The Yaris sedan, previously the Yaris iA, is offered in three grades for 2019, including the sporty L, the well-equipped LE grade and the new premium XLE grade. The XLE takes Yaris up a notch with sporty leatherette-trimmed front seats; leather-trimmed steering wheel, shift knob and parking brake; an HVAC system with automatic climate control; automatic LED headlights; rain-sensing wipers; and illuminated entry. Toyota photo

Toyota Yaris is economical, budget-oriented

Finally, an affordable car!

Let it be recorded here on these pages that I do actually review cars you that people can afford – sometimes). Believe it or not, I don’t pick the vehicles that I review for you, my loyal readers. I’m merely scheduled into them. And believe me, I hear this all that time: “You never review cars I can afford.” So, listen up! This week’s tester is priced less than $20,000.

The 2019 Toyota Yaris has some changes for this model year, but still remains one of the most affordable vehicles on the market. But, with such a small price tag come some drawbacks. The biggest for the Yaris is the engine. This little people-mover might be super reliable and great for getting you from point A to point B, but off the line it’s sluggish; overall, the performance can be summed up with one adjective: pokey.

The 1.5-liter engine makes just over 100 horses. The 106-hp engine lacks any enthusiasm. The six-speed automatic transmission of my tester felt dated. A manual transmission is available, too, and lowers the cost even more for those who can drive a standard transmission.

Redeeming the performance somewhat is the Yaris’s responsive steering and its amazing turning radius. This makes it ideal for city dwellers who need to maneuver in and out of tight parking spots. It’s unfair to expect the Yaris to be exciting and fast. So, rather let’s judge it for what it is, and not for what it is not. As a commuter car, either in the suburbs or in the city, it does a good job and won’t cost a lot when refueling.

On looks, the Yaris maintains a youthful, modern appearance. While it’s in the middle of its life cycle, the Yaris still feels fresh. The wide-mouth front grille is attractive. It adds distinction. LED headlights are well-styled, but conservative. The profile is all-around-ordinary with little to no styling elements. The back side has a rear spoiler which adds a bit of playful charm.

Inside, the Yaris is basic, but has some surprising softer materials. For a vehicle priced less than $20,000 there are not many hard-plastic touch points; that is impressive.

The Yaris is not a big a car. The five-passenger rating is a little unrealistic, although it’s technically correct. Rear space is small and best suited for only two people. Any passenger over 6 feet tall or with wide shoulders will not be happy for long trips in the back seat. Legroom is adequate, but a car like the Honda Fit offers far more space for rear passengers.

There’s 13.5 cubic feet of cargo room in the trunk. That’s average for this segment. While the rear seats do fold down, they only go halfway, thus limiting the cargo room expandability.

The Yaris seems to take some cost-cutting shortcuts on the infotainment system, which is disappointing. For a vehicle aimed at a youthful consumer, there is not much impressive technology. The seven-inch touchscreen is clean and easy to use, but there is no smart phone integration whatsoever. For a car not to have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto in 2019 seems ridiculous. There are two USB ports, Bluetooth and six speakers.

There are three trims for the Yaris, including L, LE and XLE. The basic trim L, when equipped with a manual transmission, starts under $15,000. My tester was the top-of-the-line XLE trim with an MSRP of $19,470.

For a car to be affordable, like the Yaris, it needs to also be fuel-efficient. And the Yaris is! It has an EPA rating of 32 mpg/city and 40 mpg/highway. In a week’s worth of suburban “pokey” driving, I averaged almost 36 mpg.

So, loyal readers, I hope you remember this car review as part of the wide array of vehicles I review, from luxurious and lavish to basic and economical. On a writer’s salary, I can appreciate cars like the Yaris, because that’s more in my budget, even if I want the fast, luxury offered by vehicles out of my budget.

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