2016 Toyota Yaris LE Review: Big Space, Big Compliments, Small Price
The Toyota Yaris is one of the smallest and least expensive cars sold in America, even in the 5-door form which I tested recently. Within the last decade, driving one of America’s smallest and least expensive cars meant that you were wedged in a car that wouldn’t impress anyone with its interior or exterior features, but times have changed and the 2016 Yaris LE 5-door is a glowing example of how much better today’s small, inexpensive cars have improved.
In fact, the Toyota Yaris LE is flashy enough that it was one of the test cars in which I received the most compliments from random people out in public. I drive lots of performance cars and luxury vehicles, all of which draw some attention, but never before have I gotten so much attention for a non-performance hatchback…especially one which fits into the classification of one of America’s smallest and least expensive cars.
No, I’m not kidding. At least a dozen people approached me to talk about the little Toyota and while most of them were drawn to the sporty, two tone exterior, the roomy interior and the high tech infotainment system further impressed the looky-loos. In the end, this car caught more attention from random people than did many of my test cars, shy of the flashiest and the most powerful and in the case of small hatchbacks, only the Fiat 500 Abarth garnered more attention.
Truth be told, I was just as impressed by the 2016 Toyota Yaris LE 5-door as were many of the onlookers, and that included my time on the road.
The 2016 Toyota Yaris in its base, 3-door L trimline starts at just $14,895, making it one of the least expensive cars sold in the USA. When you step up to the 5-door model, the price climbs to $15,995 and when you opt up to the more well-appointed LE trimline, the price rises to $16,930. Add in the destination fees of $835 and the $500 upgrade for the two tone paint and we have a price as tested of $18,265. That price includes everything mentioned in the review below and there are no upgrade packages – so if you buy a 2016 Toyota Yaris LE 5-door, it is going to have these same features and the same MSRP (although you can cut $500 from the price by skipping the two tone paint) as my test car shown here.
On the outside, the 2016 Toyota Yaris LE 5-door looks like the rest of the lineup for the most part, but the LE package adds 15 inch aluminum wheels and a splash of chrome around the lower grille when compared to the base model L package. More importantly, my Yaris LE was covered in the beautiful Barcelona Red Metallic and Black Sand Pearl two tone color scheme, which makes for a far better looking hatchback than the single color Yaris. This color upgrade is well worth the $500 in my opinion, and it was that black and red livery which attracted so many people around town.
Really, as 5-door hatchbacks go, the Yaris LE with the two tone paint and the aluminum wheels is one of the sportiest non-performance models sold in the US, making this little Toyota far more enticing to someone who wants a car with a little exterior personality.
The cabin of the 2016 Toyota Yaris LE 5-door isn’t going to blow your mind with tons of gadgets and high tech amenities, but like every new Yaris, my test car was fitted with the Entune audio package. This includes a 6.1 inch touchscreen mounted high on the dash which controls the CD player, the AM/FM HD radio, auxiliary input (via phone, media player or USB) and the Bluetooth hands-free phone system. The two features which the Yaris LE does not have is navigation and satellite radio, but once I hooked up my music USB and paired my phone – I didn’t miss the satellite radio and I didn’t need navigation, as the Yaris broadcasts your phone’s navigation commands through the car’s 6-speaker sound system. The speaker system certainly won’t rival the likes of the Mark Levinson systems in the modern Lexus lineup, but whether you listen to country, rap, or rock & roll, the Yaris’ factory sound system does a nice job of pumping out the tunes.
In addition to the touchscreen, the sound system can be adjusted via a few simple knobs and buttons in the area surrounding the touchscreen or via the buttons on the steering wheel and with a push of the button on the radio face, all of the key features of your phone can be accessed via voice control. You will still need to manually input things like navigation directions or a different music track, but you can make and receive calls while driving without picking up your phone.
It was this simple infotainment system which surprised many of the people who asked about the Yaris, especially when I pointed out that the Entune audio system comes standard on all trimlines.
Other than the Entune audio system, the cabin of the Yaris LE 5-door is pretty basic, with three knobs to control the heating and air conditioning system and a big, analog speedometer right in the middle of the gauge cluster – although that big speedometer is accompanied by a simple driver information screen with mileage, fuel economy information and the gear selected.
While Toyota did a nice job of packing some create comforts into the dash of the 2016 Yaris 5-door, the rest of the cabin is surprisingly empty. This is a good thing, as it yields a remarkable amount of passenger and cargo space for such a small vehicle. Any driver or passenger who isn’t incredibly tall should find no problem fitting into either of the front seats, with plenty of space in every direction – although two tall adults might find themselves jockeying for elbow room in the middle of the vehicle. The back seat is a little tighter, but there is still enough leg room and head space to comfortably seat two 6-foot tall adults, or three smaller children. One interesting aspect of the Yaris is that the rear seat is positioned slightly higher than the front seats, so those folks in the back have a much better view out the front of the car than many other small cars which have the rear riders staring into the back of the front seats.
Finally, the rear cargo area is more like a small station wagon than a 5-door hatchback, with an area which will accept a large box or a big hockey bag. If you need more cargo space, you can fold down the rear seats and remove the rear cargo cover, leaving you with a cargo area as large as some small SUVs.
Really, I only have two complaints about the interior of the 2016 Yaris Le 5-door, and those are the lack of a center arm rest and the lack of a navigation system. A center arm rest would make driving a bit more comfortable and it seems like one of those things that every car in this day and age should have, and while I understand excluding standard navigation to keep the purchase price low, that is something that I would most certainly add at the dealership. Oddly, navigation isn’t mentioned anywhere on the current Toyota website, but there are pictures with the Yaris screen showing navigation and there are discussions online about the Yaris nav system, so it is available – but not standard with the Entune audio system.
Aside from those two very minimal critiques, there isn’t much to complain about with interior of the 2016 Toyota Yaris LE 5-door. All four main seating positions offer plenty of space for an adult and the seats – while cloth-wrapped rather than the leather of the Yaris SE – are comfortable on long rides. The audio system looks great, sounds great and it easy to use and while it isn’t the fanciest system on the market, it also doesn’t leave you wishing that you had spent a few more bucks for a decent radio interface.
The 2016 Toyota Yaris LE 5-door is powered by a 1.5L 4-cylinder engine that delivers 106 horsepower and 103lb-ft of torque to the front wheels via a standard automatic transmission. Those numbers don’t sound like they would make the Yaris very interesting to drive, but this small, lightweight car actually does pretty well for itself for “only having” 106 horsepower. I wouldn’t call it quick or fast, but it is surprisingly peppy – although I wish that the 5-speed manual from the Yaris SE was at least available in the LE, as the extra pedal makes this car more fun to drive while also freeing up a little more power. However, even with the automatic, the Yaris’ mill does a good job of getting the car away from a stop and allowing it to keep up with traffic.
Are you going to dominate your local street racing scene with the Yaris? Absolutely not, but compared to most efficient, inexpensive compacts, this little Toyota doesn’t leave you struggling to keep up with traffic during your daily drive.
In addition to packing enough power to keep up with fast moving traffic, the Yaris 5-door also does a nice job of handling the turns. This is a car that you can toss into turns and it might slide around a little, but it is far more fun than you would expect. Both on tighter turns and long, sweeping turns, the Yaris feels well-planted to the ground where some compacts tend to have too much body roll in an effort to offer a smoother ride. Speaking of the ride quality, as compacts go, the Yaris is smooth on local roads and the highway alike, but it was not a vehicle I would take down my local dirt roads. I spent a short time on one unpaved road and I had to drive very slowly to avoid bottoming out and bouncing around, but on paved roads – the Yaris did a nice job of keeping the bumps on the road.
Finally, the 2016 Yaris LE 5-door with the 1.5L engine and the automatic transmission is expected by the EPA to return fuel economy numbers of 30mpg around town, 36mpg on the highway and 32mpg combined. In my time with the car, I found that the highway fuel economy numbers were actually a bit higher when cruising in traffic and over the course of my week with the Yaris, I averaged just under 34mpg. I do not drive gently, so for someone who does and who lives in an area with similar traffic and geographic layout – you should be able to exceed those EPA numbers.
The Yaris LE 5-door isn’t a car that someone is going to buy to go b-spec racing, but it also won’t make you regret buying it like some compacts that can’t keep up with highway traffic. The fuel economy numbers are not the best, but they are very good, and the suspension setup offers some cornering fun and a smooth ride. I do wish that it had a manual transmission, as that would add a ton of fun to the drive, but for someone who wants an efficient, inexpensive compact hatchback that offers a nice ride and a pleasant drive – this car is a remarkable buy for the money.
The Final Word
The 2016 Toyota Yaris LE 5-door is proof that you don’t need to spend a fortune on a small hatchback to get a car that offers amenities inside which have become practically standard across the auto industry with a stylish exterior – all with great fuel economy capabilities and more fun to drive factor than your average low-cost compact.
If you are shopping for a new car on a budget and you demand a car with space for four adults, space for cargo and a modern sound system all for well under $19k, the Yaris LE 5-door is one of the cars that you should definitely drive before making your next purchase. The Yaris doesn’t require you to settle for a barebones car with no interior space and a miserable driving experience like the inexpensive compacts of the past, making it a very attractive option for young buyers getting into their first new car or small families looking to get the most for their money.