CHATHAM, Mass. – The automotive world has evolved during the last several decades. No longer does the “entry-level” label mean compromising efficiency, comfort, safety, quality, reliability, amenities or modern advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) – and the 2020 Toyota Yaris XLE Hatchback is proof this evolution.
The sub $20,000 top-of-the-range XLE Hatchback – there are no options available on this version – provided a comfortable, reasonably quiet enjoyable ride last week as we covered several hundred miles circumnavigating Cape Cod.
The car is small – 171.9 inches from bumper to bumper – but thanks to large windows and a high roof, never feels cramped or tight for the two persons up front. The back seat, though, in this five-door hatch, is limited in use to small people with thin legs, unless the front-seat passengers keep their perforated leatherette upholstered seats in a forward position.
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The 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine revs hard and a little loud as it produces its 106 horsepower and 103 pounds-feet of torque, enough to buzz around the Cape, but I was not going to intimidate anyone revving for a stop-light race.
The engine, matched to a six-speed automatic transmission driving the front wheels, might have taken its time getting from 0-60 miles per hour (Car and Driver magazine reported “a leisurely” 9.6 seconds), but the combination did help yield a steady 37 miles per gallon regardless of how hard I pushed it (better than the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s rating of 35 mpg in combined city/highway driving; 32 mpg city, 40 highway).
This is a car you buy expecting to save money and, in typical Toyota fashion, it continues to reward your frugality with every mile driven.
Interior features of a more expensive car
The drive train might not provide a lot of entertainment while on the move, but the standard AM/FM/SiriusXM satellite radio audio system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability can help keep the overall experience from being boring.
A seven-inch color touch screen supplemented by simple rotary controls, steering wheel buttons or voice activation means the Yaris audio and smartphone functions are just as up to date as any high-end luxury ride on the road. And, the two simple-to-use rotary/push knobs on the console (a “command” control and volume adjuster) are superior to many more expensive systems – simple in design and functionality!
Navigation can be a dealer-installed accessory, but the standard Apple CarPlay/Android Auto capability means you can easily plug in your smartphone to take advantage of several no-cost mapping/navigation systems with voice control and turn-by-turn navigation.
Other interior amenities include automatic climate control, leather wrapped tilt/telescoping steering wheel and push start/stop ignition system.
The Yaris’s safety systems begin with Toyota’s solid structure and multiple airbags. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash testing of the 2020 version resulted in a perfect five-star rating.
To avoid crashes, Toyota includes a low-speed front-collision warning system. Also included both as driver assistance and safety features are dynamic stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist systems.
The brakes are 10.14 ventilated rotors up front, nine-inch drums in the rear which does not sound like much, but they’re responsibilities are not great considering the Yaris XLE Hatchback weighs in at 2,482 pounds and has the help of the various electronic-control systems outlined above.
Some of the additional XLE features which enhance both the Yaris’s appearance and performance include 16-inch dark gray split-spoke alloy wheels with P185/60R16 tires; rain-sensing automatic windshield wipers and LED automatic headlights.
There are more complete automotive packages on the market, but few offering the overall quality of a Toyota. The Yaris Sedan starts at $15,650 for the L model through the XLE Sedan or Hatchback at $18,650 (add $955 for shipping and handling for each).