Exterior Design **
The Yaris Liftback's design represents a conflict between "small is beautiful" and "man is that ugly." If the detailing was halfway cool, I'd cast my lot with the willing-to-be-crushed-like-a-bug-for-my-art camp. But it isn't. The slight creases flanking the Yaris' front logo are all kinds of ludicrous, and someone missed the "shrink to fit" label on the headlights. In fact, the small Toy is one of those rare machines that looks best from behind — which is probably just as well given that most of you pistonheads will be doggy-sniffing this beastie in your fast-acting whips.
For a motor vehicle with a 106-horse handbag secreted in its stubby schnoz, the Yaris is almost impossibly accelerative. It tips in well and... keeps going! There's plenty of shove for the cut-and-thrust of urban warfare. The 1.5-liter VVT-i fuel injected e-throttled nitrous fed (just kidding) four only runs out of puff above the double nickel, where adding velocity requires either a drop into third or the patience of Job.
The Yaris' stoppers are another surprisingly effective weapon in its dynamic armory. OK, maybe it's not such a good idea to get all macho about an A to B'er kitted-out with front discs and rear drums. Still, with not much car to retard, the anchors do a fine job of hauling the wee beastie down from whatever speed you can achieve. They even threw in a bit of pedal feel, at no extra charge.
If you expect an economy car to serve-up a Jag-like magic carpet ride, now's the time to admit to yourself that cheap champagne is just bad wine with bubbles. Even so, the Yaris rubberizes all surface imperfections, reducing rough roads to nothing more than a motel bed mechanical massage.
You'd expect a small car with rack and pinion steering and itty bitty wheels at the extreme end of all four corners to be nimble enough to jump over a candlestick. More surprisingly, the automotive microlight sits in a corner like Little Jack Horner. It's no giant slayer, but what do you expect from a car that costs less than the tax on a S55 AMG.
If you're under 65, go for the manual. Not only do you trim a fabulous 0.3 of a second off the Yaris' zero-to-sixty amble, but you avoid an autobox that shunts and hunts. It's not a huge problem, but neither is plaque.
Pack light or lose the passengers.
[by Robert Farago]