The 2017 Toyota Yaris iA: A Decent Small Sedan for the Budget-Minded [Review]

[Photo: Toyota]
Prices: $15,950-$17,050

Not to sound confusing, but the 2017 Toyota Yaris iA is built by Mazda and is based on the new Mazda 2, which isn’t sold in America. Also, this Toyota is really last year’s iA model from Toyota’s discontinued Scion division.

The subcompact Yaris iA’s background really isn’t important because this an affordable, economical small four-door sedan for the budget minded who want a fairly well-equipped nicely built car with some flair.

The front-drive iA comes in L, LE and sporty SE trim levels, with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. It lists at $15,900 with the manual and $17,050 with the automatic. Freight is an extra $865.

The Mexican-built iA has a sophisticated 1.5-liter four-cylinder with such things as double overhead camshafts, direct injection and 16 valves. The high-revving engine kicks out 106 horsepower at 6,000 r.p.m. and 103 pound/feet of torque at 4,200 r.p.m.

There’s either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic.

I tested the $15,900 model with the manual, which shifts slickly and works with a clutch that’s smooth with a linear action but long throw.

Estimated fuel economy is 30 miles per gallon in the city and 39 on highways and just a bit less with the automatic. Only 87-octane fuel is required, and an 11.1-gallon fuel tank should help assure few filling station stops.

Acceleration is lively, partly because the iA only weighs approximately 2,300 pounds. The lower gears provide quick in-town moves and third or fourth gears provide decent passing above 65 m.p.h. on highways.  Fifth and sixth are overdrive gears that will leave you flat-footed for anything but steady cruising.

[Photo: Toyota]
No iA with an automatic was available.

The iA has an aggressive looking front end with its large grille and clean lines. Its high belt line caused me to stick my elbow up at an awkward angle when I stuck it out the window during leisurely in-town driving. But why bother driving with an open window on a warm day when air conditioning is standard?

The interior is roomy, but a tall passenger behind the driver will want more legroom. The rear seat center is too stiff for comfort. The quality of cabin materials is above average, and it’s quiet in there except for some tire noise.

However, the console cupholders are set a little too far back for easy access, and cabin storage space is just average.

Supportive front seats can encourage sporty driving. So can the iA’s quick steering, nimble handling and easily modulated brakes. The ride is generally supple, although some medium-size and large bumps can be felt.

Besides “air,” standard items include large color-keyed power outside mirrors with LED turn signals, remote keyless entry, power windows and door locks, a power 6-way driver’s seat, adjustable front passenger seat, AM/FM/HD radio with 8 speakers, push-button start, cruise control, tilt-telescopic wheel with audio controls and 60/40 split-folding rear seat backs.

[Photo: Toyota]
The split seat backs have trunk releases to discourage thieves from getting into the trunk from the back seat. The seat backs significantly increase cargo space, although the pass-through area from the trunk to the rear seat area could be larger. The trunk is fairly roomy for a small car and has a low, wide opening.

The 7-inch color touchscreen takes some time to master. The large manual climate controls are welcome because they’re easy to adjust while just momentarily taking taking eyes from the road.

However, my test car’s tiny digital tachometer was difficult to read and couldn’t be seen at all during late afternoon daylight hours because its readings were blocked by reflections from its surface. I thus had to listen to engine rev levels to help tell me when to upshift and downshift.

Advanced safety items once couldn’t be had on a fairly low-cost entry level car, but the Yaris iA has low-speed pre-collision and stability control systems, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, front air bags and side curtain bags.

The heavy hood is held up with a prop rod instead of a hydraulic strut but, after all, Toyota wanted to keep this car’s list price below $18,000.

Why not also check out what we think of the Yaris’ bigger brother, The 2018 Toyota Camry: