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The 2919 Toyota Yaris provides reliable transportation for under $20,000.

The Toyota Yaris is fine little car, but it's a bit of a mutt.

Its lineage includes a former Scion and the current Mazda2. Although it's badged a Toyota, the design and engineering is courtesy of Mazda — which is not a bad thing.

Fast Facts

› Model: Toyota Yaris Sedan XLE

› Exterior color: Sapphire

› Interior color: Gray

› Engine: 1.5-liter, four-cylinder

› Horsepower: 106

› Transmission: six-speed automatic

› Fuel economy: 40 mpg highway, 32 mpg city

› Local Dealer: Capital Toyota, Toyota of Cleveland, North Georgia Toyota

› Price (as tested): $19,470

Among sub-compacts sedans — think Nissan Versa and Ford Fiesta — the Yaris is a high-content little car, with a surprising number of standard amenities such as a push-button start and a 7-inch infotainment screen. And yes, like all Mazda-inspired vehicles, the touch-screen looks like a piece of toast that has just popped out of a slot in the dash.

We spent a week driving on Chattanooga roads in a top-of-the-line Yaris XLE with automatic transmission. One caution: If you live at altitude please be aware that the 106-horsepower four-cylinder engine in the Yaris will labor a bit to climb Lookout or Signal mountains.

Also, because of the car's compact stance, driving in this week's rain deluge was a bit of an adventure. On a trip home up Walden's Ridge from Red Bank my 12-year-old mused, "Dad is this car really short, or is that Ford F-150 in front of us really tall."

"A little of both," was my honest answer, as I felt sheets of water fly off the little Toyota's tires.

Locally, Yaris sedans are available at Capital Toyota, Toyota of Cleveland and North Georgia Toyota. A scan of the online inventories of the three Toyota stores turned up 17 2019 Yaris sedans available late this week.


View other Test Drive stories by Mark Kennedy



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WHAT IS IT?

The 2019 Yaris XLE is a sub-compact sedan with a host of upscale features. The top-trim XLE includes such conveniences as automatic wipers, climate control, leatherette front seats, and two drive modes: normal and sport.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

Our feature-laden tester still maintains a bottom line under $20,000 — $19,470 to be exact. The L-trim Yaris starts at $16,550 and the LE begins at $17,550.

WHAT WE LIKED

Our log-book of likes include the gray perforated leatherette front seats, the yawning new honeycomb grille, and easy-to-read dash gauges.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

With the small, 1.5-liter displacement engine, you get what you get. Slap a turbocharger on that puppy, and the Yaris would provide a completely different driving experience — but that's not the Mazda way. Lack of storage cubbies is an issue, as well.

DRIVING EXPERIENCE

Aside from the aforementioned engine limits, the Yaris is a fine little car that promises years of care-free driving.

BOTTOM LINE

The question Yaris buyers should ask is this: "Is this a better value than a low-mileage, three-year-old Toyota Camry or Honda Accord, which would cost about the same?" That's the chin-scratcher.

ONLINE: In the market for a new vehicle? To access hundreds of Mark Kennedy's Chattanooga Test Drive columns visit www.timesfreepress.com/testdrive.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.

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The 2019 Toyota Yaris XLE features synthetic leather seating surfaces.
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