Other than the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ, the North American market today lacks very obvious examples of badge engineering. However, those auto nuts who observe beneath the surface or do extensive research will find that these joint venture projects do exist, and often showcase the best of both brands within the collaboration. The 2016 Toyota Yaris Sedan is a prime example of this exercise, and is quite possibly the best subcompact sedan available to Canadian buyers today.
Sold in the United States as the Scion iA and completely unrelated to the Yaris hatchback refreshed for 2015, the Yaris Sedan is a prime example of honest and reliable transportation. Two of the most reputed brands in this regard are Toyota and Mazda, and the Yaris Sedan is a great mutual effort between the two brands. Well, one brand has more to show off here – the Yaris is essentially a Mazda2 badged as a Toyota (or a Scion in the United States). Of course, now that Mazda has officially announced that their new Mazda2 will not be sold in Canada, this Yaris is the only way to get a subcompact with a SkyActiv powertrain.
Under the hood of this Yaris is a 1.5L SkyActiv four-cylinder that’s naturally aspirated. The numbers are as humble as the rest of the Yaris Sedan’s personality – 106 horsepower and 103 lb-ft of torque. This may not seem like a lot, but the little sedan’s light weight makes for a lively and tossable little subcompact. The six-speed automatic has a manual shifting mode that’s responsive and actually decently fun, along with a Sport shifting mode enabled by a toggle switch beneath the shifter. Throttle response is quite sharp and there’s a good amount of brake feel here. All in all, the Yaris feels like a smaller and lighter version of the current Mazda3, which is a segment leader.
The steering is still electric, but the Yaris Sedan sports very Mazda3-esque handling characteristics, which means it’s a hoot to push through corners. The lack of overall power means it’s not exactly the most ideal for quickly exiting curves, but I surprisingly had a lot of fun. The only contender in this segment that holds a candle to the Yaris Sedan in driving dynamics is the Ford Fiesta with its lightweight 1.0L EcoBoost. Front-wheel-drive is the only setup available, and that’s just fine with us because this car is a blast.
Not only does it pack a fun personality, the new Yaris Sedan is more efficient than the hatchback. Thanks to Mazda’s SkyActiv technology, the 1.5L mill is rated at 7.2L/100km in the city, 5.6L/100km on the highway, and a combined rating of 6.4L/100km. Over a week’s worth of conservative driving, I averaged 6.3L/100km in a cold weather setting. Doing a few longer highway hauls, I managed to get specific trip economy as low as 5.2L/100km. The tank capacity is 44L of regular fuel, and premium 91-octane will not benefit the Yaris in any way.
Inside the Yaris, the surprises continue. Interior materials are very nice, including a faux-leather material on the dashboard that looks and feels great to the touch. The interior is standard-issue Mazda, including the familiar three-spoke wheel (bearing the Toyota logo), great switchgear and easy-to-read instrument cluster. The instrumentation has been given some blue colour overlays in an attempt to differentiate it, but the end result looks good and high quality. There’s ample space for six-footers in the front seats, and headroom is plentiful. Rear accommodations are equally generous, but don’t expect to comfortably transport five for longer distances. The higher roofline means rear headroom is also great. One thing I would have liked to see is the inclusion of a center armrest, but this is a common omission for subcompacts.
The Yaris Sedan starts at $16,995 for the base manual transmission model. Opting for the automatic transmission (as most buyers will) brings the starting price to $18,200. The Premium model tested here can only be had with the automatic transmission, and adds niceties that are relevant to many Canadians including a reverse camera, fog lamps, 16” alloy wheels, and a 7” infotainment system with six speakers. The base model already comes generously equipped, with things like keyless entry, air conditioning, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, heated mirrors, stability control and ABS. Our Premium tester had a sticker of $20,200.
The infotainment system in the Yaris Sedan is hugely revolutionary for the subcompact class. It’s the same HMI-based system in newer Mazda models, but this level of tech has yet to be offered in this segment. Everything is easy to use, the screen becomes a touchscreen when parked, and the commander is extremely user friendly. Also, the navigation system is capable of displaying traffic lights with red light cameras, which is unique for this segment. The Hyundai Accent still uses a monochromatic display, and the Kia Rio’s optional navigation system is pretty dated. The addition of a high-resolution rear-view camera is also very useful and a great touch from Toyota.
One of the biggest challenges the new Yaris Sedan will have to face is educating potential buyers about the differences between this and the traditional Yaris hatchback. From our experience, sales staff isn’t necessarily the most auto-savvy and likely won’t outline that the Yaris Sedan’s chassis, motor, and interior are completely different from the hatchback. This differentiation between the hatchback and sedan models will remain at least until the next major redesign for the five-door, expected in the next year or two.
The 2016 Toyota Yaris Sedan is one of the biggest surprises I’ve had this calendar year. I’ll be completely honest in saying that I’m not a huge subcompact fan. My daily commute involves rural and highway driving, often having to carry larger boxes or suitcases, so larger vehicles are typically my area of expertise. However, the Yaris Sedan reminded me that subcompacts have come a long way from being shoddy-quality penalty boxes – this car is simply marvelous. I think that for the time being, the 2016 Yaris Sedan will continue to remain a segment leader in quality, efficiency, and overall character. This is a bargain that’s going to be hard to beat.
2016 Toyota Yaris Sedan Gallery