2017 Toyota Yaris iA Review

The poor enthusiast's best bet for cheap thrills

Wade Thiel, Senior Staff Writer

Positives: Lightweight and fun to drive, manual transmission and clutch are excellent, steering is great, feels solid, decent quality interior materials.
Negatives: Tiny back seat, basically no options, low power, and a face like a catfish.
Bottom Line: If you're looking for a subcompact sedan that's fun to drive, and cheap, you can't do any better than this. The car is essentially a Mazda with Toyota badges and a new face. Because of this, the thing feels like an underpowered sports car. If you value space and a long list of available options, look elsewhere.
 View Our 2017 Toyota Yaris iA Overview
Despite the fact that the Toyota Yaris iA has a face that only its designer could love, it’s a great little car. It’s also an odd one. The Yaris iA is like that kid you knew in school who subtly changed his style and came up with a different nickname for himself each year so he could fit in with a new clique.

The iA is a Mazda at heart. Toyota used the Mazda2 as a basis for this car, and in most ways, it still looks and feels like a Mazda. At first, Toyota slotted this little sedan in as a Scion, but when that brand disappeared, it found a place for it in the actual Toyota lineup. Still, the car doesn’t really fit in as a Toyota. Because of this, it feels a little out of place. That didn’t stop us from enjoying our full week with the car. It doesn’t feel like a Toyota, but we’re not sure that really matters.

Driving Experience



Generously, the folks dropping the car off at our office gifted us a manual transmission Yaris iA. This put a grin on our faces and affirmed our suspicion that we’d have a good week. The manual transmission operates wonderfully. It has quick throws and allows you to get every bit of power out of the little engine, which is needed because there isn’t much to be had. The best part about this car is you can drive it hard and have fun all day and never get yourself into trouble.

Ride Quality: The Yaris iA’s sporty handling doesn’t come at the cost of ride quality. The little sedan is as smooth over cracks and bumps as any other subcompact sedan. It’s even smooth at highway speeds, though its ride is far from pillowy.

Acceleration: This is a slow car with reported 0-60 times at about 9 seconds. The manual transmission helps you get at all of the 106 hp.

Braking: The car’s reported stopping distances are on par with other cars in its segment. It’s not top of the class but lands near the middle of the pack. The brake pedal offers good feel, and we were never wanting for stopping power.

Steering: The car responds almost instantly to inputs and goes right where you want it each and every time.

Handling: On a twisty road the little sedan comes alive. The Yaris iA feels like it belongs on a tight, technical road. There’s not much understeer and the car corners flat for the most part. You can push this car without ever getting nervous about what it’s going to do.




The Yaris iA doesn’t let you choose your options. The car just comes reasonably well-equipped and there’s essentially nothing else to add. This is both good and bad. The infotainment system, like the rest of the car, is a mashup of Mazda and Toyota tech with a major lean towards Mazda. Overall, you get a lot for the price, but it stinks you can't add anything else.

Infotainment System: The system is easy to use, but we did experience some longer load times for certain screens. Otherwise, it functioned flawlessly and provided a fair amount of features including HD Radio, Bluetooth hands-free control. There was no navigation, but as we understand it, you can go to the dealer and have it installed if you feel you need it. Functions like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto would be nice but aren’t available on the Yaris iA.

Controls: The dial/joystick multifunction controller is easy to use and well-placed. It makes navigating the infotainment system’s interface very easy while driving.

Bluetooth Pairing: Pairing a phone took a minute or two, but once the phone was paired, we experienced no issues.

Voice Call Quality: Calls were clear on both ends, and we experienced no issues.




If only the car didn’t have that face. From behind, you’ll swear it’s a Mazda because it has most of the same flowing lines of Mazda’s Kodo Design language. Then, suddenly, BOOM! Fish face. You hit the front and all the promise that started with the cute little rear end of the car disappears.

Front: The front of the Yaris iA looks like a fish that sucks on the bottom of the ocean or attaches itself to a sharks side and hangs on for dear life. It’s the one single aspect of this car that we genuinely disliked. The headlights aren’t awful, but the huge gaping-mouth-grille is atrocious.

Rear: As good a rear end as a track athlete. The Yaris iA’s tail is neither too busy nor oddly shaped. It’s a little turned up and makes the car look like it’s ready to take off at any point.

Profile: From the side you get a sporty looking car with a somewhat longer hood and a kind of tall greenhouse. Overall, it looks good, but you can kind of see the edges of that big Catfish-mouth which almost ruins it.

Cabin: Simple layout, smooth dash, round vents for climate control, the Yaris iA benefits from Mazda’s interior design layout. Toyota didn’t change much on the inside and we’re not complaining. Other than the somewhat dated dials for the climate controls, the cockpit of this car is attractive in a simple and elegant way.




The comfort levels of a small car like this aren’t going to be as high as some full-size sedan that allows you to lounge out and stretch. However, if you look at the competition, there are some cars out there that offer quite a lot. When you stack the Toyota Yaris iA up against its competitors it does okay but not excellent.

Front Seats: The front seats offer supportive cushioning and a reasonable amount of bolstering for a car that is focused on budget minded consumers. The cloth used is soft but tough feeling, and we get the feeling it'd hold up well over time.

Rear Seats: The rear seats have very little leg room. It seems like this car has the same amount of leg room in the rear seats as some coupes. That being said, the seats themselves aren’t too bad. Because the greenhouse is on the higher side, many tall riders will be able to sit without bumping their head. Still, they'll have to eat their knees.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): You get a fair amount of noise in the Yaris iA, especially at highway speeds. Mash the pedal to the floor and you hear the little 1.5-liter engine furiously buzzing along, but it doesn't sound awful. Other than a bit of noise, the Yaris iA feels solidly built.

Visibility: Seeing out of the car is not an issue. The rear window is a little small but you can still see pretty well. The backup camera makes up for what you can't see.

Climate: The climate control system may look a little archaic, but it doesn’t feel it. Heated seats would be nice in the Yaris iA, but aside from that, the climate system is more than adequate.




Who says little cars can’t be safe. While you might expect the Yaris iA to crush like an aluminum can in an accident, the fact of the matter is that the passenger compartment is tough and will keep you safe. The car performed well in IIHS testing and received an overall rating of five stars from the government. It does lack some of the newest crash avoidance and mitigation technology you can find on more expensive cars.

IIHS Rating: The Yaris iA received Top Safety Pick from the IIHS. The car ranked good in all crash tests and got an advanced rating for crash avoidance and mitigation technology. It missed out on the Top Safety Pick+ rating due to its poor performing headlights and the marginal rating it had for the ease of use for child seat tethers.

Standard Tech: There’s a fair amount of safety technology in the Yaris iA, including a low speed pre-collision system, dynamic stability control and traction control, ABS with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist, airbags, LATCH child anchors, a backup camera and a tire pressure monitoring system.

Optional Tech: None.




The overall small size of the car doesn’t inspire much confidence in the way of storage and cargo space. There isn’t a lot of extra room in this little car, but there are enough places to put things. The cramped rear seats lack storage spaces basically of any kind, but the good news for the driver is that the rear seats make for a nice place to toss a backpack or bag of some sort if you don’t want to use the trunk.

Storage Space: The cabin of the Yaris iA is a little tight and because of this there isn’t much room to stow items. However, the space available is well-used. The compartment in front of the shifter is good for a phone or whatever else you have in your pockets, there’s a two easy to reach cup holders and a little space for change or whatever else behind the cup holders.

Cargo Room: The trunk in the little sedan is about 13 cubic feet. It opens wide so the space is easy to access. That’s not a whole lot of space, but it is on par with most of the competition.

Fuel Economy



The Toyota Yaris iA is a small car with a small four-cylinder engine. This is the recipe for a car that achieves excellent gas mileage. The only downside to the car is that it’s so fun to drive, you hardly want to cruise along and try to get good gas mileage. Instead, you find yourself zipping around town without thinking for a second about fuel economy.

Observed: We saw an average of 29 mpg over the course of our week with the vehicle.

Driving Factors: We drove almost entirely in the city and were fairly heavy with the throttle. Considering the fact that we pushed the car for a reasonable portion of the week, it returned surprisingly good results.




The 6-speaker audio system in the car gets the job done. It won’t blow you away, but for the most part it sounds great. Paired with the easy to use infotainment system, the system is great for such a budget-minded car.

Final Thoughts

The car now known as the Toyota Yaris iA might seem like a bit of an oddball just because of its origins, but the fact of the matter is, it’s an excellent little sedan. If you’re interested in a small commuter sedan that is genuinely engaging to drive, you can’t do much better than this. The car comes with everything you need and nothing you don’t. However, if you find it lacking in terms of feature and amenities, then you have no choice but to look elsewhere.

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