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2019 Toyota Yaris Review: Small & Steady Wins The Race

2019 Toyota Yaris 01 B15BBF893676832248C1259244ADBB684C4D0BB3
2019 Toyota Yaris
Overall Impression
Don't judge a book by the cover!
It's small but more fun than it looks!
Great option for a first-time buyer.
Fuel Economy
Standard Features
Rear Passenger Room

There’s more choices in the compact sedan market than ever with affordable and fuel-efficient models across the segment. But what if you are searching for one that’s also packed with lots of safety features and still enjoyable to drive? The 2019 Toyota Yaris is a car you should have on your shopping list, especially if you have a younger person in your home heading to college. 

This week, we’ve been driving the 2019 Toyota Yaris XLE.

What’s New For 2019

Last year’s Yaris iA has been renamed to just Yaris. The compact car comes as a sedan only, although there’s new front and rear styling treatments. Three trim levels are now available: L, LE, and XLE.

Features & Options: Nicely Balanced 

The top-trim 2019 Toyota Yaris XLE comes standard with forward collision warning, low-speed automatic emergency braking, a rearview camera, and a height-adjustable driver’s seat. Infotainment features include the center console controller, a seven-inch display, voice recognition, Bluetooth, two USB ports, an auxiliary audio jack, HD and satellite radio, and a six-speaker sound system.

The XLE gets upgrades over the standard model with 16-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, a rear spoiler, heated outside mirrors, LED turn signals, and keyless ignition and entry. The XLE loses the option of the manual transmission but gains automatic LED headlights, automatic wipers and climate control, simulated leather upholstery, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Two drive settings (Normal and Sport) complete the list of features for the 2019 Toyota Yaris XLE.

Total MSRP including destination: $19,470. By comparison, the 2019 Toyota Yaris starts at $15,450.  

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2019 Toyota Yaris interior layout.

Interior Highlights: Softer Yet High-Tech

Despite the lower price point, the cabin impressed us from the moment we jumped inside. The upright touchscreen and circular vents come right from the page of a Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class. It’s unusual to find this kind of material quality and fit and finish in a subcompact costing less than $20,000. There’s plenty of soft-touch materials throughout, and the infotainment system features the kind of connectivity a high-tech generation wants.

The seven-inch touchscreen kept our attention with its easy-to-read display. Room up front is typical for a subcompact but rear passengers will feel a bit cramped on longer jaunts around town. The rear seats fold flat and open up to the sedan’s trunk to accommodate extra cargo. For a young college student, there is enough room for books, groceries, and laundry.

Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs

The 2019 Toyota Yaris is powered by a 1.5-liter engine producing an ample 106 horsepower and 103 lb-ft. of torque. Although small, the engine uses direct injection and variable valve timing with a 12:1 compression ratio to increase performance and efficiency. EPA fuel economy figures are 32/40 city/highway and 35 combined with the six-speed automatic gearbox.

In terms of fuel economy, the 2019 Toyota Yaris leads the pack when compared to other small cars

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Related: Another detailed look at the 2019 Toyota Yaris.

Driving Dynamics: More Fun Than It Looks 

There’s a lot to like about the Yaris with its sporty driving dynamics. It’s a driver’s car from the start and offers plenty of fun for urban-dwellers. We drove the compact sedan through the streets of Denver, and mountains west of the city to give it a thorough testing. When we hit snow this week, the front-wheel drive Yaris had no problem on the roads.

The Yaris hugged the mountain curves with ease and has little body lean. The automatic gearbox is a nice change from CVT transmissions which are common in smaller cars today. The six-speed automatic never hunted for the right gear and it doesn’t have the annoying whine normally associated with a CVT. 

On the open road, the power could be more, but it’s just fine for urban commuters and students traveling home for the weekend. As we motored through the city, the Yaris is the ideal size. Visibility is good and the handling is tight with MacPherson struts in front and the torsion beam in the rear.

Conclusion: An Affordable Option 

For fuel mileage and city commuting, the 2019 Toyota Yaris is the way to go. It’s affordable and offers a more engaging driving experience than other small cars on the market. 

Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy

2019 Toyota Yaris Gallery

Photos: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.