When I was a teenager, the parking lot at my high school had its share of small, economical cars. Three of my friends drove Ford Probes. One of the guys in my physics class was a devout Mazda MX-5 Miata owner.
There was also a young man who used a mid-1990s Buick Roadmaster sedan as his way of getting to class and work. It might as well have been one of the jacked-up American pickups that many of the football players rolled around in. It had acres of interior space and a giant V-8 under its hood. He didn’t need to drive it to parties; it was roomy enough to throw one inside of it.
As stately and as spacious as that Roadmaster was, it’s hard to call it the best kind of car for a high schooler or college student. It was a lot of real estate to wheel around, couldn’t have been easy to park, and had eight thirsty cylinders ready to guzzle at the nearest gas station. I couldn’t help but think of it after I spent a week driving its complete opposite: the 2017 Toyota Yaris iA sedan. It seemed to be the ideal car for students. It was small, easy to maneuver, fuel-efficient, and inexpensive. It was also capable of teaching an important skill to people of all ages, not just teens and 20-somethings.
2017 Toyota Yaris iA Exterior
One thing that all students learn eventually is that appearances can often be misleading. The Yaris iA wears Toyota badges, but the car under them is actually a Mazda 2 sedan (a vehicle which is not sold in the U.S.) Like its Mazda cousin, the Yaris iA has large headlamp casings (which hold halogen headlights and daytime running lights), a sleek profile defined by windswept lines, and blade-like taillights that start on the trunk lid and cut into the rear quarter panels. The Yaris may be a budget vehicle, but its designers didn’t skimp on putting effort into its styling.
At a little over 14 feet in length, the Yaris iA easily zipped through traffic, parking lots, and city streets. Parking one on a college campus (if there happens to be any parking available!) or at a downtown hotspot without getting curb rash on any of the 16-inch wheels should be easy for even the most over-caffeinated young scholar.
2017 Toyota Yaris iA Interior
Toyota didn’t just borrow the Mazda 2’s body. They went ahead and used its interior, too. There’s nothing wrong with that, though. The Yaris iA’s cabin was simple and attractive. The black of the fabric sport seats and the dash and door panels was brightened up by blue seat inserts and metallic trim on the steering wheel, dashboard, and shifter surround.
My review vehicle had no options on it so it came with the standard equipment list of keyless entry, push button start, Bluetooth phone connectivity (perfect for keeping young eyes off of smartphone screens and on the road), USB/SD card/auxiliary outlets, and a seven-inch touchscreen. Navigation is available, but it may not be necessary for many high school- and college-age drivers as many of them tend to use their phones to get where they’re going. With that in mind, a dashboard phone mount might just be the perfect interior accessory for them.
The one drawback to the Yaris iA’s interior was its limited rear legroom. I’m 5’10” and found it to be a tight fit back there. Road trips could get a little uncomfortable for taller people who don’t call shotgun. Just think of it like a group project. You remember those, right? Of course you do. You know that if everyone works together (if those in front move their seats forward slightly to make the rear passengers more comfortable), things will go smoothly.
2017 Toyota Yaris iA Performance
The Yaris iA is powered by a naturally aspirated 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Output is a modest 106 horsepower and 103 lbft of torque. Those are the kinds of numbers that can prevent kids from street racing or doing other crazy things out on the road.
Saving money at the pump is always great, especially for younger motorists who may not have a whole lot of money to put in their gas tanks. Luckily, the Yaris iA I drove was capable of getting 30 city, 39 highway, and 34 combined mpg.** During my time in the driver’s seat, I averaged nearly 35.
Toyota offers the Yaris iA with a six-speed automatic or manual. My media loaner had the latter. I wish I’d had a car with a stick when I was a teenager. Learning how to use a manual transmission allows you to drive nearly any car at any time, should the need arise. It may be a dying art, but it’s still an important—and enjoyable—one to practice. And aren’t high school and college all about expanding your horizons and learning something new?
2017 Toyota Yaris iA Safety
Toyota filled the Yaris iA’s compact dimensions with a variety of safety features, including front airbags, seat-mounted side impact airbags in the first row, and side curtain airbags for both rows. A reverse camera system watched out for me whenever I backed out of a parking spot. Stability control, traction control, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, and Brake Assist worked invisibly as I drove to keep me in one piece. The Low Speed Pre-Collision System was ready to brake for me to avoid an accident if I needed it to. No wonder the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Yaris iA a five-star overall safety rating.
2017 Toyota Yaris iA Overall
The 2017 Yaris iA that Toyota sent to me for evaluation had an as-tested price of $16,815 – not far above its starting price of $15,950.* Whether you’re a student on a budget or the parent of one, you can learn even more about the right-sized, attractive, and economical Yaris iA at an AutoNation Toyota dealership.
*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on 2017 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.