So what is it about the Yaris then?
Well, from the outside, it certainly looks pretty good to me. The design of the Yaris has been around since 2006, and even 4 years later, it still looks young. The tailgate is sloped and more akin to a liftback rather than a hatch. For the 2010 model year, Toyota gave the Yaris its midlife facelift, with a new front bumper design, grille, headlamps and wheels.
It's the same story inside, with a young look and a logical, easy to understand layout. The cabin arrangement gives the Yaris a feel of spaciousness even from such little real estate on the road. The new steering wheel feels great to the touch, and so do the seats and other pertinent controls.
As with Toyota's small cars, the Yaris has the gauge cluster in the center. While odd at first, it does present some unique storage opportunities and has 4 compartments on the dashboard. There are also plenty of other cubby holes and pockets around, and the rear seats also fold flat to accommodate bigger cargo. Spacious as they may have tried to make the Yaris, trunk space is still pretty small with the rear occupied, and given the abundance of space with the Yaris's primary competitor, the Honda Jazz, you cant help but feel a little shortchanged.
The powerplant for the Yaris is the 1.5 liter twin cam VVT-i engine, and unlike the Vios, does not offer the 1.3 liter version. Just as well, as the 1.5 motor makes for a better power to weight ratio. Being the automatic transmission version means that the Yaris sprints to 100 km/h in over 12 seconds, and at 11.3 km/l in city driving and 13.5 on the highway, it's pretty good.
Taking care of the suspension is the standard set up you'll find in most cars these days: MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam in the back. The wheels have been pushed out to the corners as far as possible (like a MINI) and thus gives the little Yaris truly short overhangs front and rear. It's quite light to drive, and the spring rates and damping makes it quite fun to toss around in the corners, whether they be 90 degree city corners or winding mountain roads.
In terms of NVH, I find the Yaris lacking, In city speeds it's okay, but on the highway the Yaris can get noisy cruising at the speed limit with the engine, transmission and tire noise. Perhaps a 5-speed auto or the 5-speed manual would do better to keep the revs down a bit more at speed, making the Yaris a great car in town, but leaves plenty to be desired when you're on the highway.
The Yaris has plenty of great points on its own especially in the city, but it has been overtaken by some of the competition, who can offer more space, power, practicality and features for a comparative price.