With the closure of its youth-oriented Scion brand, parent firm Toyota decided to fold various successful models into the Toyota selection of vehicles. As a result, there is now a Toyota Yaris iA, replacing the Scion name and not much else. And that’s okay, because the Yaris is based on the late, lamented Mazda2, giving it the kind of joyous road manners anyone that enjoys driving can cherish. Because of this cross-pollination, the Yaris iA is designed and constructed by Mazda in Mexico, where the Mazda2 was once built.
The graphite gray 2017 Toyota Yaris iA was patiently waiting at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, ready for a trip to Indianapolis, as preparations for the 101st Indianapolis 500 began. This is a very basic car but it behaves as though it were finer than it actually is. While it’s got power keyless locks, pushbutton start, rearview camera, cruise control, forward collision warning and Bluetooth for the phone, its back to basics nature makes the Yaris iA a willing little four-door, front-wheel-drive four-door sedan (unlike the solely hatchback Mazda2).
As we rushed from Illinois to central Indiana, it was easy to see that the 1.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine was adequate, if not instilled with power, While 106 horsepower at 6,000rpm and 103 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 might sound anemic, the little Toyota is sure-footed and eager. That’s primarily due to the fitment of a six-speed manual gearbox that has a light touch, nice gearing and is easily shifted from gear to gear. And it’s a quiet machine, hitting 3,000rpm at 80mph. Traditional rack and pinion power steering complements the MacPherson strut/torsion beam suspensions, front to rear, and disc/drum brakes work just fine on this sedan.
Toyota fits Toyo 185/60R16 tires on the Yaris iA, with twinned five-spoke alloy wheels carrying the rubber. They’re very skinny but definitely help the fuel mileage for this car, which is rated at 30/39/34mpg from the 11.6-gallon tank. Actually, our mileage, whether over the road or in town was much better than Toyota achieved in Federal testing; it was usually well over 40mpg for this stated 2388-pound lightweight. It was very, very windy on the drive to Indy and the Yaris stepped out from time to time, requiring a deft hand on the steering wheel.
The exterior of the Yaris iA is swoopy and elegant, with its yawing nose opening insinuating power and chrome-look surrounds to the grille opening giving the sedan an elegant front visage. With a slight side upswing design in the lower door areas and a raised trunk with low liftover, that also has chrome look eyebrows for the tail lamps, this Toyota definitely looks richer than its cost. The list price is $16,815 including destination, making the well-constructed Yaris iA a bargain in the current market.
Inside the cabin, Toyota’s Yaris iA is spartan. There are no covered storage areas other than the large glovebox and the steering wheel is covered in plastic. Still there are quite a few areas – including a horizontal bar across the lower dash – that house soft touch plastics, unusual at this price point. The tilt/telescope steering wheel has audio controls on the left, along with phone operation and information that’s displayed on the stand-up seven-inch screen at dash center, while cruise control lies on the right.
A prominent blue-rimmed speedometer is accompanied by a tachometer screen to the left and a right screen that gives outside temp, fuel readings and trip info. There is no temperature gauge. The base of the center stack holds two USB plugs, one auxiliary, a 12-volt and an SD slot for navigation. The Toyota Yaris iA is wired to accept navigation but this car didn’t have it. Audio sources include FM, AM, aha, Pandora, Stitcher and Apple CarPlay. Apps loaded on the Yaris include HD radio, traffic map (with nav) and a fuel economy monitor. The settings menu offers adjustments for the display, safety, clock, vehicle, devices and the overall system.
The blue/black cloth interior has blue stitching and the seats, while comfortable have minimal support. Mirrors have power operation and the driver has a single-touch window. All seating adjustments are manual, as expected. Toyota does have a central tunnel multimedia interface on this car that’s easy to use and offers audio, home screen and navigation (when fitted). The home screen is used for apps, audio and the phone pairing, which is easily accomplished. There are remotes for the trunk, fuel filler and hood at lower left of the dash.
There are cupholders for front-seat occupants in the central tunnel and both doors; three folks in the rear will have to make do with a single cupholder in the tunnel and a very small open storage area. The rear headrests can be lowered to ease visibility, which is pretty darn good all around. Folding the rear seats flat increases the trunk space from its already lofty 13.5 cubic feet.
While the acceleration of the 2017 Toyota Yaris iA isn’t nosebleed-inducing, it does handle, well, like a Mazda, which means very nicely, even with the skinny tires. It behaves quite well over the road thanks to this lineage. I really enjoyed driving this car, but then I like small, good-handling manual transmission vehicles and am not put off by austerity in a car that’s as well-built as this one. This Yaris iA is an excellent value. I have no problem recommending it.
Words and Photos By Anne Proffit