A 106-horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine powers the Yaris, and buyers can choose either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. The power output is low, but it's actually adequate for a small, light (about 2,300 pounds) car of this type.
"Performance is about what you'd expect from a 106-hp, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine—not great, but not dreadful, either," asserts Car and Driver. 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."
The Yaris works quite well with either transmission, but most reviewers prefer the standard five-speed manual gearbox to the available four-speed automatic. "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 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."
Reviewers are definitely split about how the 2010 Toyota Yaris handles, and it might have something to do with very different expectations for an affordable, high-mileage vehicle. 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." MSN Autos remarks, "Handling is OK if the car isn't pushed hard," and ConsumerGuide warns that grip in turns is limited by the narrow tires. That's probably not all bad.
TheCarConnection.com also notices some conflicting information about how stable the Yaris feels. ConsumerGuide notes that the Yaris is "prone to wander in gusty crosswinds," and Car and Driver says the boxy, light design "makes passing semis on the highway feel as though you were driving through a tornado." But Autoblog observes, "Crosswinds and passing semis likewise leave the Yaris unperturbed." Luckily the brakes are confidence-inspiring; Edmunds cites "reassuring braking power." For 2010 anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist are a standard feature.
Autoblog says that "with less than gentle mixed driving, the Yaris will cheerily deliver 36 mpg, besting its EPA estimate." TheCarConnection.com's editors have seen as high as 41 mpg in gentle driving, with a five-door automatic-transmission model.