2012 Toyota Yaris Performance
This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.
The 2012 Toyota Yaris is wrapped in a sportier package, but its outdated 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine and transmissions with fewer gears than competitors leave most reviewers saying the 2012 Yaris is all looks and no fun.
- "In the city, the Yaris proves to be an agreeable companion, darting around construction and obstacles with little protest." -- Motor Trend
- "The drive route was a short one through Los Angeles suburbs, so it wasn't like we took it on a road course or a twisting mountain two-lane. Sporty? Just about all small cars are inherently sporty, and this one didn't seem unsporty. Maybe a Honda Fit is more fun to drive, but this one was playful enough that you wouldn't be afraid to throw it around when the feeling struck you." -- AutoWeek
- "Said engine was no pot of thrills in the last-generation Yaris, and it is no better with a new body wrapped around it." -- Car and Driver
- "The holdover 1.5-liter engine is entirely adequate to move this car. But we can’t call it anything more than adequate." -- Popular Mechanics
Acceleration and Power
The automotive press summarizes the 2012 Toyota Yaris’ powertrain in one word: outdated. The Yaris keeps its 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that manages 106 horsepower, but the most outdated aspect of its powertrain is the transmission. The manual transmission only has five gears, while many small cars are adopting six-speed manuals. The automatic transmission has a meager four gears. With such a significant refresh, automotive journalists wish Toyota had tacked on a few more.
The EPA says the Yaris gets up to 30/38 mpg city/highway. For higher fuel economy ratings, slightly better performance and a low price, consider the Hyundai Accent. It averages 30/40 mpg city/highway.
- "The sportier SE is not just a shiny badge and a larger spoiler. The carmaker stiffened the suspension by about 20 percent; quickened the electric power steering (2.3 turns lock-to-lock versus 3 turns in the standard model); and added larger disc brakes, wheels and tires. With all these goodies in place, the Yaris SE is more playful and feels better-connected to the driver. In short, it’s the first Yaris that could challenge the Fit or Ford Fiesta on a twisty road." -- Popular Mechanics
- "As before, the 1.5-liter frequently feels overwhelmed under any kind of acceleration." -- Automobile Magazine
- "The transmissions are just as 2006, or perhaps even 2000. The automatic has just four gears and the manual is a five-speed." -- Autoblog
Handling and Braking
To get the model with the most precise handling and a minimal amount of understeer, reviewers suggest upgrading to the Yaris SE, though you’ll pay $16,400 for this model. That’s a lot for an affordable small car with decent handling, so if you’re on a budget, reviewers say the base model, which costs about $14,100, isn’t as precise around curves, but is adequate if you don’t plan on being too adventurous.
Overall, reviewers aren’t impressed with the Toyota Yaris, but they do say the SE trim let them have a little fun thanks to its stiffer suspension and larger disc brakes and tires. One test driver said it’s just as fun to drive as the Ford Fiesta and Honda Fit.
- +"Be forewarned: The quicker action compromises the turning circle (36.7 feet on the SE vs. 30.8 on base L and volume-seller LE). In addition to the more direct steering, the SE receives 16-inch alloy wheels with lower-profile rubber, 20-percent stiffer front springs, upsized front rotors, and rear disc brakes to replace the factory drums." -- Motor Trend
- "To the Yaris' credit, LE's handling and steering feel are predictable and relatively direct. Communicative they're not. Understeer is modest and it actually takes some work to make the front tires beg for mercy." -- Autoblog