The 2009 Toyota Yaris offers just one engine, a 1.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 106 horsepower. That's not much, but considering the Yaris only weighs about 2,300 pounds, the power-to-weight ratio isn't bad.
Car and Driver reports, "Performance is about what you'd expect from a 106-hp, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine—not great, but not dreadful, either." MSN Autos calls the Yaris' passing ability "brisk" and "fairly quick," adding that the engine, although loud during acceleration, is "a relaxed, quiet highway cruiser." And Autobytel says "once its driver gets used to where the meat of the motor is and learns how best to extract the power, this littlest of Toyotas offers acceptable gusto."
Nearly all reviewers prefer the standard five-speed manual to the optional four-speed automatic transmission, although many note the engine's narrow power band. "The manual shifts nicely, but the engine calls for lots of shifting to get the best performance," says MSN Autos, who add that the automatic, though not as fast, "allows good performance." Edmunds finds the manual gives the 2009 Toyota Yaris "a peppy, sporty feel," and compliments the engine for being "smooth and vibration-free, even at high rpm." ConsumerGuide reports that the automatic works fine around town, "but feels overmatched in fast-moving traffic and hilly terrain."
Where handling is concerned, opinions vary widely (and wildly). Car and Driver says the Yaris' handling is "estimable for a car of this class, particularly the feel and response of the steering, which is electrically assisted to just the right degree." Edmunds also likes the feel of the steering, commenting, "Unlike some other systems of this kind, the Yaris' has a natural, crisp feel with even weighting." ConsumerGuide echoes the compliments about steering feel, but warns that grip in turns is limited by the narrow tires. MSN Autos concurs: "Handling is OK if the car isn't pushed hard."
ConsumerGuide also notes the Yaris isn't so stable in bumpy corners and is "prone to wander in gusty crosswinds." Autobytel lodges a similar complaint, reporting that the steering "feels a touch floaty at higher speeds," and adds that "the suspension is on the soft side and the front end plows when pushed hard into corners." Yet Autoblog observes, "Crosswinds and passing semis likewise leave the Yaris unperturbed."
Reviewers approve of the braking power of the 2008 Toyota Yaris. Edmunds cites "reassuring braking power," and ConsumerGuide points out "drama-free stopping, but be sure to get the optional ABS."
Autoblog says that "with less than gentle mixed driving, the Yaris will cheerily deliver 36 mpg, besting its EPA estimate," while Autobytel reports overall gas mileage of only 27.5 mpg, but acknowledges "a staff of heavy-footed editors."