Redesigned 2016 Toyota Yaris Sedan (Scion iA in the United States) Targets Young Buyers With Small Budgets and Big Lives

Quebec City, QC – This is a big year for Mazda, having launched a pair of long-awaited models in the CX-3 crossover and the fourth-generation of its MX-5 (Miata) roadster. If all had gone as planned, the car you see here would have been the third new Mazda to come to market this year, as the Mazda2.

Toyota Yaris vs Mazda2 vs Scion iA

Instead, having decided to focus its marketing efforts on the CX-3 and MX-5, a technology-sharing agreement between Mazda and Toyota means this little car makes its first North American appearance in Toyota showrooms: in the U.S. as the Scion iA, and here in Canada as the Yaris sedan.

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It may wear Toyota badges and grille, but this subcompact sedan is all Mazda from the sheet metal on down. You might call that a cop-out on the part of Toyota, a company obviously capable of designing and engineering perfectly good cars of all sizes – but here was an opportunity to save some cash by buying into the work Mazda has done on its efficient SkyActiv drivetrains, and in turn helping Mazda fill out production capacity at its Mexican factory. Why mess with a design that promised to be a good thing?

2016 toyota yaris

Powered by 1.5L Engine with 106-HP

A 1.5-litre engine makes 106 hp and 103 lb-ft of torque, and can be matched with a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. There’s certainly no surplus of power, but the engine delivers what it can with a pleasing soundtrack regardless of how quickly you’re asking it to go.

In many cars that offer both manual and automatic transmissions, it’s clear the manufacturer put more effort into one than the other. These days, it’s usually the slower-selling stickshift that suffers, but not here. We drove both configurations at Toyota’s launch event, and found clutch and shifter action that are among the best you’ll find in an affordable car. It all feels well-suited to the engine, in spite of a fairly wide spacing of gear ratios that you’d think would highlight this engine’s modest output. The automatic shifts smoothly and predictably, responding eagerly with downshifts in passing situations, and a sport mode sharpens the transmission’s behaviour even further.

Yaris on the Road

All small cars are more or less fun to toss around a quick corner, but the Yaris’ nicely-tuned chassis lends the car a planted and capable feel that’s missing from many sub-$30K vehicles. It made the car a more willing partner on the winding secondary roads we drove west of Quebec City than in freeway cruising: it’s at those 100 km/h-plus speeds that road and wind noise start to intrude. More impressive was the total lack of squeaks and rattles on rough pavement, in both of the cars we drove.

2016 toyota yaris

2016 Yaris Interior

Interior space is not overly generous, but that’s the tradeoff to a car with a city-friendly footprint. There’s useful space for four adults as long as two of you are on the short side, but wider folks might find the front seats narrow for long-haul comfort. Cargo capacity is limited not by the trunk itself (which Toyota measures at 382 litres of volume) but by the tiny opening dictated by clipped rear-end styling.

2016 toyota yaris

2016 Toyota Yaris Features

Fuel Consumption

Toyota claims fuel consumption estimates of 7.6/5.7 L/100 (city/highway) with the manual transmission, and 7.2/5.6 with the automatic. Both sets of ratings are better than those for the Yaris hatch, with its five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmissions.

Base Price

Toyota doesn’t offer a true base model here, opting instead to start out with a well-equipped model at $16,995 that includes air conditioning, cruise control, power windows, keyless entry, hill start assist, Bluetooth, and a four-speaker stereo with USB and auxiliary inputs.

Add-Ons

Another $1,205 adds the automatic transmission, and checking that box allows the selection of a ‘premium’ package that brings heated front seats, six-speaker stereo with two USB ports, seven-inch audio display screen, fog lights, backup camera, and alloy wheels. None of that kit can be had with the manual transmission.

The base car is a great value, and drivers who prefer to shift for themselves will be pleased to find a $17,000 with a manual shifter to rival those in cars that cost three times as much. Our only question is whether traditional Toyota buyers will be put off by this car’s sharp responses, or if drivers seeking a more immersive driving experience will ‘settle’ for a car wearing a Toyota badge.

Both of those subsets of buyers would be missing out: this is the best small car Toyota never built, and we certainly can’t fault their decision to sell it as one of their own. The Yaris sedan is on sale now in eastern Canada, and will be available in points west over the coming few weeks.

2016 Toyota Yaris Gallery

Chris has been writing professionally about cars since 2004, in print and online. He lives in Ottawa with his wife and two feline tyrants. In rare quiet moments, he can be found travelling or playing one of his way-too-many guitars. Chris is also a journalist member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).