September 8, 2013

The Toyota Yaris is Not a "Teen" Car

A few years ago, there was a dad at CelloPlayer's school, who cheerfully brought his two young children to their Early Childhood classrooms before going to work. He drove a Yaris. I asked him about it and he told me how happy he was with his car, as he was helping his children out of their car seats. Later in the day his wife would come pick them up, in a slightly larger car.

This family are back in Germany now, his company had placed him in the United States for only two years.

I think it is telling that this young professional, on a great adventure with his family and presumably enjoying a generous expat package, chose to drive himself to work in a Yaris. I asked him about that too. I mean, I know many expats splurge on a bigger or more luxurious car in the US, because cars are so cheap here.

He gave me a mystified look and said, "But... this is a fine car. I like it."

So there you have it: the reason for the panic among car manufacturers. Many millennials just aren't interested in cars, have their ego vested in something other than the box in which they move around, and are content to drive small cars - if they must drive at all.

"Well, just wait till they get children: then they'll go for the minivan." I think that old fogeys who say such things perhaps don't understand the millennials' perspective, and may vastly underestimate their resourcefulness. I wouldn't be at all surprised if my German friends took their children on multi-day road trips in that Yaris. Because they've got that "Yes You Can" attitude about such things.

So if you are considering buying a car like the Yaris, go with your gut. Ignore the condescending splash page of Toyota's US site that showcases the Yaris as if it were meant for the pre-teen crowd: the ones who haven't outgrown their Legos and still get reeled in by cupcakes with pastel-coloured frosting.

(In the interest of full disclosure: I occasionally play with Legos, as does CelloDad. And we enjoy our gluten-free cupcakes, thanks. However: would such items help draw us to a car? Umm no).

What I'm trying to say is this: the Yaris is a car. It is not "a high-schooler's car". It's a car: and if it works for you, then it is the car for you.

Another way Toyota treats you like a teenager is by not giving you any choice. "You're getting the 1.5L engine and that's that" - as in "You're doing your homework and that's that." Moms of teens know how it's sometimes necessary. But come on, when you're ready to buy a car you're ready to deal with some choice.

Actually, if you did do a little homework you would find more choice: Toyota's UK website offers the Yaris with the 1.0L engine (44mpg); or the Yaris with the 1.33L engine (40mpg); the feisty diesel Yaris (51mpg); or the 1.5L Yaris Hybrid (50mpg).

(If I were a helicopter mom, I would rather have the 1.0L engine for my teen. Teens are feisty enough: let them start with a car that's not feisty, so if they do get in trouble behind that wheel, they get in trouble slowly. And I would rip out all the USB connections; teens don't need any distractions while driving. If I were a helicopter mom).

Keeping the trim the same for the sake of comparison (Yaris TR), the 1.0L engine (44mpg) at £ 13,020 is £750 ($1150) less expensive than the 1.33L engine, which in turn would be about that much less expensive than the 1.5L engine if the latter were available for sale in the UK which it's not: at 35 mpg actual efficiency, it's too guzzly.

Why pay $2000 more for an engine that requires 26% more gas per mile? Even the 1.0L engine will get you to speeds of 96mph: how much extra cash do you have lying around for the speeding tickets?

Besides, in the basic, T2 trim, the five-door Yaris with 1.0L gasoline engine costs just £10,595 (see table below). Still gets you from A to B without getting wet in the rain.

If it were just me and CelloDad, with one 3/4 cello, this car would do us just fine. We might hold out for the plug-in hybrid. But I suppose right now, with two children and two cellos, we need a bit more space. It's only for this reason that it gets the 3-cello rating. Pity. Maybe we should have chosen to play the violin.


Toyota Yaris /Yaris Hybrid -All 5-door

Type L T2 TR Diesel T3 Hybrid
Year 2014 2014 2014 2014
Emissions rating      
MSRP $ 15,455 £ 10,595 £ 15,270 £ 15,495
CelloMom Rating
Fuel Economy:
City/Hwy quoted 30/36 mpg      
Avg. quoted 32 mpg 49 mpgUS 60 mpgUS 67 mpg US
Avg. actual 35 mpg 44 mpgUS 51 mpgUS 50 mpgUS
Carbon emissions, quoted   111 g/km 104 g/km 79 g/km
Engine 1.5L 4-cyl
Power 106 HP @ 6000rpm 60 HP
89 HP
100 HP
Torque 103 lb-ft 69 151 82
Transmission 4-spd Auto Manual Manual Auto
Fuel Reg. Unleaded Euro Unleaded Diesel Euro Unleaded
Length, mm(in)  
154.7 in
3885 mm 153.0 in   3905 mm 153.7 in
Width, mm(in)  
66.7 in
1695 mm 66.7 in   1695 mm 66.7 in
Height, mm(in)  
59.4 in
1510 mm 59.4 in   1510 mm 59.4 in
Weight, kg(lbs)  
2315 lbs
1025 kg 2260 lbs 1050 kg 2536 lbs 1150 kg 2536 lbs
Trunk volume, liters(cuft) 15.6 cuft      
Turning radius, m(ft)  
30.8 ft c-c
4.7m / 15.4 ft   4.7m / 15.4 ft
Top speed, kph(mph)   96 mph 109 mph 102 mph



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  1. You know I recently read something that struck me about house size that could also be applicable to cars: we don't need them to be huge. Houses in the 50s used to average less than 1000 sq ft, yet people still entertained, raised families, and lived well. Cars are only difficult when you have small children (bulky car seats) and lots of equipment (sports, music), otherwise most people do not need them to be bigger than this. And now I want one. ;)

    1. I hear you! the four of us lived very happily in the 1000sqft extension, with our friends (also with two children) renting the 1000sqft original 1948 ranch - that used to house a family with four children! Millennials are sensible about house sizes too, preferring compact city living over suburban McMansions.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. I'm very sorry, I accidentally deleted this comment! Luckily I have a copy of it:

      "I am not a millennial and I hate suburban McMansions. People in this area LOVE THEM. They are so poorly built, it's pathetic. Smaller is better. Live to conserve not consume - but people here don't know how to conserve - only to consume. They buy expensive cars, expensive houses, expensive clothes - because it distracts them from their oh so empty lives. If they have all the expensive stuff, it gives them something to talk about."

    2. I agree with you Lisa: bigger is often not better. Vive la décroissance!


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