The 2012 Toyota Yaris has cabin appointments and interior packaging that are merely average in this class, but improved seats and a better instrument-panel design mark significantly improved functionality.
For now the all-new 2012 Yaris is only offered as a three- or five-door Liftback (hatchback), though a four-door sedan is due (the outgoing Yaris Sedan is still available at dealerships, as a 2012).
With a couple more inches of wheelbase and length than before, there's more cargo space in back as well as a bit more passenger space in the new Liftback, compared to the previous one. In the front seats, we like the rather high seating position, where you get a good view out and yet have plenty of spare headroom. On the other hand, it does feel a bit like you're sitting ON the car rather than IN it. The lack of telescopic steering adjustment might be an annoyance; and it could be a deal breaker for those with atypical proportions.
Front seats (admittedly, the SE's “exclusive sport seats”) feel much improved compared to what you got before in the Yaris, or what you presently get in the Nissan Versa. They're somewhat wider and noticeably longer, and have a little bit of natural contouring and side support, and they no longer feel like short benches, cutting off circulation to the thighs. But we did note that the fabric acted as a lint brush of sorts to our clothes, collecting stray pet hair and the like. Rear seatbacks fold forward, although not fully flat, and the cargo floor isn't nearly as low as that in the Honda Fit.
Thanks to the added wheelbase, plus a retuned suspension, ride quality is better than previous Yaris models, and good within this class, with less of the bobbing motion that you see in some other subcompacts. But there is a modest amount of wind noise at highway speeds, and at about 70 mph the engine note becomes a constant presence inside the cabin. You'll also hear the engine and its coarse, not-so-sporty note whenever pressing it much above 3,000 rpm.
There's a lot to like in the new instrument panel and dash design, which includes several well-placed bins for storage--including one good for a wallet or smartphone just ahead and to the left of the driver. Ahead of the front passenger is a shallow shelf--with no texturing at the bottom, leaving whatever small items are placed there to slide back and forth.