I Want It Made Out of Black Box Material
November 26, 2011 9:22 PM   Subscribe

Toyota Yaris 2012 or an alternative compact bubble car?

My girl is strongly considering the current Toyota Yaris (2012) for a city commute and errands car while posted in Abu Dhabi (UAE) for the next couple of years. It will never leave the city or short highways between cities, and the roads are great, but this city has some of the craziest entitled drivers on the planet blasting past in their Ferraris when you least expect it. I want her to be safe.

I'm pro-Toyota in general, but the online reviews on the Yaris all over the board, from 70%-ish and three stars to 99's and five. I feel stuck for solid data, so I'm appealing for anecdote or experience.

It'll only be driven for a maximum of 3-4 years (we're moving overseas after that), and nobody here buys used cars (just doesn't happen), so new and reasonably-priced is the way to go. In that regard, even though the budget could handle it, I'm thinking it might be foolish for us to move up to a Volkswagen (I guess the Golf would be the closest match?) and downright crazy to consider BMW or Opal for a three year life cycle... but maybe I'm wrong there, and the extra (purported) crash safety is real.

I have no idea.

What matters to us both is reliability and safety (seven air bags sounds great) at a reasonable cost. We're both fans of Toyota on this count, but not religiously so, and I'm wondering if we should not be looking harder at other options. Practical is more important than sporty.

Ideas? Suggestions? Advice?

Note: US-made cars are pretty much out of the question here (Euro or Asian, please) and fuel-economy is completely not an issue because petrol is so cheap.
posted by rokusan to Shopping (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Looks like you're into hatchbacks (so am I!), so I would definitely recommend checking out the Nissan Versa Hatchback. I don't know what prices are like on your side of the world, but it's one of most affordable cars in the US. I was shocked at how much I could get (power windows, cruise control, etc) for $14K USD. I really like the way it drives and it's quite roomy for a small car.
posted by radioamy at 9:37 PM on November 26, 2011

Well, I don't know if this is what you're looking for, but I have a 2007 Toyota Yaris, and I really like it. I've had zero trouble with it since I bought it in late 2006. I've put about 65,000 miles on it, mainly from city driving, a couple of longer road trips (Texas to Virginia and back, Virginia to Ohio and back) and semi-regular drives around Texas, and it's still a pretty comfortable ride.

When I bought it, I was looking for a really basic, reliable car, and it has been exactly that. It still looks cute, is fairly spacious inside, and it was cheap enough that I really don't care if it gets dinged and scratched.

I will say that I wish I could've gotten more stuff with it. The dealership I got the car from didn't have any with power locks, so I have to open the door with a key, which I consider annoying to slightly dangerous, depending on whether I'm trying to hold anything while opening the door or in a dodgy area at night and trying to quickly get into the car.

Sorry I can't speak any further to the safety of it. My experience has been that's it's pretty reliable. If you're looking for a 3-4 year 'throwaway' car, it's probably a good enough choice.
posted by alittlecloser at 9:53 PM on November 26, 2011

I actually looked at the Yaris a few years ago and wound up with a Fit instead. Seemed like a nicer car with more features for about the same price (I could get a pretty barebones Yaris or a really nice Fit with various nice options), though the Fit is a 5 door rather than the 3 door Yaris. My pros: Magic seats (the rear seats fold down flush to the floorboard, giving you a substantial amount of cargo space, I've moved across the country multiple times with it), it's very comfortable and roomy as small cars go, I've always found it reasonably nimble, bit slow coming off the line but pretty good pickup at speed, and I enjoy the ride a lot more than I did the Yaris.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:47 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I made some comments in this thread which may be of interest to you, along with the thread in general. It deals more with old vs. new, but I'd draw your attention to comments like this one of mine dealing with the issue of small vs. large.

Short story: size matters. If you're worried about some crashing into you/her, as opposed to her crashing into a stationary object, then the size of a crumple zone and the weight of the car matter. Weight is the reason that hybrids are safer in crashes. A small car, while safe in a single-car crash, will perform worse if it's hit by a larger car. You can get a nicely-equipped mid-sized car for not that much more than a compact car. Based on the results from the new NHTSA crash tests, I'd think about a Hyundai Sonata - it gets the best crash tests scores, and even the entry-level model is well-equipped.
posted by Dasein at 11:27 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would avoid the Yaris if you live in a hilly area, I test drove one and really had to floor it to get it to not slow other traffic on some hills. It has very little zoot.
posted by meepmeow at 11:47 PM on November 26, 2011

The current VW Polo (the step down from the Golf, more equivalent to the Yaris) is highly recommended, was Car of the Year last year basically across the world. I'd recommend looking at the Euro Ncap safety ratings - both the Yaris and the Golf scored five stars (the maximum).
posted by coriolisdave at 12:05 AM on November 27, 2011

I had a 2004 Yaris that I drove until 2010, when I sold it only because I moved to a place where having a car is a burden. I don't completely agree that the Yaris slows down on hills. It really depends on engine. I don't know about other areas in the world, but in Japan, they come in 1.0L/1.3L/1.5L engines. The models before 2010 came with a 1.8L engine.

I loved my Yaris because it was spacious inside, it was easy to drive and could be parked ANYWHERE. I also had zero trouble with it.

By the way, the 2012 Yaris should come in 5-door models. Mine was a 5-door. I also had power locks, power windows, etc as well. I miss my Yaris!
posted by xmts at 1:29 AM on November 27, 2011

I haven´t had problems with it in the several years I´ve been driving it. The primary reasons I bought were its small dimensions and low gas consumption as well as price. Parking in the city is easy with this car. As small as it is it is also spacious enough.

If safety is a bigger concern then look at a small 2 door BMW or A class Mercedes.
posted by JJ86 at 6:55 AM on November 27, 2011

If safety is the biggest issue, I might throw out a slightly larger vehicle too. Honda Civics and Toyota Corollas start at only $1500 more than a new Yaris, and they score the highest across the board in crash safety.

Also in terms of cost since the car will only be used for 3 years - is leasing an option in Abu Dhabi?
posted by erstwhile at 7:16 AM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Check out the Hyundai Accent (or whatever that model is named where you are). It is best-in-class in a number of categories, and at least in the US, it is the same price as the Yaris.

(Note: I just bought one, so I might be biased toward my own choice. I went from a Grand Prix with a supercharged engine, and while it is obviously less powerful, it doesn't feel underpowered.)

If fuel economy isn't too much of an issue, maybe something like a Subaru would be more to your liking? They seem to have a good variety of cheap + powerful vehicles.
posted by gjc at 7:33 AM on November 27, 2011

I have to second radioamy's suggestion of the Nissan Versa. I was leaning toward the Yaris when I purchased a car 3 years ago but in test driving them I felt that it was a little too small with a shorter front end and just over-all it felt less solidly built (perhaps a symptom of it only being offered as a 2-door model). I loved the Honda Fit (as mentioned by Ghostride) but where I live even the most basic model was more expensive than the Versa I wound up buying (which came with lots of bells and whistles), and the reviews on safety and performance didn't warrant the higher price in my mind. I've had no regrets since buying my Versa.

However, I would say that if price isn't your major issue and you're focused on safety based on the behaviors of other drivers, Dasein made some good points. Moving up to a small/mid sized sedan may better satisfy your concerns while keeping the car affordable.
posted by moshimosh at 8:01 AM on November 27, 2011

I have a 2007 Yaris manual and love it beyond the telling. It handles great in the city and rather well on the interstate. The only complaint I've ever had about is when we have those crazy Midwest high winds (23-50 mph), the car does get blown around a good bit.

I also drove a 2009 automatic Yaris while we were in Puerto Rico, in a very, very hilly region and I really didn't notice any issues with performance. You lose a very small amount of pick up with the automatic, but the advantage is that you don't have to worry about rolling down the hill when trying to start.

For the price, the Yaris can't be beat. Also, the Versa and the Fit have almost the same engine size but weigh a good bit more than the Yaris, which can make for a sluggish feeling vehicle.

When it comes to the safety issues, I'm of the opinion that small and agile is better for me. I've had far more wreaks while driving bigger vehicles were I couldn't get out of someone's way or maneuver to avoid the issue. With the Yaris, I feel I am way more able to respond to the idiots around me and not get hit. They drive pretty insane in PR and I felt quite safe in the Yaris. But it's up to your wife's confidence in her driving abilities.
posted by teleri025 at 11:04 AM on November 27, 2011

I have a 2008 5-door Yaris and I love it. I chose it instead of a Honda Fit because of its safety features. For example, in case of a severe frontal crash, the motor is designed to drop to the floor instead of crushing the front passengers. Of course, you should check the safety ratings, as there might be better options today.

It feels roomier and more comfortable than similar small cars. Compared to my past car (a VW Pointer), the motor is not too powerful, but it's great for city driving.
posted by clearlydemon at 11:07 AM on November 27, 2011

I've lived in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, know too well of the driving... and the strain on some small cars' a/c. I had a full-sized Chevy Caprice in Saudi, a Ford Crown Victoria in Kuwait. Nice to have some acceleration under foot, too; the small cars I was in while there were sooooooooooo gutless.

Out of the question to get a Chevy Lumina (my memory is that they're made in Australia), maybe one a couple years old? They have really good reputations for durability, being suited to that environment, having beefy a/c units, etc.

By the way, Opal had a horrible rep in that neck of the woods.
posted by ambient2 at 1:08 PM on November 27, 2011

Seconding Ghostride -- I rented a 4-door hatchback Yaris a half dozen times from Toronto Pearson and thought I was hooked, but I ended up buying a Fit, in part because of better safety ratings. In 2009 it made it to IIHS top safety pick, and the Yaris didn't have a good rear impact rating. Strongly recommend that you test drive both.
posted by eddydamascene at 1:52 PM on November 27, 2011

Just one more endorsement: I love my 2-door 2007 Yaris more than any car I've had in ages. The gas mileage is insanely great, and I find the interior design incredibly intuitive and easy to use in a way that really reduces distracted driving. The cargo space is huge with the rear seats folded, and it has been maintenance free apart from regular fluids and replacement services.

I drove a friend's Fit for a few weeks while travelling and really did not like it. I found the ride brittle and rough and the seats very uncomfortable. In fact I drove most of the smaller cars (Versa, Aveo, Fit, Yaris, Mazda3) and the only one I liked as much was the Mazda3, but I couldn't find one I liked at the time I was buying. I'm extremely happy with the Yaris, and especially given your limited parameters of time to own, I think you will be too.
posted by Miko at 5:30 PM on November 27, 2011

I third Radioamy's Nissan Versa suggestion. I've owned one for about 4 months and I really, really like it. Like others, I also drove the Yaris and didn't like it - it felt cheap and not nearly as solid as the Versa. Overall I liked the Honda Fit the best, but couldn't afford it. Versa was definitely the best bang for the buck. I also live very close to my job (4 mile commute each way) and I only get gas once a month. Woot Woot!
posted by luciddream928 at 6:31 PM on November 27, 2011

Take a look at the Toyota Urban Cruiser. This is sold as the Scion XD in the USA - I have one and I love it. It is built on a Yaris chassis, but with a bit more poke in the engine (it has the same engine as my husband's larger Toyota Matrix).
I tried a lot of the competition before deciding on this one. I agree that the Yaris is underpowered going up hills - it struggles on even slight slopes and the gear spacing is strange, at least in the USA.
The downside is that it is a very compact car, so it has very little boot/trunk space. But it is very easy to park, it can accelerate out of trouble or congestion, and it parks on a sixpence. It's fairly roomy inside, so the seats are comfortable. Plus, it is very economical/environment friendly to drive (high MPG and very low CO2 emissions).
posted by Susurration at 7:32 PM on November 27, 2011

Seconding Dasein's comment about the weight of the Yaris and similar vehicles making them significantly less safe than a mid-size car. If you are worried about crashworthiness, opt for a mid-size car rather than the very light, very small car.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:55 PM on November 27, 2011

I'm going to second checking out the Hyundai Accent as well - again, I may be biased after purchasing one not quite a month ago, but I started at a Yaris, and ended up buying the Accent. Just more bang for the buck.
posted by pupdog at 8:21 AM on November 28, 2011

I liked the Mitsubishi Colt we had as my wife's work car a few years back. Cute wombat style looks, and good on the open roads and in the city.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:29 PM on November 28, 2011

All right, lots of good ideas here, thanks all. Best answers for those who pushed me in a direction that lead to good info I hadn't seen before online, but really thanks to all for suggestions.

We both prefer small size for convenience, and there's just two of us in a high-rise apartment lifestyle after all, no kids or dogs or furniture to consider... but I agree a small midsize isn't much different than a puffed-up subcompact like the Yaris anyway.

So I'm reassured in general that the Yaris is a quality car should we go that direction as a result of this thread, but I'm also expanding the search to consider the VW Polo/Golf as well as the smaller BMW and Mercedes choices suggested herein. Those brands are indeed "mainstream" and easy to comparison-shop for here. (The cost difference isn't as great as I figured, either. The very different subsidy/import system changes the market quite a bit from the North American world, I am learning.)
posted by rokusan at 10:00 PM on November 30, 2011

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