2020 Toyota Yaris Hatchback Goes Beyond Basic Transportation

The Mazda 2-based Yaris hatchback isn't the quickest or cheapest subcompact, but it shares the sedan model's upscale interior and satisfying driving dynamics.

© Jessica Lynn Walker - Car and Driver   2020 Toyota Yaris

By Scott Oldham, Car and Driver

There's a new hot-hatch version of the Toyota Yaris, an all-wheel-drive homologation special with limited-slip differentials, a 268-hp turbocharged inline-three, and a carbon-fiber roof. Called the GR Yaris (for Gazoo Racing), it's essentially a street version of the Yaris rally car that competes in the FIA World Rally Championship. It's also the latest member of the Forbidden Fruit Club. This limited-production model is not coming to the United States. The 2020 Toyota Yaris Hatchback we do get is new, but it's not exactly hot. With its naturally aspirated 106-hp 1.5-liter inline-four, it's more room temperature.

© Jessica Lynn Walker - Car and Driver   2020 Toyota Yaris

This comes as no surprise, as demand for subcompact cars is ice cold in the age of the SUV. Some automakers have abandoned the class altogether. Toyota is still in, but it's expanding the hedge on its bet. While the Yaris hatchback sold in other markets is a fresh, in-house design built atop Toyota's TNGA platform, this U.S. model is a rebadged Mexican-built Mazda 2, which also underpins the Yaris sedan that dates back to 2016, when it was called the Scion iA.

Tight Dimensions

Both body styles share front ends and a 101.2-inch wheelbase, but the hatchback's shorter rear overhang has clipped 10.1 inches from its overall length. The resulting proportions and stance look better. Its attractive 16-inch wheels wrapped with not-too-small 185/60R-16 Toyo Proxes A27 all-season tires also help.

© Jessica Lynn Walker - Car and Driver   2020 Toyota Yaris

The Yaris hatch's exterior dimensions are nearly identical to the Honda Fit's, as is the Toyota's 16 cubic feet of cargo space, which is three cubes more than in the sedan. But the Fit's interior has always been a packaging marvel, one that offers significantly more people space, including nearly five additional inches of rear-seat legroom—a true feat considering the Honda's wheelbase is about 1.6 inches shorter. This Toyota's rear seat is tight even for its class, and despite having a 60/40-split rear seatback that folds easily enough, it doesn't create a flat floor like in the Fit.

This reskinned Mazda fairs far better up front. Like the Yaris sedan, the hatchback's interior closely mimics the cabin of the Mazda CX-3. We wish for a center armrest, but it's an otherwise comfortable, functional, and extremely well-finished space with blue contrast stitching and a mix of faux carbon-fiber and aluminum-looking trim. Its small digital tachometer can be hard to see when you're wearing sunglasses, but we dig the cluster's center-mounted speedometer and gear readout.

Toyota offers two trim levels of the Yaris Hatchback, LE and XLE. The base price is $18,705, which is about a grand more than the base Honda Fit. It's also $2100 more than the sedan's entry-level L model and $1100 more than a Yaris LE sedan. Keyless entry, pushbutton start, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability, and a largish 7.0-inch infotainment screen are standard.

© Jessica Lynn Walker - Car and Driver   2020 Toyota Yaris

At $19,705, our XLE test car felt pretty premium with convincing leatherette upholstery, automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers, LED headlights, and leather on its steering wheel, shift knob, and parking-brake handle. On the downside, the hatchback offers less driver-assistance tech than some of its rivals. Low-speed forward-collision warning is standard, but blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and a lane-departure warning system aren't offered.

Slow but Scrappy

The Yaris Hatchback's Mazda platform feels solid enough for a subcompact car, although some additional sound deadening material would be worth the few extra pounds and pennies. A fair amount of road noise penetrates the cabin, and the four-cylinder it shares with the sedan gets a bit boomy at full throttle.

And you will be putting the pedal to the metal. A lot. The Yaris Hatchback weighs around the same 2400 pounds as the sedan, but with only 103 lb-ft of torque and a wide-ratio six-speed automatic transmission, it isn't very quick. We were unable to test the hatchback at the track, but its acceleration times should be similar to the Yaris sedan we tested last year. That car hit 60 mph in 9.6 seconds and lumbered through the quarter-mile in 17.4 seconds at 81 mph. The 130-hp Fit will beat it by more than a second to 60 mph.

© Jessica Lynn Walker - Car and Driver   2020 Toyota Yaris

With the sedan's standard six-speed manual, the Yaris may be a tenth or two quicker, but that transmission isn't offered on the hatchback. The ratio spread of the automatic could be tighter, as second gear seems to go on forever as the engine leisurely winds its way to its 6400-rpm redline. But we definitely prefer it over the continuously variable automatic transmissions (CVT) that pervade the subcompact class. The Yaris's six-speed is usually in the right gear, and the powertrain cleanly matches revs when you manually ask for a downshift. Unfortunately, there aren't any paddle shifters on the Yaris's steering wheel. A Sport mode mildly sharpens throttle response and retunes the transmission to hold gears longer, but it's not of much use when you're at wide-open throttle most of the time. That's not good for fuel economy. We came nowhere near the Yaris's EPA estimates of 32 mpg city, 40 mpg highway, and 35 mpg combined. In mixed driving, which included a hard run in the hills, we averaged just 26 mpg. The last Yaris automatic sedan we tested in the flatlands of Michigan managed 33 mpg overall and 35 mpg on our 75-mph highway test.

Pleasantly Composed

The Yaris hatchback has far more chassis than engine. It would be a hoot with another 100 horsepower. Despite its crude torsion-beam rear axle and tiny rear drum brakes, it's fun to toss around and welcomes being hustled. There's more grip than you would expect, and its body motions are well controlled. Ring its neck and you can keep a surprising pace on a twisty two-lane, although even a Camry hybrid will leave you for dead on the straights. The Yaris also is pleasant to drive day to day. The hatchback's ride can be a little busy on rougher roads, but it feels sporty and composed—more engaging than just basic transportation yet comfortable enough to cruise for hours.

© Jessica Lynn Walker - Car and Driver   2020 Toyota Yaris

Last year we declared the Toyota Yaris sedan our favorite subcompact, calling out its value, premium interior, and enjoyable driving dynamics. The Yaris hatchback shares those traits. It isn't the cheapest hatchback in its class, but it ups the sedan's play with improved styling and more versatile cargo space. A special all-wheel-drive Yaris with a carbon-fiber roof would still be pretty cool, but we're not holding our breath. Toyota's hot-hatch future in the U.S. appears to be limited to the next-size-up compact GR Corolla.

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Automotive Magazine: 2020 Toyota Yaris Hatchback Goes Beyond Basic Transportation
2020 Toyota Yaris Hatchback Goes Beyond Basic Transportation
The Mazda 2-based Yaris hatchback isn't the quickest or cheapest subcompact, but it shares the sedan model's upscale interior and satisfying driving dynamics.
Automotive Magazine
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