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2008 Toyota Yaris LiftbackI feel like if I use the phrase "high gas prices" in one more blog entry, someone, somewhere, is going to sneak up behind me and garrote me with a USB cable. Truth is, I didn't decide to review the 3-door Yaris just because of today's, um, you-know-whats, which have climbed so you-know-where. I reviewed it because after testing the Smart Fortwo a few months back, I started wondering how the Smart would compare to a more traditional small car. (Strange, I never thought I'd refer to the Yaris as traditional...) Anyway, the two have a lot in common: They both start around $12k -- in fact, they occupy neighboring spots on my list of the ten cheapest cars sold in the US -- and they both come sparsely equipped (the Yaris gets air conditioning, while the Fortwo gets safety equipment). Annual fuel costs are similar, and... oh, there I go, writing the review in the blog entry again. Get the full story in my 2008 Toyota Yaris S Liftback test drive.

I'm tempted to put up a poll asking which you would prefer, the Yaris or the Smart -- but that one's pretty much a no-brainer for those of us who need to haul our kids around. Still, if you want to pitch in your $0.02 on the whole Yaris-vs-Smart thing, click the "comments" link below and have at it -- I'd really like to hear what you have to say. -- Aaron Gold

Photo © Aaron Gold

July 1, 2008 at 5:54 am
(1) Johnster says:

That antilock brakes and side airbags cost extra is big letdown and I wouldn’t buy a car without these features. However, I don’t think that most cars really need Electronic Stability Control. ESC is certainly needed on most SUVs, pickups and on full-sized passenger and cargo vans. The lack of ESC is no big deal in this car.

On the other hand, the goofy center-mounted instrument pods are distracting when you’re driving and a real deal killer for me. The speedometer and other guages need to be in front of the driver. Overall, the Scion xD and Honda Fit sound like better vehicles.

July 1, 2008 at 8:18 am
(2) jimmy says:

I think the yaris is definately a better overall buy then the fortwo. The toyota is a car that can be used as a car whereas as the fortwo is more like a Gold Wing with a roof. I really want this car, the hatchback, but for the money it seems like the Fit is a better buy. I’m probably not doing anything till after the first of the year so I have lots of time to think about it. Maybe the 2009 models will help make it easier for me to decide.
Aaron, of the little cars that you’ve driven, which would you prefer to sit in for 6 hours on the highway? Fortwo? Fit? Yaris? Any of these?

July 1, 2008 at 9:33 am
(3) Aaron Gold - Cars Guide says:

Jimmy, in my experience, the Smart was not much fun on the highway — but if I can get my hands on a convertible, I might try one for a road trip, just ’cause I’m a glutton for punishment. — Aaron

July 1, 2008 at 9:34 am
(4) Gary from Atlanta says:

Driving in Atlanta is brutal. Traffic, construction, potholes, steel 10×10 pothole covers, brutal summer heat, SUV’s, Semi’s, idiot drivers (Andretti wanna be’s and the mass of distracted cell phone drivers), and insane highway traffic speeds (85+). This is not a safe place to be in a little car. I would not pick a fortwo. It will not handle the beating well. I really don’t think the transmission will last. The yota has a chance. It really isn’t worth trying to save a few hundred bucks in gas a year and not drive something more substantial and solid. Civic or Carolla. They may cost more but they will last longer. I have 194000 on a civic that I do not maintain at all. Just change the oil every 6k. Nothing else in almost 80k. Think about your life, your family, kids when you buy a car. If gas prices hurt take a bag lunch to work. Stop the starbucks. Ditch some of your movie packages on cable. Sacrifice anything before safety. These little cars are death boxes. It is physics.

July 1, 2008 at 11:13 am
(5) Robert says:

Having owned a 2008 Smart Fortwo Cabriolet for the last two months I can honestly say it is an “excellent vehicle”. It drives well (once you get used to the paddle shifters) has great brakes and it handles well. The “only” complaint is some slight lane drifting at speeds over 70mph but nothing to be scared about. My gas mileage has been about 39-42mpg combined so far. It gets a lot of attention by other drivers wherever I go. I highly recommend it!

July 1, 2008 at 2:12 pm
(6) jimmy says:

Aaron and Gary,
I have been kicking around the idea of a slightly larger car like a Carola or Civic. The mileage is virtually the same. I live in the Minneapolis area so I have an idea of what it’s like to drive in heavy traffic. I keep telling myself that a small car is still better than a motorcycle. Now that’s something that’s a rush. Get in the middle of a four lane doing 70+ on a motorcycle. Talk about having your head on a swivel. We’re a two car family. The last one we got was a spectra5 which we love but it just doesn’t get the mileage we’d like, about 26 average. So for my next one I’d like to spend about the same money but get one that has better mileage. Horsepower isn’t high on my list. Getting to 60 in 8 seconds instead of 12 isn’t that important to me even though here the on ramps don’t have a lot of merging room.
On a slightly side note, I’ve been trying to drive slower over all and I’ve been surprised at how many people just stay behind me in the right lane going the speed limit or even slightly slower instead of passing me. I’ve had quite a line back there and nobody in the left lane. It just seems kinda odd.

July 1, 2008 at 3:14 pm
(7) Mike in Minn says:

Hey Jimmy. Good to hear from a fellow Minnesotan. I know exactly what you mean about people following when you take it easy. Kinda starts to take on a funereal feeling. I just figure they’re all listening to MPR and doing their bit for the environment…or something.

July 1, 2008 at 5:22 pm
(8) Shaun says:

I looked at the Yaris when it came out, I was interested in the hatchback, but the dealer only ever had the sedan (which is butt ugly IMO). The Smart Fourtwo is just too impractical with only two seats, I’d rather ride a motorcycle and get even better mileage yet.

I like the hatchback Yaris, but I’m going to go with Gary from ATL on this one. I own a 2003 Civic coupe with 70K on it. I change the oil every 5 to 6K miles with synthetic and I get 38 mpg on the highway and about 32 or so in the city. I have had no problems thus far, it really is a great vehicle and I feel safer with the extra size.

July 1, 2008 at 9:53 pm
(9) Daniel Cote says:

I’m a smart owner and a life-long motorcyclist. The smart is like a bike in that neither one will appeal to the mainstream commuter or the cross-country driver. Both are just plain impractical for most folks.
OK there are people who will buy a smart or a bike/scooter to save money on gas but that’s not the core demographic for either. They’re lifestyle choices.
I own a smart because it’s non-mainstream. I can’t call it unique but it’s certainly attention-getting. It has a quirky transmission and the stringiest warranty on the planet but it’s so darned CUTE. And it’s exclusive with fewer than 30,000 available in 2008.
What will be interesting to watch is what develops in the next few years when manufacturers tap into the building demand for tiny, fuel-efficient cars. There are some very interesting things in the works. Check out the Automotive X-Prize contenders.
Today’s fuel misers are OK but if you want a little panache with your fuel-sipper, stick around.

July 1, 2008 at 10:17 pm
(10) Mike in Minn says:

My parents own a Toyota Echo. The Yaris is somewhat similar though somewhat nicer. If the drivetrain is the same (and I’m told they are close) then many will see highway mileage in the low 40s–an endearing trait. With low repairs and a low initial investment, it’s about the cheapest car to own today.

July 1, 2008 at 11:52 pm
(11) hawaiian don says:

I have to admit that the Yaris has grown on me…a lot! It seems to get cuter every time I see one. The Smart seems to do the opposite. The single biggest question about the Smart is quality and durability over the long run and the lack of a large dealership/mechanic network to support it in time of repairs. Resale is another question. The Yaris and the Fit to me are SAFE bets. I hate being a guinea pig for some automtive pipedream of a car that may go the way of Daewoo. As to the Civic, if you can afford one, these others pale by comparison in every category except perhaps parking.

July 2, 2008 at 9:17 am
(12) jimmy says:

Mike, I listen to MPR myself all the time, except for mornings. It’d be blasphemous not to listen to KQRS morning show. I prey I never get too old to listen to and laugh at those guys.

July 2, 2008 at 10:08 am
(13) gary from Atlanta says:

I have noticed some chatter about Motorcyces and scooters. Seeing way more scooters in Atlanta. Lots of pink and yellow ones driven by the ladies some men. Lots of “rolex” riders on their harley’s (hate to see these dentist wearing leather chaps and a black harley shirt on the weekends riding a 40k bike, just seems silly). I am just going to say it. These people are idiots. Organ donors. Got a father in law whose back is mostly fused together and his sholders do not work. He will in a wheel chair soon from the pain. Have a cousin who was a great golfer and no longer has the use of his left arm and his right wrist is trashed. A friend who trashed his anchle and will have to wear a brace everytime he does any athletics or it will crumble. They may be cute and they may be fun but they are not, I repeat are not worth the risk to serious injury or death. Cars allow you to walk away from a mistake. Bikes don’t. Watched a women on the phone side swip and parked garbage truck yesterday. Messed her car up pretty good. She is the type of person that would kill you on a bike. They look great. I want one of those retro looking low handle bar ducatti’s. Not getting it because I would like to spend my 401k when I retire rather that letting someone else have it when I am dead. Or worse surving but being a mess for the rest of my life. I will keep putting gas in my car.

P.S. Hey Arron, any chance you could test and review the new Bugatti Veyron Hermes edition? It is just sick.

July 2, 2008 at 11:49 am
(14) Aaron Gold - Cars Guide says:

Gary — As my mother used to say, “From your lips to God’s ears.” — Aaron

July 2, 2008 at 8:22 pm
(15) jimmy says:

Gary, your right, motorcycles aren’t for everybody. You do have to really learn to pay attention to what’s going on around you when your on one.

July 3, 2008 at 12:22 pm
(16) Gary says:

I and my Wife bought a Yaris Hatchback about a year and a half ago. We use it to comute back and forth to work ( approxitmatly 70 miles a day). The little car has the power to keep up with traffic on the freeway.
When we drive at about 55 miles per hour, we have found that our mpg averages about 42, and at 70 mph we get about 38 mpg.
As far as safety you pretty much have to look out for the other drivers, and know what is going on around you, in my oppinion.

July 3, 2008 at 7:24 pm
(17) Jimmy says:

Thanks Gary. That’s exactly the kind of useful information that I look for, real world driving mpg complete with approx. speeds. It’s hard to find that kind of info in most reviews.

July 6, 2008 at 10:39 am
(18) Erik says:

We love our new smart passion coupe! My wife drives it 70 miles per day on her commute to the office. She has put 6K miles on it since March and she averages 42 – 48 mpg with the car; it also feels safe and handles very well of the freeway. People really need to drive a smart before they buy a Yaris. We have a new Honda Civic Hybrid and we normally choose to drive the smart on the weekends. Sure the Honda is a great car, however it is not very exciting to drive. The smart is a real hoot to drive, gets about the same milage as the Honda, and is a one car parade (we love the attention that it gets).

July 7, 2008 at 9:08 am
(19) Keith says:

The Smart is anything but smart. Any car this small and impracticle should either have a sub 5.5 0-60 or get 55 plus MPG. 15-22k off the the lot for what? A highly debatable “cute” factor?(for many of us, “ugly” would be high praise for the design chalenged little toad). The Yaris is truly an ugly car but can actually be had for 13k, seats more than 2, and has a far superior service and support network. Not a Toyota fan but really, this isn’t even close.

July 7, 2008 at 11:53 am
(20) Beau from Atlanta says:

I presently own a 2007 Toyota Yaris Hatchback and I have loved it from the time I drove it off the lot. I purchased it with just the plastic wheel covers and a week later I bought aftermarket rims and it really looks hot! The car is very spacious for my wife and I and although it is small I often pass an old Honda civic hatchback and think that it looks much smaller than my Yaris, maybe because of the roof line on the Yaris being much higher. I bought my Yaris brand new and I now have over 25,000 miles on it in less than a year, but I new that I always put a lot of mileage on a car that is why I wanted to purchase a reliable/inexpensive car that I can drive even after I pay it off. I think the Smart for Two is a very cute looking car and I did think about purchasing one but the gas mileage was no more impressive than the Yaris so I opted for the back seat.

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