2008 Toyota Yaris Review

Consumer Reviews
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The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
July 22, 2008

The 2008 Toyota Yaris is one of the cheapest, and cheapest to run, of all new vehicles.

In compiling this review that covers the Toyota Yaris Liftback, the experts at TheCarConnection.com have found some of the best reviews on the 2008 Toyota Yaris, then added more information on the Yaris to help make the result more useful.

The 2008 Toyota Yaris Liftback model rides on a very short 96.9-inch wheelbase and is one of the shortest new vehicles, at about 150 inches long. It’s ideal as a commuter that can fit into the tightest parking spots, as well as handle longer trips when the need arises. While it maneuvers well, its suspension is somewhat soft.

Standard under the hood of both vehicles is a 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine producing 106 horsepower—adequate for a small, light (less than 2,300 pounds) car of this type. Buyers can choose either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic on the 2008 Toyota Yaris Liftback; the engine works quite well with both, though it’s a bit louder with the automatic. Fuel economy is very good, at 29 mpg city, 36 mpg highway with the manual. All models come standard with 14-inch wheels and air conditioning.

The interior is a contrast of good and bad elements, as Toyota obviously was trying to make a fashionable, desirable cabin while watching its price very carefully. The instrument panel itself in the 2008 Toyota Yaris Liftback has an attractive, almost gimmicky design, with the speedometer in the middle of the dash and a tall center stack of controls down the middle, but on closer inspection, it’s made of hard, easily scratched plastics. Front seats are rather small and skimpy, while the backseat on the Liftback is tough to get into, but decent for space; kids should be just fine back there. Base Liftback models are very basic, with manual winding windows.

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The 2008 Yaris Liftback Sport model is a new addition to the lineup. The Yaris Liftback Sport gets body-color bumpers and side rocker panels; in addition, it picks up sport seats, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and shifter knob, 15-inch wheels, a rear defroster, a rear wiper, and an audio system with MP3 capability and an auxiliary jack.

Toyota prices the five-speed manual Liftback from $11,300; the Sedan with an automatic transmission starts at $12,900. The new 2008 Toyota Yaris Liftback Sport with a five-speed manual is priced at $12,975.

The Yaris was one of the worst-performing cars in the federal government’s safety tests, with only three stars for side-impact safety, and the IIHS rated the Yaris as "marginal" for rear impact. Major safety features such as anti-lock brakes and side impact airbags may be ordered optionally, but electronic stability control is not offered on the 2008 Toyota Yaris Liftback.

The Hyundai Accent comes in a three-door hatchback model and, thus, is the closest rival to the 2008 Toyota Yaris Liftback. It feels a little more solid on the road than the Yaris, but its fuel economy isn’t as good. The Kia Rio5 offers a package that’s a little roomier and more space-efficient, and it's a bit more fun to drive. Also at the bottom of the price scale is the Chevrolet Aveo5, a small five-door hatchback made by GM Daewoo. The Aveo doesn’t feel competitive with the Hyundai, Kia, or Toyota; its interior is slightly more spacious and comfortable, but it doesn’t perform as well. The most appealing vehicle in this crowd is the Honda Fit; although it's quite a bit more expensive, the Fit is safer, more expansive inside—thanks to the wonderful Magic Seat design—and more fun to drive.

7

2008 Toyota Yaris

Styling

The 2008 Toyota Yaris stands out from the crowd, at a price that doesn’t usually bring standout styling.

The 2008 Toyota Yaris Liftback has styling that is, inside and out, far from conservative, and reviewers were quick to point out how the Yaris stands out from most other entry-level small cars.

“The two-door hatch’s funky styling was born in Toyota’s European design studio,” says Automobile, adding that, compared to the Echo that the Yaris replaced for 2007, the Liftback and sedan “no longer look like automotive design don’ts.”

“Overall, the styling is a bit quirky,” says Autobytel, “with the grille and headlights almost creating the automotive equivalent of a grin, but it helps distinguish the Yaris and imparts some personality.”

Several reviewers are surprised by Yaris's overt styling, a departure from the conservative direction that past Toyota small cars have taken. Autoblog thinks that “the design is deliberately weird enough” to be something sold under Toyota’s youth-oriented Scion brand instead. “Indeed,” continues the Autoblog reviewer, “Toyota’s supposedly hipper sub-brand offers the xD, a five-door on the same architecture as the three and four-door Yaris models.”

The sportier S model—which adds sport seats, larger wheels, more aggressive cladding, and a few other extras—was tested in several instances. “Outside, the S body kit and 15-inch wheels worked wonders on our tester, at least implying some sport if not actually delivering it,” says an Autobytel reviewer.

Reviewers are more split over the interior styling, which is also quite radical compared to other small cars, with its gauge cluster at the center of the instrument panel and a thin column of controls at the center. The layout “lends the Yaris a bigger feel inside,” says Autoblog, but Autobytel does not praise the setup, griping, “A center-mounted gauge cluster is nothing new, and neither are our complaints about it.”

“Toyota insists that drivers eventually get used to the unconventional location,” snipes the particularly snarky Automobile Magazine reviewer. “Yeah, and convicts eventually get used to cell block D.”

TheCarConnection.com’s editors, who initially thought that the 2008 Yaris Liftback’s styling was a bit too ovoid and odd, have warmed up to it, but they can’t say the same about instrument panel design.

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6

2008 Toyota Yaris

Performance

The 2008 Toyota Yaris is a perky—and very frugal—little city car, but if highway poise is a priority, look elsewhere.

Though the little 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine in the 2008 Toyota Yaris Liftback makes only 106 horsepower, the little Liftback weighs less than 2,300 pounds, so in several cases, the powertrain was perkier than expected.

MSN Autos also has good words for the Yaris’ acceleration, deeming its passing ability as “brisk” and “fairly quick,” as well as adding that the engine, although loud during acceleration, is “a relaxed, quiet highway cruiser.”

“We sampled both powertrains, and found the manual gave the Yaris a peppy, sporty feel,” says Edmunds, also complimenting the engine for being “smooth and vibration-free, even at high rpm.” Consumer Guide reports that the automatic works fine around town, “but feels overmatched in fast-moving traffic and hilly terrain.”

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.”

Autobytel says that “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,” but Car and Driver has a decidedly lukewarm assessment: “Performance is about what you’d expect from a 106-hp, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine—not great, but not dreadful, either.”

Reviewers’ comments regarding how the Yaris handles are all over the place. Car and Driver says that the Yaris’s 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, saying, “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 says that grip in turns was limited by the narrow tires. ConsumerGuide also notes the Yaris isn’t so stable in bumpy corners and is “prone to wander in gusty crosswinds.” Autobytel has a similar complaint, reporting that the steering “feels a touch floaty at higher speeds.” Yet Autoblog seems to observe otherwise: “Crosswinds and passing semis likewise leave the Yaris unperturbed.” Autobytel clarifies why the Yaris isn’t as much fun to drive as some other small cars, saying, “The suspension is on the soft side and the front end plows when pushed hard into corners.” A comment from MSN Autos perhaps best clues the smart review reader in on how the Yaris really is: “Handling is OK if the car isn't pushed hard.”

Reviewers report fuel economy figures that run the gamut from mid 20s up to the upper 30s, seemingly all reporting enthusiastic driving. 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, “which no doubt reflected a staff of heavy-footed editors.”

None of the reviewers are dissatisfied with braking on the little Yaris. Edmunds reports “reassuring braking power,” and ConsumerGuide echoes, “drama-free stopping, but be sure to get the optional ABS.”

Where reviewers really differ is on the question of whether the Yaris is fun to drive. Several reviews mention the word "tossable" in a positive sense, especially regarding the handling, but Autobytel differs. “At the end of the day the Yaris is a repackaged subcompact commuter car serving as A to B transportation and swilling as little fuel as possible,” the reviewer bluntly summarizes. “Fun is absent from the equation.”

After taking several different test drives of the Yaris Liftback, TheCarConnection.com’s editors can say they understand why the Yaris is perceived as fun to drive by some reviewers and an unexciting appliance by others. On tight, congested city streets at relatively low speeds, the Yaris Liftback feels peppy and nimble; yet in high-speed sweeping corners and interstate cruising, the Yaris feels out of its element.

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5

2008 Toyota Yaris

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Toyota Yaris Liftback is spacious for such a small car, but it may not meet your standards for comfort or attention to the smaller details.

Most reviewers praise the 2008 Toyota Yaris’s interior space and comfort relative to other cars its size, but criticize the materials used inside.

“The interior is very cleverly thought out, with a lot more space and storage than expected, and on-target ergonomics,” assesses Autoblog, while Car and Driver reports space in the Toyota Yaris Liftback’s backseat is sufficient, and “the hatchback has a clever back seat that slides forward for more cargo space and also has reclining seatbacks.”

ConsumerGuide was more critical of the driving position, saying, “Long-legged drivers may want more rearward seat travel,” and adding that some testers found the steering wheel too distant and pedals too close. An MSN Autos reviewer had trouble tilting the steering wheel high enough to clear his legs.

Autoblog complimented the Yaris’s ride comfort: “Bumps are absorbed, rather than bouncing the Yaris all over the place.” However, road noise can be an issue at highway speeds, according to ConsumerGuide.

Almost unanimously, testers find the center-mounted gauges bothersome. ConsumerGuide reports that the gauges aren’t canted toward the driver, and “testers find its location diverts attention from road,” a sentiment the MSN Autos reviewer seconds.

Otherwise, most reviewers appreciate the interior design in the Yaris. “Attentive interior design is what lends the Yaris a bigger feel inside than its tinytastic dimensions initially suggest,” declares Autoblog.

Autobytel reports the execution as lacking because of the materials used, describing a “hard as cardboard” headliner and “hard plastic on the door sills and armrests, hard plastic on the lower dash upon which the unfortunate knee will occasionally brush, and the stiff seats that feel more like one big piece of rigid foam rather than traditional, somewhat soft cushions.” They also note the “flimsy movement” of the climate controls. Autoblog voices similar gripes, including easily scuffed hard plastic, surfaces that don’t quite match, and storage compartment lids that feel vulnerable.

Autobytel is disappointed with assembly quality, finding “more issues than one expects from this brand,” such as irregular gaps along body panels and cup holder covers that wouldn’t sit flush, but the review praises the minimum of wind noise and lack of squeaks and rattles.

TheCarConnection.com’s editors agree that the Yaris makes good use of every bit of interior space, and verify firsthand that ride quality is quite good for a car of this size. However, they also find that though tightly assembled, the Toyota skimps inside in both seating comfort and materials.

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5

2008 Toyota Yaris

Safety

The 2008 Toyota Yaris Liftback doesn’t offer the level of dynamic safety or occupant protection that some other vehicles in its class—such as the Honda Fit—do.

Several reviewers pointed out that side and side curtain airbags—standard in many rival models—are optional in the 2008 Toyota Yaris Liftback. “Anti-lock brakes are a stand-alone $300 option,” explains MSN Autos, “and front-seat side airbags and side-curtain airbags cost $650 for all Yaris versions.”

In track testing, Consumer Reports calls the Yaris’s handling “sloppy” at its limits and highlights as a safety issue the tendency in the hatchback for the rear end to slide out. “The Yaris would greatly benefit from stability control,” Consumer Reports comments in its road test, “but like most cars in this class, it's not available.

The 2008 Toyota Yaris Liftback has unimpressive safety ratings—even when equipped with the optional side airbags. As such, the Yaris achieves only three-star ratings—the lowest mark typically awarded—for side impact, along with four- and five-star ratings for frontal impact. With the side bags, the IIHS rated the Yaris "good" for side impact but "poor" without.

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2008 Toyota Yaris

Features

The 2008 Toyota Yaris has plenty of useful storage cubbies, but it lacks many of the useful comfort and technologies you might be seeking.

Reviewers are mostly lukewarm about the features inside the 2008 Toyota Yaris Liftback, but several point out that air conditioning is standard, even though it’s one of the lowest-priced cars on the market.

“Driver and passenger cupholders cleverly fold out of the dashboard,” says Autoblog, also noting “storage cubbies on either side of the center stack, as well as two covered bins in the top of the dashboard and a conventional glovebox on the passenger side”—an arrangement made possible by the central gauge setup.

“The Yaris S features four cupholders, one of which is in the exclusive fold-down rear center armrest,” says Autobytel, who don’t have kind words about the front-most cup holders directly facing the vents. “Not only are they awkwardly placed, but they make it hard to keep the morning coffee hot while blasting the a/c on a 100-degree day, or keeping a soft drink cool while warming the interior or a frigid winter’s morn.”

Most reviewers note that as soon as you start piling options on the Yaris, it no longer looks like as much of a value, and there may be better options. Base price is “a distant memory if you check every box on the order sheet,” says Autobytel, and ConsumerGuide points out that with some options, the prices “climb to the level of larger, more powerful cars that come with safety and convenience features that cost extra on the Yaris.”

Autobytel notes the lack of steering-wheel audio controls, even on the optional system, and Autoblog remarks, “The audio system has an auxiliary input, as well as the de rigeur CD slot, though we did miss cruise control.” The feature is on neither the Yaris Liftback’s standard nor optional equipment lists.

You won’t find some of the most-wanted technology features such as Bluetooth audio or satellite radio on the Yaris, note the editors at TheCarConnection.com; if it’s a long list of features you want, you might consider a slightly more upmarket model with additional standard equipment.

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July 14, 2015
2008 Toyota Yaris 3-Door HB Manual (SE)

Really good basic car

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My Yaris was purchased as a replacement for my '02 VW Beetle Turbo Sport. Overall, I am happy with it as a replacement. The only things I really miss from the VW are the turbo and the sunroof. I have had to... + More »
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