gotten used to it) Otherwise, I'm a Toyota guy. Now I want to replace my Yaris, only because I want a different car. Looked at the Carolla, and HATE the front grill. All the other Toyotas also have an ugly front grill,. They make the car look ANGRY. So I've decided to get a Subaru. First NON-Toyota in 49 years, but I just can't stand the Toyota grill. But the Yaris is a very TIGHT car, well-designed and well constructed. I got over 100 thousand miles on the original clutch and on the original brakes, and neither is showing any signs of failure. The MPG is great. I get 43.6 on the highway at 65 MPG, and around 42 in the city. Toyota: Clean up the front end, and I'll be back. Until then, it was GREAT knowing you.

See all 34 consumer reviews

Warranty

New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by Toyota
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
7 years/less than 85,000 miles
Basic warranty terms
12 months/12, 000 miles
Powertrain
7 years/100,000 miles
Dealer certification required
160- or 174-point inspections
Roadside assistance
Yes
View all cpo program details

Have questions about warranties or CPO programs?

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