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2020 Toyota Yaris Review

LIKES
  • Mazda parts
  • Versatile hatchback
  • Strong value
  • 2 years of included maintenance
DISLIKES
  • Asymmetrical interior
  • Limited automatic emergency braking
  • Outdated infotainment
  • Straining sport mode
BUYING TIP
  • In top XLE trim, the hatchback is the same price as the sedan, and offers more versatility and features.
The 2020 Toyota Yaris hatchback returns as a complement to the subcompact sedan.

The 2020 Toyota Yaris goes far on thrift and short on just about everything else. 

The subcompact sedan starts at just $16,605 (including $955 destination) in base L trim. The sedan and hatchback are offered in LE and XLE trim, which tops out at $19,705. 

Despite that low starting price, the Yaris is undercut by the Chevy Spark, Mitsubishi Mirage, and Nissan Versa. The Yaris comes with standard power features, two USB ports, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and automatic emergency braking that can avoid crashes at 12 mph or slower. The Versa offers more active safety features, but is more expensive. The 2020 Yaris earns a TCC Rating of 5.3 out of 10. 

The jump in the Yaris L from a 6-speed manual to a 6-speed automatic is $1,100. The hatchback only comes with the automatic. Both transmissions are moved by a 106-horsepower 1.5-liter inline-4 that powers the front wheels. The Yaris doesn’t go anywhere in a hurry, but a sport mode in the 6-speed automatic revs the engine enough to fill the cabin with noise. 

The Yaris sedan is thrifty on the road, too, thanks to its low 2,400-pound weight. The sedan is nearly a foot longer and a bit heavier, but gets 40 mpg on the highway, according to the EPA. The hatchback is expected to be the same. 

Under the skin, the Yazda uses a MacPherson front strut and a torsion-beam rear axle. The base L has 15-inch wheels, while the others have 16-inch wheels. The road is ever-present, the cabin can be loud, yet the Yaris has firm footing and good outward vision to help you avoid all those road imperfections. Even though it’s slow, the subcompact is comparatively quick to react, and the thick three-spoke steering wheel has good heft—like the MX-5 Miata—compared to the bargain-bin competitors. 

The 2020 Yaris sedan earned top marks from federal and independent crash-testing agencies, which is impressive for a subcompact. As an added bonus, the Yaris hatchback includes two years/25,000 miles of scheduled maintenance and 24-hour roadside assistance.

Styling
Mazda’s asymmetrical interior undoes what it is a perfectly plain exterior.

The 2020 Toyota Yaris in sedan and hatchback forms wear Toyota’s bold trapezoidal front grille like a face tattoo: There’s just no getting around it, and it’s proportionately huge for a car so small. It looks more balanced on the redesigned hatchback and its snub ends, which is nearly a foot shorter than the sedan.

On the inside, Mazda’s presence under the sheet metal comes to the fore. This is great for handling, bad for style. The 2020 Toyota Yaris earns a 4 out of 10 for overall styling.

The base L sedan rides on 15-inch wheels, while the more attractive hatchback gets 16-inch alloy wheels. The corners of the pouty, oversized grille lead to a creased hood on top and a lower body line that rises toward the top of the rear wheel, as if the aerodynamics are stamped onto the side. The hatch is 10 inches shorter than the sedan, so it comes to an abrupt but not unattractive end, and the wheelbase is longer for a sportier profile. 

Inside both models are Mazda’s circular vents that look like something borrowed from a jet turbine or a Mercedes. But perhaps they ran out of money or parts at three vents; a fourth vent is wedged on the line between the upper and lower dash, but it is a flat square thing that throws off the whole design. Above it is a 7.0-inch touchscreen mounted on the dash like a tombstone to automotive design, but otherwise the dark, textured plastic and uncluttered controls give the cabin an understated look of budgetary elegance.

Performance
It might not sound like much, but the powertrain rides on Mazda’s swell suspension for an overall pleasing ride.

A lightweight, front-drive subcompact is not the ideal car for a winter storm, but the 2020 Toyota Yaris sedan remained sure-footed and predictable. On dry roads, the pokey powertrain was offset by reasonably good handling, heavy steering, and a sport mode unique to the XSE trim that made the 6-speed automatic transmission drone like a first-generation CVT. 

The overall satisfactory performance of the 2020 Yaris nets a 5 out of 10, which is an average score. 

Mazda has proven that small cars don’t have to be bad cars when it comes to overall ride, and that it’s not the size of the engine but the overall character of how it moves that matters most. In sedan or hatchback, the Yazda is powered by a 106-horsepower 1.5-liter inline-4 that makes 103 lb-ft of torque. It’s enough, because the Yaris has a Miata-esque weight of about 2,400 pounds. All Yazdas come standard with a 6-speed automatic, though opting for the 6-speed manual on the base L or LE sedans will shave $1,100 off the price. The manual is not available on top XLE trim or hatchback models.
Sport mode might feel better when the suspension is being flexed on winding roads, but overall the subcompact is neither too firm nor too soft, thanks in part to a front MacPherson strut and rear torsion beam suspension. The thick steering wheel has some heft, so it feels sportier than the engine will allow. 

But it’s a small car, and will get pushed around on blustery days or by passing semis. In town, it’s a cinch to park. 

Comfort & Quality
The 2020 Toyota Yaris is small but roomy enough up front.

Even in top XLE trim, the 2020 Toyota Yaris doesn’t pretend to be anything but an entry-level subcompact car. There’s no armrest in the center console, heated seats are available only with the right body fat, and rear legroom is a good excuse to keep the occupants maxed at two. 

We rate it 4 out of 10.

The front seats aren’t bad for a budget car, with a six-way adjustable driver’s seat and a tilting and telescoping steering wheel to help find the right driving position. Synthetic leather bucket seats on top XLE trim add comfort, and the leather-trimmed steering wheel on the same trim gives the wheel a meaty feel. Black leatherette seats and blacked out dash and instruments provide an upscale night-on-the-town vibe. 

Cupholders go where the elbow rest normally would go, as the narrow center console is taken up by the controller for the 7.0-screen infotainment system. Bottle holders in the doors add convenience, and the rear seats each get a cupholder. 

In back, two tweens fit fine, but adding a third would create a carpool nightmare. The trunk in the sedan offers 13.5 cubic feet of cargo volume, which is pretty good for a subcompact, and the opening was large enough to shove in a hockey bag. The hatchback has nearly 16 cubic feet, with an easy opening. It’s 10 inches shorter, but rear leg and shoulder room are the same as the sedan, with a little more headroom.

Safety
Top crash testing ratings and standard safety features should give Toyota Yaris shoppers peace of mind.

The 2020 Toyota Yaris rates 7 out of 10 for getting top marks from crash-testing agencies, as well as coming with automatic emergency braking, which is a rarity on subcompact budget cars. 

The 2020 Toyota Yaris earned a five-star rating from the NHTSA, though it didn’t perform as well in rollover or front passenger side-impact tests. The hatchback has not been tested, but the 2020 sedan earned “Good” ratings from the IIHS. The headlights were rated at “Poor,” and the low-speed automatic emergency braking system that comes standard got a middling “Advanced” rating. It avoided collisions at speeds under 12 mph.

Features
The standard and available feature list is right for the price.

New for 2020, the Yaris sedan and hatchback come with a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Daytime running lights, a push button start, Bluetooth connectivity, a USB port, and power features complete the standard package. That’s a pretty good value for a budget subcompact, even if the tech is subpar. It's a 5 out of 10 compared to all the other new cars out there.

The subcompact sedan starts at just $16,605 (including $955 destination) in base L trim. The sedan and hatchback are offered in LE and XLE trim, but once you add the $1,100 for the CVT instead of the 6-speed manual, the price is the same for the sedan and the hatchback. 

The LE starts at $18,705 and adds 16-inch wheels, fog lights, rear spoiler, and keyless entry.

The XLE models start at $19,705 with the 6-speed automatic; the manual is not available. XLE comes with two drive modes, normal and sport, as well as synthetic leather front bucket seats, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, automatic climate control, automatic LED headlights, and rain-sensing windshield wipers. 

With the CVT included, all that extra gear in the XLE adds up to only a $1,000 difference. Toyota wants you in the XLE, and we’d take the hatchback for its storage versatility.

Fuel Economy
Light and efficient, the 2020 Yaris sedan and hatchback get 40 mpg highway.

Weighing under 2,500 pounds, the subcompact Yaris with the underpowered 106-hp inline-4 returns exceptional fuel economy with either the automatic or the manual. The hatchback and the sedan get 40 mpg highway, which warrants a 7 out of 10 rating.

The 2020 Yaris sedan and hatchback with the 6-speed automatic powering the front wheels gets 32 mpg city, 40 highway, 35 combined. The 6-speed manual on the base L sedan drops it 1 mpg to 30/39/34 mpg.


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