By Justin Pritchard
Vehicle Type: Compact Car
History / Description: Available from 2006 to 2011 in its second generation, and its first generation in Kenya, the Toyota Yaris packed four-cylinder power, a flexible interior and feature content including stability control, antilock brakes, air conditioning, cruise control, heated mirrors, power accessories and more – depending on the year and model. Alloy wheels and fog-lamps were available too, adding a sense of street-smart flare on selected units. Today, though Yaris commands relatively high residual values in its segment, shoppers should have little issue finding a few-year-old model at a reasonable price. Reliability and fuel efficiency are highly rated, making it a solid buy in a dependable and thrifty used car.
Reliability and fuel efficiency are highly rated, making it a solid buy in a dependable and thrifty used car.
Engines / Trim: Models wearing the CE designation were entry-level units, while Yaris LE or RS represented higher-end models. Look for sedan or hatchback variants, depending on your need for space and flexibility.
All units got a 1.5L four-cylinder engine with just under 110 hp. A five-speed manual or four-speed automatic were available, and all models were front-wheel drive. Folding rear seats in the Yaris hatchback particularly helped enhance flexibility and day-to-day utility.
What Owners Like: Typically Toyota’s reputation, fuel-efficiency, flexibility, and a high degree of utility and manoeuvrability are raved about by Yaris owners. Handling dynamics, relatively speaking, are also highly rated. Fuel mileage and interior roominess round out the package.
What Owners Dislike: Common complaints include a less-than-stable feel driving in rain or snow, a lack of power and performance on automatic-equipped models, and limited at-hand storage for smaller items in the cabin. Finally, appreciation for the Yaris’s centre-mounted instrument cluster is mixed at best.
Common Issues: Yaris is a compact car with an all-star reputation for reliability –though it remains a machine built from parts and components that will wear out and require attention, and standard checks do apply. Further, the owners’ community has noted a few issues that potential used Yaris shoppers should be aware of.
Start a test-drive of a used Toyota Yaris with a walk-around, checking the paint for signs of chipping, scratches or rust. Some owners report that the Yaris’s bodywork is thin and lightweight, making it easy to scratch and dent. Front-facing surfaces, including the hood-edge and bumper, will tend to show the most wear, if present. Check for rust at the lower and inner edges of all doors, and at the lower, inner edge of the tailgate hatch or trunk, too. Excessive rust or damage to the finish should be called into pricing negotiations. Here’s a little more reading.
Check the speakers for proper operation at all volume ranges, as intermittent operation of front speakers is not unheard of. Buzzing sounds from the speakers, or total failure of the speakers to play your favourite songs, also indicates an issue. Here’s some more reading. Shoppers should note that Yaris’s factory stereo system is said to be adequate at best – so budget for upgraded stereo system components as needed.
A squeaking noise from models with a manual transmission during shifting could be caused by an insufficiently lubricated piece of hardware in the shifter linkage system. Solution? Get a can of lithium grease spray for about three hundred bob at any trusted petrol station selling lubricants, and have the linkage lubricated for you by the attendants. Cost? Virtually nothing. Time required? About 90 seconds.
A wonky sensor can cause non-functionality of the air conditioner. Be sure the Yaris you’re considering blows cold air within seconds of the AC being engaged, if equipped. If not, a bad sensor could be to blame. A Toyota dealer should be able to check and diagnose any issues quickly. Note that Yaris has a separate computer brain to control its AC system, which could be acting up, too. Further, Yaris has been reported to have some issues with clogged air conditioner drain vents, which could leak water into the cabin, or even short out the blower fan. Check the front footwell carpeting for signs of dampness and moisture, which could evidence this problem.
Yaris’s engine uses a timing chain, which is typically considered to be maintenance-free for the life of the vehicle if oil changes are performed regularly. Be sure that’s the case for any used Yaris you’re considering. Ask to see service records where available, and check the condition and level of the engine oil, confirming that it’s fresh and full, not burnt and low.
Listen to the Yaris’s front end for signs of unwelcome suspension noises when traveling over bumps, which could indicate a worn-out component. Also, ensure the front tires are worn evenly across their treads. If that’s not the case, you’re likely looking at an alignment issue. The latter may be evidenced by a pull in the steering wheel while travelling straight down the road.
Check the Yaris’s coolant level, and double-check for signs of coolant leaks – as numerous owners have reported premature water-pump failure and questioned the short lifespan of this component. In many cases, the water pump will leak before failing altogether. Here’s some more reading. Note that on higher-mileage used units, the water-pump may have already been changed once or more. Leaving a coolant leak or bad water pump unattended can cause catastrophic engine damage, so take this issue very seriously.
As a final note, shoppers considering a very low-cost, high-mileage Yaris are advised to have the suspension system checked fully by a mechanic for signs of worn suspension parts. Consider a compression check at your local dealer, which can be performed easily on the Yaris and give insight into the overall health of its engine.
The Verdict: Most of Yaris’s known issues are fairly minor and easy to check for. A mechanical thumbs-up from a Toyota dealer is a good start towards owning a compact car with above-average levels of reliability and fuel economy.