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Fuel Sipping 2008 Toyota Yaris Sedan
by Keith Burton

With gas prices breaking records many commuters are looking for cars that are better than the average on their thirst for fuel. Toyota's Yaris is among those cars. Yes, it is a small car, but it is not like the small cars of the past.

Not to many years ago auto manufacturers relegated small cars to the back of their inventory as SUVs, pickups and luxury cars got all the engineering. But not so today. The latest crop of small, fuel-efficient cars are packed with the state-of-the-art in engine technology and are comfortably equipped. They even have interesting styling and are surprisingly roomy inside for their compact size.

The 2008 Toyota Yaris sedan is among those small cars that strikes the right chord for today's wildly fluctuating fuel prices. This four-door sedan features sporty styling that stands out, especially in its darker colors. It is also very affordable with prices starting just above $13,000 and topping out at around $17,500. The Yaris is also available in a three-door hatchback, with styling that appeals more to young drivers, but it is the sedan that is the most popular version of the car.

The Yaris is available with a standard 5-speed or 4-speed automatic transmission, but we actually like the auto-shifter best. Years ago, automatic transmissions in small cars made them sluggish and unsatisfying to drive. Their small engines weren't powerful enough to provide decent low-end acceleration. But that is not the case today. The Yaris 4-speed automatic has surprising get-up-and-go for a small car. The 106 horsepower 1.5-liter engine and automatic transmission works well together and you can step out into traffic with confidence.

Toyota designed the Yaris to be fun to drive, and it is, especially around town. It has a quick feel to its steering, and while a bit light for my tastes, the steering feel is okay. Braking and acceleration also have a good feel, but this isn't a sports car, but better than you expect for a subcompact sedan. On the highway, the quick steering makes the Yaris feel a bit darty, but you get used to it and the car tracks well.

Inside, the Yaris is attractive but some drivers will not like the center mounted instrument cluster. The radio and air conditioning controls in the center stack are easy to use, but the liquid crystal display washes out in bright light.

Seats are comfortable and the driver's seat can be adjusted eight ways. Some drivers may feel the bottom seat cushion is too short, but this is a characteristic of many Toyota's we have sampled. Back seat room is fine for the average adult, but legroom is short, particularly for tall passengers. But then again, that is the nature of most subcompact cars.

The Yaris is nicely assembled. The panel gaps are small and the materials used are typical Toyota quality. The ride is remarkably good for a subcompact and it seems not to bound over sharp bumps. Interior noise is fairly well controlled. Road and some wind noise are present but not to the point it is irritating or makes the car feel cheap. It does not feel cheap.

So, what type of mileage can you expect? The EPA rates the Yaris at 29 city/ 35 highway, which puts this car in the upper range of gas-powered fuel sippers, and these are the new, more-stringent, EPA figures.

There are a host of competitors to the Yaris in the subcompact class, including cars from Toyota's competing Scion brand. But we like the more sophisticated look of the Yaris.

Overall, the Yaris makes a good choice for a fuel saving car. You get attractive styling, Toyota's well-established build quality, and terrific mileage in a car that is fun to drive, very affordable, and remarkably comfortable. Is it the perfect car? No, but it is better than you might expect, even with its quirky center gauge cluster.

2 0 0 8 T O Y O T A

ENGINE

Type 1.5-liter 4-cylinder 16-valve DOHC with VVT-i 1.5-liter 4-cylinder 16-valve DOHC with VVT-i

Bore and Stroke 2.95 x 3.33 inches 2.95 x 3.33 inches

Displacement 1,496 cc 1,496 cc

Compression Ratio 10.5:1 10.5:1

Valve Train 4-valve/cylinder with VVT-i 4-valve/cylinder with VVT-i

Horsepower (SAE) 106 hp @ 6,000 rpm 106 hp @ 6,000 rpm

Torque 103 lb - ft. @ 4,200 rpm 103 lb - ft. @ 4,200 rpm

Ignition System S-TDI S-TDI

Fuel System SFI SFI

Recommended Fuel 87-octane unleaded 87-octane unleaded

Emission Control ULEV-2 ULEV-2

POWERTRAIN

Drive System Type Front-wheel drive Front-wheel drive

Ratios

5-speed manual

1st 3.545

2nd 1.904

3rd 1.310

4th 0.969

5th 0.815

Reverse 3.250

Differential Ratio 3.722

5-speed manual

1st 3.545

2nd 1.904

3rd 1.310

4th 0.969

5th 0.815

Reverse 3.250

Differential Ratio 3.722

Ratios

4-speed ECT automatic

1st 2.847

2nd 1.552

3rd 1.000

4th 0.700

Reverse 2.343

Differential Ratio 4.237

4-speed ECT automatic

1st 2.847

2nd 1.552

3rd 1.000

4th 0.700

Reverse 2.343

Differential Ratio 4.237

SUSPENSION

Front Independent MacPherson strut Independent MacPherson strut

Rear Torsion Beam Torsion Beam

Stabilizer Bar

Diameter (front) 0.906 0.906

BRAKES

Front Ventilated disc Ventilated disc

Front Diameter 10.03 inches 10.03 inches

Rear Drum Drum

Rear Diameter 7.87 inches 7.87 inches

Parking Center hand brake Center hand brake

STEERING

Type Power-assisted rack-and-pinion Power-assisted rack-and-pinion

Ratio (manual/power) 19.7:1 19.7:1

Turns (lock to lock) 3.02 turns 3.02 turns

Turning circle 32.6 feet 30.8 feet

TIRES AND WHEELS

Wheel size 14 inches 14 inches

Type and Material Steel Steel

Tire Size P175/65 R14 P175/65 R14

Tire Type All-season All-season

Spare Temporary Temporary

CAPACITIES

Engine Oil 4.3 quarts 4.3 quarts

Fuel Tank 11.1 gallons 11.1 gallons

Cooling System 5.4 quarts (manual/auto) 5.4 quarts (manual/auto)

EXTERIOR DIMENSIONS (inches)

Wheelbase 100.4 96.9

Overall Length 169.3 150.0

Overall Width 66.5 66.7

Overall Height 56.7 60.0

Tread Width Front: 57.9 (175/65R14) 58.3 (185/60R15)

Rear: 57.5 (175/65R14) 57.9 (185/60R15)

Front: 57.9 (175/65R14) 58.3 (185/60R15)

Rear: 57.5 (175/65R14) 57.9 (185/60R15)

Minimum Ground Clearance 5.8 5.5

Coefficient of Drag 0.29 0.29

INTERIOR DIMENSIONS (inches)

Headroom (front/rear) 38.8/36.7 39.4/37.5

Legroom (front/rear) 42.2/35.6 40.3/33.8

Shoulder Room (front/rear) 51.6/50.2 51.4/48.3

Hip Room (front/rear) 49.8/50.1 50.0/48.3

EPA Passenger Volume 87.1 84.1

EPA Cargo Volume (cubic feet)

12.9 (fixed)

13.7 (60/40)

9.32 (1-piece)

9.53 (60/40)

25.7 (Seats folded down)

EPA Class Subcompact

EPA ESTIMATED FUEL ECONOMY (mpg) *For model year 2008 the EPA has revised the way the estimated fuel

economy rating is determined. Actual mileage will vary.

5M 29/36

4-ECT 29/35

5M 29/36

4-ECT 29/35

VEHICLE MASS (lbs)

Curb Weight 5M 2,293

4ECT 2,326

5M 2,293

4ECT 2,326

SAFETY FEATURES

Dual stage driver and front passenger advanced airbags

Available front side airbags and side curtain airbags for both rows

Child protector rear door locks

Head-impact protection structure

Three-point front seatbelts with pretensioners and force limiters, ALR/ELR retractors on all

passenger seatbelts, three-point rear seatbelts

Available Anti-lock Brake System (ABS)

Daytime running lights (Liftback only)

CRS top tether anchor brackets

BASIC LIMITED WARRANTY COVERAGE

3-year/36,000-mile Comprehensive

5-year/60,000-mile Powertrain

5-year/unlimited-mileage Corrosion Perforation