Today’s subcompacts are far from the low-priced, stripped-down cars that once made up this segment, and that is likely due to the short-lived Mazda2 that was offered in the U.S. from 2011 until 2014. Small-car enthusiasts were probably heartbroken when this beloved car was killed off, but lo and behold a partnership with Toyota brought this car back to the U.S. in 2016 as the Scion iA sedan. Following the demise of the Scion brand, this sedan was renamed the Toyota Yaris iA from 2017-18, and it has been renamed again as the 2019 Toyota Yaris Sedan to coincide with the upcoming launch of the all-new 2020 Yaris Hatchback (also based on the Mazda2).
Can a new name and a handful of updates help make the best subcompact even better? We spent a week in the 2019 Toyota Yaris sedan decked out in its new XLE trim level to find out.
2019 Toyota Yaris Sedan Exterior
The 2019 Toyota Yaris has some of the sleek and sporty styling elements that we love from Mazda, but it doesn’t exactly come off looking like a Mazda-badged Toyota either. That is due to a unique front end treatment that sets it apart from the Mazda2 that is offered in other markets (including Mexico) with more of a down-sloped nose and aggressive headlight and fascia design. The large grille and chiseled headlights give the Yaris its character, and this sedan gets a slight facelift for the 2019 model year with mesh added to the grille and a little extra chrome around the XLE’s standard fog lights. The XLE trim replaces the previous Yaris SE, and it comes standard with LED headlights and taillights, decklid spoiler and 16-inch alloy wheels with a dark gunmetal finish. From every angle, the Yaris sedan looks far better than many people might expect from a sub-$20,000 sedan.
2019 Toyota Yaris Sedan Interior
Where the 2019 Toyota Yaris really outclasses the competition is the interior. This is also where you see the most similarities with Mazda vehicles. The overall design is identical to any modern Mazda with the three-pod gauge cluster, seven-inch infotainment screen and the linear look to the instrument panel. The new XLE trim offers more of a luxurious experience than before, and it adds content such as leatherette-trimmed seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, automatic climate control and rain-sensing windshield wipers. This cabin also has leatherette accents with contrasting blue stitching on the doors, center console and instrument panel as well as carbon fiber pattern and metallic accents door panels and center console.
All 2019 Yaris sedans come with the seven-inch touch-screen display and the XLE adds two USB ports under the center stack, but unfortunately, the Yaris does not offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. It’s worth noting that even the Mitsubishi Mirage comes standard with these convenient connectivity features. And speaking of the Mirage, which we recently tested, that car also came with a driver’s armrest. Not so with this Yaris XLE. Despite these minor downfalls, the interior of the Yaris sedan is roomy and accommodating with sufficient space for five adults. During our week with the 2019 Toyota Yaris sedan, there were two occasions that we had to fill all five seats, and both times the passengers questioned the car’s small size but then commented on how much room there actually was. The trunk is equally impressive for a subcompact sedan, with 13.5 cubic-feet of cargo space and a standard 60/40 split folding rear seat.
2019 Toyota Yaris Sedan Powertrain
Under the hood, all 2019 Toyota Yaris sedans feature a 1.5-liter direct-injected four-cylinder rated at 106 horsepower and 103 lb-ft of torque, and three-pedal lovers will enjoy the fact that you can still get the lower trims with a manual gearbox. Upgrading to a six-speed automatic transmission is a $1,100 option on the L and LE, and it’s the only transmission available on XLE. With the automatic, the Yaris gets best-in-class EPA-rated fuel economy estimates of 32 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway* – that’s better than the Chevrolet Sonic, Nissan Versa and Kia Rio.
All of these small cars get fuel economy in the same ball park, but the real joy of the Yaris is driving it. Part of its enjoyment comes from a chassis setup and steering system that is balanced for practicality and driving pleasure, and the other part is the fact that this sedan weighs in at just 2,416 pounds with the automatic (only 30 pounds heavier than the manual-equipped models), which is almost 500 pounds lighter than the more powerful Chevrolet Sonic sedan in a comparable configuration. As fun as the Yaris sedan can be, its main purpose is as an urban commuter, and it continues to excel here with a perfect size for city driving and a suspension setup that has no problem absorbing rougher roads without too much fuss.
2019 Toyota Yaris Sedan Safety
The 2019 Toyota Yaris sedan received a five-star crash rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Even though you can’t get any of the features included in the Toyota Safety Sense or Toyota Safety Sense P (standard on most other 2019 Toyota models) like vehicle detection, pedestrian detection, lane departure alert and radar cruise control, all Yaris trim levels do come standard with six airbags, low-speed pre-collision system and the Active Safety System, which includes Dynamic Stability Control, Traction Control System, Electronic Brake Force Distribution with Brake Assist, Anti-Lock Brake System and Brake Over-Ride System.
2019 Toyota Yaris Sedan Overall
Not too long ago, the market for subcompacts was limited to low-priced, sparsely equipped small cars that got great fuel economy. Today’s subcompacts offer more technology and luxury than ever before, but if you want something this size that is enjoyable to drive, the 2019 Toyota Yaris is the perfect choice. This sedan combines the fun-to-drive attitude of a Mazda with the ever-accessible dealer supply chain of a Toyota. That’s a win-win for fans of small, fun cars! The Yaris is one of the priciest subcompact sedans with a starting price of $15,600**, but even this fully loaded Yaris XLE comes in at under $20,000.
Make sure to visit your local AutoNation Toyota dealership and test drive the 2019 Toyota Yaris Sedan today!
* Based on 2019 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending on specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.
** MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.