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2013 Toyota Yaris Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2013 Toyota Yaris was new.


Performance: 6.6

The 2013 Toyota Yaris' lackluster engine and outdated automatic transmission leave most reviewers saying the Yaris has adequate performance but isn’t much fun.

  • "Sporty? Just about all small cars are inherently sporty, and this one didn't seem unsporty. Maybe a Honda Fit is more fun to drive, but this one was playful enough that you wouldn't be afraid to throw it around when the feeling struck you." -- AutoWeek (2012)
  • The holdover 1.5-liter engine is entirely adequate to move this car. But we can’t call it anything more than adequate." -- Popular Mechanics (2012)

Acceleration and Power

All 2013 Yaris models have a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 106 horsepower. A five-speed manual transmission is standard and a four-speed automatic is optional. With the automatic transmission, the Yaris yields an EPA-estimated 30/36 mpg city/highway, which is good for the class, but doesn’t match the fuel economy of competitors like the Ford Fiesta, which can get up to 40 mpg on the highway.

While reviewers say the Yaris is plenty powerful for driving around town, they find that the engine struggles when it’s taken out of its city element and put on the highway. Of the two transmissions, car reviewers say the manual transmission is the better choice because it makes the Yaris more engaging to drive. They dislike the automatic and are disappointed that it has four gears when many of the Yaris’ competitors have six-speed automatic transmissions.

  • The 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine is rated at 106 horsepower. It feels smooth and acceptably strong under moderate acceleration around town, but can seem strained if more is asked of it." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "In the city, the Yaris proves to be an agreeable companion, darting around construction and obstacles with little protest." -- Motor Trend (2012)
  • The 1.5-liter engine largely felt exactly as it did in the previous Yaris - acceptable, but far from zippy. The automatic transmission is most definitely not doing the Yaris any favors in this regard. We highly recommend the 5-speed manual if you expect to experience any pep in your drive, although Toyota predicts that only 10 percent of Yaris buyers will do so." -- MSN (2012)
  • "As before, the 1.5-liter frequently feels overwhelmed under any kind of acceleration." -- Automobile Magazine (2012)
  • "The transmissions are just as 2006, or perhaps even 2000. The automatic has just four gears and the manual is a five-speed." -- Autoblog (2012)

Handling and Braking

Most test drivers say the Yaris has decent handling. Its steering isn’t perfect and there also isn’t much understeer. Of all the trims, reviewers prefer the SE model because it’s the sportiest in the model line. Few auto writers comment on the Yaris’ brakes, but one reports that they aren’t very strong.

  • "Steering is light and suspension action nicely compliant." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Its pleasant handling is certainly a plus; the Yaris has a sprightly, can-do demeanor and maintains its composure in corners. The SE is noticeably and measurably sportier, with quicker steering and a buttoned-down suspension." -- Edmunds (2012)
  • "The SE also strikes a nice balance with a sporty ride that doesn't beat you to death." -- Cars.com (2012)
  • Much like the engine and steering, the brakes on the … Yaris didn't feel particularly solid or confidence-inspiring under our feet, but they still did a decent job slowing the car, especially the SE's 4-wheel disc-brake setup (10.8-inch front rotors, 10-inch rear)." -- MSN (2012)
  • To the Yaris' credit, LE's handling and steering feel are predictable and relatively direct. Communicative they're not. Understeer is modest and it actually takes some work to make the front tires beg for mercy." -- Autoblog (2012)

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