#5 – 2012(?) Toyota Yaris

Time for another edition of “Drive that rental car!”

2012 Yaris

Except I didn’t really drive it, I was just a passenger. Liability and all that, it wasn’t my rental. But I spent more than the usual 5 minutes in the car and there isn’t a whole lot of surprises so I’m declaring myself qualified enough to write about it.

As you’ve already seen from the title, this week we had a 2012 Yaris.

Actually, I’m looking this up and it might’ve been a 2011. They keytag from the rental place said 2012, but I don’t believe them.

When I think of the Yaris my mind immediately assumes hatchback, and therefore thinks either “Cute!” or “Awesome!” But it was the 4-Door sedan version. Boo.

From the back...

First impressions: It’s small. I like small cars, if I lived in a city I would want a small car. I just wish more cars were small but had some style and didn’t feel all plasticky like this poor Yaris did. I’m sure there are some out there, I just haven’t gotten to them yet.

Wait, I'm supposed to manually adjust my mirrors?
Manual mirror adjustments…haven’t seen that in awhile.

Knobs and stuff.

No, not that kind of shifter, anything but that!
Have I mentioned yet how much I dislike these? And yes, D and 3 are a side-to-side shift, not front-to-back.

I imagine someone, somewhere likes how simple this wheel is...
Most simple steering wheel ever…

iPod! And...sticky traction control.
Gratuitous “ew, why is my rental car sticky” picture.

I did like how the dash was in the center. I was informed that apparently they use this car on both sides of the pond (and maybe the Japanese side too? I don’t know) and this made it easier to build a car in both LHD and RHD configurations. (Maybe? Looking for references on this.)

radio, gauges, etc.

(I’m just going to put a quick disclaimer here. I’m on migraine medicine while writing this. It’s fun. But if this review is a little incoherent, blame the drugs. I’m actually pondering how I can use this to my advantage. Something like My Drunk Kitchen. My Triptan-Addled-Brain Car Reviews? Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it? I’ll keep working on it. Also, all pictures were taken with my usually cooperative phone, but the Yaris apparently needed to be overexposed so they aren’t the best.)

So as a passenger, I could easily see the speedometer, tach, gas gauge, etc. This was cool, because one of the things that bothers me most being a passenger in a car is not being able to watch all the needles. Yes, I know I’m weird. It was also easy to read, no complaints. I’ve been told it is not so ideal from the driver’s standpoint, the information you need is not right in your view so it tends to be ignored. Also the woman at the car rental place said that it was really strange at night, it’s not normal to have your field of view be so dark.

Up close, can you feel the excitement?

In case you haven’t noticed, the location of the gauges was the most novel part of this car. And it’s a shame, because apparently for 2012 they changed it to a more traditional layout, thus removing one of the few things that made this car stand out in my mind. (This is why I don’t believe the keytag when it says it was a 2012 model. Also apparently for 2012, the Yaris only came in 2-door and 4-door hatchbacks, no sedan styling.)

Anyway. The seats. Gah. I know, it’s a cheap car, and some people want that, but I think they just grabbed flat pieces of foam and glued them in and said “Here! Sit!” I hope, for the sake of people that own this car, that it molds to their butt after awhile. I also could not adjust the back part of the seat so that it would be comfortable. Again, hopefully that would break in after awhile.

Those non-ergonomic flat foam pieces were also strangely placed. I’m all of 5’2”, but the seats were uncomfortably high with no height adjustment option. Is this some compromise for those people who enjoy being up high while driving (like they would be in an SUV)? My 5’10” boyfriend was almost hitting his head on the ceiling. Crazy.

But it wasn’t horrible. Even after all of this, I still liked the smallness. If I drove only in cities for short trips it wouldn’t be bad. I know Toyota has had some issues lately, but I’m under the impression that they still have a reputation for being reliable and this seems like a good, cheap car that wouldn’t drink fuel or rack up the repair costs.

Also, if you did get it for city driving but still had to take it out on the highway, it’s surprisingly not horrible. Sure it’s not fast, but it had some punch to it. (Surprising for a 1.5L, 4 cylinder, 4-speed(!) car.) I would’ve felt comfortable merging into traffic with it.

Here, have a silly short video of the Yaris making some noise as it merges with all the scary traffic at rush hour:

What else…Oh, the back seat was nice. I would argue that it was significantly more comfortable than the front seats, and legroom was surprising for such a tiny car.

Surprising legroom

And lastly, cupholders. Cupholders everywhere, hidden away so as to conserve space when you did not have a beverage, but hold your drink snugly when you did. They’re like the murphy beds of cupholders. Two thumbs up for drink containment.

This bottle isn't going anywhere

Now you see it..

Now you don't!

So in conclusion, I rate this car a solid: “OK”. Exterior styling was nothing to write home about, it’s a 4-door car, yippie. Interior was the same, uninspiring but not bad. And um. I really don’t have anything else to say. It was just that kind of car. Anyone have any recommendations for small, economical cars that won’t immediately fade from my memory?

(I just wanted to check some things on Wikipedia before I published this review, and wow, ok. Apparently the internet at large agrees with me on this car in that no one ever took the time to add more than minimal details about this model. Just not worth their time? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_Yaris)

#1 – 2003 Toyota 4Runner Limited

I wanted to start these road tests with an exotic or interesting car, but the whole idea was to take a look at cars that I would not normally drive, and what better way to do that then to start with a Toyota. Which is also an SUV. As someone who likes small European sports cars, this is out there.

The model I drove is a 2003 4Runner in the Limited trim level which includes 4WD and a 4.7L V8 engine. I like V8s, we’re off to a good start. Also during my preliminary research, I found out that this vehicle is branded as the Toyota Hilux Surf in the rest of the world, so it has a good pedigree. (Go check out some episodes of Top Gear on BBC/BBCAmerica if you don’t know why the Hilux is so revered. The Polar Special is probably my favorite example.)

The 4Runner weighs over 2 tons, which I don’t think is too unusual for an SUV, but the V8 seemed to pull it just fine. I put my foot down and the SUV moved forward with some pep. I should mention that this was a used car with about 147k miles on the odometer, and I have no clue how well the previous owners maintained the car.

I wasn’t able to take the car for a proper road test to try out the brakes, but they stopped it well enough. I would’ve liked to see how they respond at speed…because as far as driving dynamics went, this thing felt like a boat. The driver’s seat feels very high above the road, and you don’t feel bumps in the road. Also when turning, you leeeeean. And then leeeeean the other way when you straighten out.

I don’t think most people will be taking their 4Runner on an autocross course, so as long as they understand that then we’re all good. Just watch out for people driving aggressively on the highway, they might think their luxury V8 yacht is a jet-ski, and it’s not. (Going back to the previous paragraph, it’s a possibility that this car could need suspension work so that may have explained some of the mushiness that I noticed.)

And now on to the interior. I got in the cabin and the first thing I could think of was: “This car is designed for men.”

Before I go any further on that thought, let me explain something about my taste in, well, everything. I have a cell phone that both male and female reviewers have said is “aimed towards the male market.” I look at this phone and I see a cell phone with red buttons and red accents. I am a female, and I really enjoy red and black. This is apparently unusual. Also in case you can’t tell, I really like cars, I like taking things apart, and I fly model airplanes as a hobby. Most things that are marketed to men I see as neutral so it’s not something I say often.

Back to the Toyota. The trim on the inside of the car was supposed to look like black granite, and all of the knobs were designed to look like big chunky gears. (The picture doesn’t do any of this justice, sorry) All of the controls felt very smushed in, like someone just said ok, we have 26 square inches, fit as many buttons in as you can. But I didn’t have much time, I’m sure that over time one would get used to where everything is. It also has one of those horrible, not-linear automatic gear shifters. (I suppose I should learn what those are called, especially considering their prevalence these days.)

Aside from that it was a standard car. Leather seats, rear legroom was great, cargo area had some nifty features to help keep you and your stuff (and in the case of the previous owner, your dog) organized.

I did appreciate how someone, somewhere decided to make sure I knew that the door cubby was only for bottles, and not for glasses. (There are cupholders for that you heathens.) There was also a handy cheat sheet on the sun visor telling you under what conditions to mess with your differential. (Kicking myself for not getting a picture of this)

Lastly, my favorite part of this car. In my time of working at a car dealership I have noticed that car brands often have little features that aren’t a big deal, but are great for convenience. I would list some of these here but I need to save something exciting for future posts, so I’ll just say that what Toyota did here is amazing.

Yes, there is the normal sun visor that folds down and can also go sideways, but there is also a secondary visor that you can fold down to cover the top of the windshield while the primary visor is covering the side window. I have terribly sensitive eyes and wear sunglasses even when it’s cloudy so this is the kind of thing I can get behind. Maybe other manufacturers do this too, but hey, I’m new to this game so I’ll just have to wait and see.

So that’s the 4Runner. My horizons have been expanded already. Next up, try to find the Lexus equivalent, I guess that would be the GX?