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2012 Toyota Yaris Five Door SE Sport Edition Review & Test Drive

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Filed under Automotive, Test Drives, Toyota


When I received the word that I was going to test, photograph and review the all-new 2012 Toyota Yaris for the first time I thought to myself, “Here is another cheap, sluggish, subcompact econobox that I will not enjoy driving”.   Well I was wrong because after my seven-day test drive of the all-new 2012 Toyota Yaris SE (Sport Edition) I came away very impressed with the styling, comfort, performance, high mpg specs and safety features.  I’m not alone with sales of the new 2012 Yaris up 140% in April and 70% for the year, proving that the 2012 subcompact Yaris is an outstanding choice for performance, comfort, fuel efficiency and safety at a very economical price that starts at just $17,200.00 for the five-door liftback that I tested.  The three model starts at $15,000.00.  The five-door liftback is a perfect ‘starter’ vehicle for young singles, couples and families just starting out because although small on the outside, there is plenty of room on the inside for up to five people.

The exterior styling is crisp and contemporary.  The grille is accented by sharp character lines that flow into the sleek hood and windshield.  To improve aerodynamics and reduce wind noise, outer moldings on the windshield and door glass have been eliminated.  In the rear the tail lamps frame a wide trunk opening.  The Sport Edition that I tested also features a chrome surround at the bottom of the lower grille, foglamps, and splitter down below.  The side profile also features lower side extensions that give the new Yaris SE a lower center of gravity enhancing its road-holding ability plus bigger 16X6 in. alloy wheels wrapped with 195/50VR16 in. performance tires. The rear of the SE features a spoiler up top, a diffuser down below and a 3 in. wide stainless steel exhaust outlet.  The all-new 2012 Yaris SE cuts through the air with a very low 0.29 coefficient of drag.  For a subcompact five-door the looks are very impressive.

Powering the new Yaris SE is an efficient 1.5 liter, 16-valve, DOHC VVT-i four cylinder engine that generates 106hp at 6,000 rpm and 103 lb.ft. of torque at 4,200 rpm.  It is mated to a standard five-speed manual or an optional four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission turning the front wheels.  With a curb weight of just 2,315 lbs. for the automatic equipped Yaris SE, it has more than adequate ‘get-up and go’ power to maneuver around slower traffic and easily merge into fast moving freeway traffic.  It’s EPA Mileage specs are very good for today’s higher fuel prices-30mpg/city and 35mpg/highway.

The new Yaris SE features a sport-tuned suspension with MacPherson struts and a stabilizer bar up front, and a Torsion Beam setup in the rear.  Light on its feet, the new Yaris SE really surprised me at how well it tracked when coming through curving roads and its rock-solid stability in fast moving freeway speeds.  Also enhancing the handling capabilities of the new Yaris SE is the new quicker-ratio-sport-tuned electric power steering system that gave me great feedback from the road surface and very fast reaction to my inputs.  Also enhancing stability and handling is the standard vehicle stability control and traction control systems that keep me out of trouble with virtually no torque steer or understeer when flooring the car or when going into corners at high speed.

Braking is also excellent in the Yaris SE with four-wheel steel disc brakes at all four-corners.  Up front are 10.8 in. vented discs clamped with single-piston calipers and 10.2 in. solid discs in the rear clamped with single-piston calipers.  Standard ABS, EBD and BA help you maintain control while braking on slick or wet pavement and increase the car’s braking power which also felt very linear when applying softly or hard.

The comfortable cabin features sporty cues and provides rear seating for three with headrests in all positions.  The front bucket seats are very comfortable and supportive with deeply cut side bolsters to keep you in place during spirited driving.  The interior also features an high-mounted, easy-to-read instrument cluster, leather-wrapped and tilting steering wheel with a sporty flat bottom, leather-wrapped stick shifter, hand brake, easy-to-reach controls, an array of storage spaces and cupholders, dual map lights, dual vanity mirrors, power windows/door locks, grab handles above each door, variable-speed wipers/washers up front and in the rear.  For an added measure of utility and luggage space in the SE model, the rear 60/40 split seatback folds down to expand cargo capacity from 9.3 cu.ft. to 25.7 cu.ft.

Standard equipment not mentioned above in the all-new Yaris SE include remote keyless entry, illuminated entry, thick cut-pile carpeting with front/rear floor mats, cruise control, AM-FM-CD player with MP3, 6-speakers, HD radio, auxiliary jack, USB port with iPod connectivity, ASL, Bluetooth with voice command and 6-way manual adjustable driver’s bucket seat and 4-way manual adjustable front passenger seat.

Standard safety features include driver/front passenger advanced airbags, driver/front passenger seat-mounted side airbags, driver’s knee airbag, driver/front passenger seat cushion airbags, front/rear side curtain airbags, whiplash injury lessening front seats, 3-point seatbelts for all seating positions with front pretensioners/load limiters, LATCH system for child seats, child-proof rear door locks, tire pressure monitoring system and engine immobilizer.

Well, to my surprise, the all-new 2012 Toyota Yaris SE is a great looking, fun-to-drive, very well equipped and safe subcompact car to drive.  With a total price for the loaded SE model at only $18,015.00 it is definitely worth a test drive if you are looking for an economical, versatile, fun-to-drive car.



  • Price: Base Yaris 5-door $17,200 / As-Tested Yaris SE 5-door  $18,015.00
  • Engine: 1.5 liter 16-valve  DOHC VVT-i 4-cylinder 106 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm / 103 lb.ft. of torque @ 4,200 rpm
  • Wheelbase: 98.8 in.
  • Total length: 154.7 in.
  • Total width: 66.7 in.
  • Total height: 59.4 in.
  • Track: f/r-57.5/56.9 in.
  • Ground clearance: 5.5 in.
  • Headroom: f/r-39.3/37.6 in.
  • Legroom: f/r-40.6/33.3 in.
  • Turning circle: 36.7 ft.
  • 0-60 mph: 9.7 seconds
  • Fuel tank: 11.1 gallons

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