2018 Toyota Yaris Review: Anime Eyes and MPGs
What is the Yaris like to drive?
Well, first I need to address some important housekeeping issues. I cannot find a comfortable driving position in the Yaris. This top trim Yaris SE does not have a telescoping steering wheel. It tilts, but that’s it. For full disclosure: a base Yaris hatchback does not even have a tilt-adjustable steering wheel as standard. That means the steering wheel is fixed in place.
This creates an awkward driving position where the driver has to sit bolt upright, with the seat very close to the dash, and drive arms outstretched to reach the wheel. My knees have to be touching the dashboard to get a decent grip on the steering wheel. This becomes tiresome, quickly. I had several people sit in the driver’s seat and, unprompted, they all mentioned this issue immediately.
Similarly, operating the radio controls results in the same issue. I have to actively lean forward and reach up arms outstretched to operate the climate control and radio. For reference, I am 6’1″ with a good arm span, I am not sure how smaller drivers would ever be able to comfortably operate the controls. I can’t recall the last car I drove where this was ever an issue.
Disclosures disclosed, it’s time to actually hit the road.
During my week with the Yaris I put 440.7 miles on the car, and did everything one does with a car. I drove around town running errands, I drove to work, and I even did a weekend road trip and jammed the Yaris full of people. Throughout all of this, I learned quite a lot about the Yaris as an everyday car.
As initially mentioned, the Yaris hatchback has nine airbags as standard. That includes a driver knee airbag, presumably so that in the case of an accident you won’t jam your knee into that dastardly non-telescoping steering column. That inclusion means it has one more airbag than it’s chief rival, the Honda Fit.
Additionally, while the Honda Fit offers the Honda Sensing safety suite as an available option, all trims of the Yaris hatchback are packing Toyota Safety Sense as standard equipment. This includes the pre-collision system, where if the car anticipates a frontal collision it will alert the driver with a loud beep and then eventually apply the brakes automatically. There is also lane departure alert where the car uses a front-facing radar camera to see lane markers on either side of the vehicle and alert the driver if they begin to wonder over the lines. Finally, Toyota Safety Sense has automatic high beam, where the high beams will automatically come on in low-light situations when there is no opposing traffic.
The only one of these I didn’t get a chance to test was the automatic high beam. There is simply too much traffic in Los Angeles for it to be tested in day-to-day use. Both the pre-collision system and lane departure alert seem to work pretty well. I’m not going to attempt to crash the car to test it, but I tried some late braking in traffic and the pre-collision system alerted me that I was being stupid. Similarly, the lane departure alert was pretty good at beeping at me when I tried toeing the lane markers. Though, for full disclosure, the radar system was a bit flighty about when it could and couldn’t ‘see’ the lanes. The Yaris owner’s manual goes on at great length about when and why the system won’t work, so don’t always rely on it to catch you slipping.
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One thing that is, in my opinion, equally important for safety reasons, but less discussed are the headlights. While I didn’t get to test the automatic high beam, the Yaris SE receives top marks for it’s upgraded projector headlights. Much of the competition uses cheaper reflector housing-style lights. Those cheaper-to-produce lights cause glare for oncoming traffic, and produce less usable light and visibility for the driver. The Yaris SE, with it’s projector lights, offers incredible nighttime visibility. This is a massive positive, and big selling point at this price bracket. The LED running light surround is also a nice styling touch.