Toyota sweetens its subcompact Yaris lineup this year, with the all-new 2020 Yaris Hatchback.
The new hatch ($18,750) joins the existing Yaris sedan ($17,750), with which it shares a platform, a powertrain and cabin electronics.
In the process, the hatch ditches its mundane driving dynamics for the sedan’s engaging personality and nimble handling. It rides surprisingly well for an inexpensive subcompact, with a suspension that is sufficiently firm to check unwanted body motions and compliant enough to minimize the impact of potholes.
Not even the twisty and bumpy bits of our two-lane country road upset its composure.
Its cabin has an upscale vibe, abundant standard features and just enough room for four adults. Its miserly four-cylinder engine is good for 40 mpg in highway driving.
And, like the sedan, the new hatch is based on a car built by Mazda.
In 2015, Toyota needed a subcompact for its youth-oriented Scion sub-brand. Not wanting to saddle Scion with the development costs, Toyota turned to Mazda, which had a little car it wasn’t selling here.
The lithe and engaging Mazda2 was a natural fit for Scion, where it was rebranded as the Scion 1a.
When Toyota shuttered Scion, it moved the 1a to the Toyota side of the ledger, where it was rechristened the Yaris 1a, then simply Yaris.
For a time, Toyota sold the Yaris in sedan and hatchback body styles, but they were a mismatched pair. The sedan rode on the Mazda2 platform, while the hatch ran on a Toyota platform.
Stable, mature ride
But this year, the hatchback moves onto the Mazda2 unibody. It grows longer that the previous hatch, though its cabin and cargo dimensions remain roughly the same. A longer wheelbase contributes to a ride that’s more stable and mature.
The hatch also gets Mazda’s infotainment system, with its dash-top touchscreen, knob-based controller and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone compatibility.
The asymmetric dashboard brings a note of understated elegance. Dark-toned plastic surfaces are nicely textured and soft-touch surfaces receive accent stitching.
Typical of small, frugal cars that can’t afford to pack extra pounds of insulation, road and wind noise can elevate the decibels inside.
The driver’s seat is adjustable six ways and a tilt-and-telescope steering column makes easy work of finding a comfortable driving position.
Visibility is good in all directions.
Two trims, one powertrain
Casual cabin storage is minimal, in part a casualty of sharing console space with the infotainment system’s controller.
A pair of adults can shoehorn themselves into the rear seats but won’t want to be there for longer than necessary.
The 2020 Yaris Hatchback is available in two trims, LE and XLE ($18,750).
Both are powered by a 106-horsepower 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that drives the front wheels. While the sedan can be ordered with a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic, the hatch is available only with the automatic.
The Yaris is not quick (0-60 comes up in a click or two over 10 seconds) but it is thrifty, with an EPA estimated 35 mpg combined (32 city/40 highway).
The automatic has a Sport mode that creates more aggressive shift points. Acceleration is not affected but the taller ratios are well suited for driving on winding roads.
Nav hardware included
Standard hatchback gear includes keyless entry and ignition, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, fog lights, rear backup camera, chrome interior door handles and illuminated vanity mirrors in the driver and passenger-side sun visors.
Wheels are 16-inch aluminum alloys and the body-colored power-adjustable exterior mirrors are heated and have integrated LED turn signals.
XLE extras include leatherette seating surfaces, automatic climate control, rain-sensing windshield wipers and automatic on/off LED headlamps. The steering wheel, shift knob and parking brake handle are trimmed in leather.
Both grades are equipped with navigation hardware that requires only a dealer-installed SD card, a $400 option.
Advanced driver-assist functions are notably absent. Low-speed automated emergency braking is standard, but such features as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning and lane-departure warning are not available on either trim.
The 2020 Yaris Hatchback brings a welcome bit of personality to the bottom end of Toyota’s lineup.
Questions or comments? Contact Don at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2020 Toyota Yaris Hatchback XLE
Vehicle base price: $17,750
Trim level base price: $18,750
As tested: $19,680 (includes destination and handling)
Options: Our XLE tester included no options.
EPA rating: 35 combined/32 city/40 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified