An affordable four-door sedan with EPA ratings of 34 mpg in the city and up to 40 on the highway.
G. CHAMBERS WILLIAMS III - San Antonio Express-News June 11, 2006
Just in time for higher gas prices and waiting for you at your nearest Toyota dealer is the all-new Yaris.
No, it's not a gasoline-electric hybrid that costs $22,000 or more and gets you maybe up to 50 miles per gallon.
It's the next-best thing, though: an affordable four-door sedan (base price $11,825 plus $580 freight) or three-door hatchback ($10,950 plus freight) with EPA ratings of 34 mpg in the city and up to 40 on the highway.
The hybrids have been getting a lot of attention as potential gas-savers since pump prices have begun soaring again. But it makes more economic sense to buy the Yaris than the Prius, which starts at $22,000. (If you can even find one.)
The difference in price between a Prius and a Yaris would take years to make up at the gas pumps.
OK, maybe the Yaris isn't quite as "cool" as the Prius, which is the darling of the environmental activists.
But you'll probably feel much better about the Yaris when you write your monthly car payment check, which will be maybe half what you would be paying for a Prius.
You will still feel pretty good about the Yaris when you pull into your corner convenience store to fill the 11-gallon fuel tank, which will allow you to drive for 340 to 400 miles, if the EPA ratings are accurate.
Let's see, if you're near empty and have to put 10 gallons in the tank at this week's average price of about $2.70 a gallon, that's $27 to run your Yaris for a week or so.
That's about a third of what it costs to fill up your average pickup, and I'll bet you can't go a whole week without refilling it. Even a V-6-powered midsize SUV, with fuel economy ratings about half those of the Yaris (if you're lucky), will cost more than twice as much to operate. OK, so you're giving up a lot of convenience to stuff yourself like a sausage into this tiny little tin box of an economy car, right?
Our test vehicle, the Yaris S sedan ($13,325 plus $580 freight and options), is a roomy car that is comfortable up front even for a big guy like me. Even the back seat can accommodate two adults rather comfortably, or even three for short trips.
I can't do anything about the car's overall size and the argument that you would probably not fare very well in a collision with a larger vehicle, such as an SUV or pickup.
But there is this to consider: It's much easier to avoid an accident in a small car such as this than in a bigger vehicle. The Yaris handles very well, stops a lot faster than a pickup or SUV, and is easier to negotiate through a panic situation.
Maybe at some point Americans will finally embrace a concept that European drivers figured out long ago: Energyefficient small cars make much more economic and environmental sense than large, gasguzzling behemoths.
Don't panic. I'm not advocating giving up larger vehicles if you really need them. (And some people do.) But for our everyday commutes, during which each of us is usually the only person in the vehicle, it makes more sense to drive something that is more energy efficient.
I've said before and will suggest again that you might want to consider holding on to your big SUV or pickup for weekend family and household duty, while choosing an energyefficient smaller vehicle such as the Yaris for your daily commute.
The 2007 Yaris is one of three new subcompact cars arriving this year from the three top Japanese automakers. Honda has introduced the similar Fit, and Nissan is rolling out its Versa.
The Yaris (pronounced YAHR-is) went on sale last year in Canada and has been sold for several years in Europe and Asia. It was introduced in 1999 and is Toyota's best-selling car in Europe, where it comes in threeand five-door hatchback models. In 2000, it was named "European Car of the Year."
The three-door we're getting here, called the Yaris Liftback, is the second generation of the Yaris and was introduced at the Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany in September.
The sedan is all new and expected to be the best-seller of the two in the U.S. market, where hatchbacks are not embraced by consumers quite as hardily as they are in Europe.