Thursday, May 10, 2012

2012 TOYOTA YARIS: Beware of sticker shock!

Sticker shock is defined as the feeling of dismay or surprise one gets when learning the high price of an item being offered for sale.
It is often associated with automobiles because it is thought the origination of the term goes back to the 1970s when the price of cars began jumping because of increased government regulation.
Also, the prices of motor vehicles, along with other information, appears on big window stickers called Monroneys, after Sen. Mike Monroney, who sponsored the bill that mandated the disclosure of such information.
An example of sticker shock is the reaction you may have (as I did) if you look at the bottom line of the Monroney for the 2012 Toyota Yaris: $18,234.
What happened to that inexpensive little hatchback that took the place of the subcompact Echo, which was priced even below the popular Corolla, itself a fairly economical family sedan?
When it hit showrooms as a 2007 model, the most expensive Yaris model still came in well under $14,000, which put it in the same price range as the Echo it replaced in the Japanese automaker’s portfolio.
But things have changed. Like the Echo, the Yaris was slightly less than a hit when it was first introduced, but the weaknesses weren’t fatal. They could be fixed, and Toyota has seen to that for 2012.
But the increased cargo capacity, a result of nearly three additional inches in length, suspension tweaks to improve the ride, and the overall upgrades to its appearance both inside and out have come at a cost.
Now the top-of-the-line SE carries a base price of $17,200. A couple of dealer-installed options and floor mats took our test vehicle up to an $18,234 price tag.
It is a much better car than its predecessor and also a big leap in improvement over its predecessor, the Echo. The Yaris is a lot more pleasing to the eye than the Echo, which was so nerdy that Fox Searchlight Pictures chose it for star Robin Williams to drive in his role as a troubled, slightly psychotic lab technician in the film One Hour Photo. Now there was a little bit of product placement that I’m not sure Toyota appreciated.
That wouldn’t necessarily happen with the Yaris.
The fully redesigned Yaris. which comes only in hatchback form now, the sedan having been abandoned, fits in very well with the style of vehicle that appeals to the Gen-X and Gen-Y audiences.

It comes in three trim levels, all with a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine puts out only 106 horsepower and 103 pound-feet of torque. The result is considerable engine noise when pushed to the limit, but at least it does respond to pedal pressure, and the overall handling is pretty solid.
The payoff for the meager horsepower is in mileage figures of 30 mpg city, 35 highway when equipped with a four-speed automatic transmission, 30/38 with a five-speed manual.
Those figures are better than what a similarly priced Scion xD Hatchback delivers with a 1.8-liter four-banger under the hood, though the xD somewhat makes up for its 27/33 fuel mileage numbers with a bit more power (128 hp).
Frankly, neither are going to wow you with power.
But that’s not what they’re all about anyway. What the Yaris gives you is a pretty good fuel-sipper that is a real car, not a bloated golf cart or chopped off bubble car with no backseat or storage that environmental radicals would like us all to drive.
Whether it is worth the price tag is another matter. Even the cheapest of the three Yaris models starts at $14,115, which, as noted earlier, is over $1,000 what Toyota was asking for the most expensive Yaris Hatchback just two years ago.
That’s sticker shock for you.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THE YARIS: Because of its size, the Yaris is good for high-traffic urban areas, and it’s easy to park and maneuver in tight spots.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE ABOUT THE YARIS: Even though the Yaris has been upgraded from last year, the sticker price is a bit much for this particular vehicle.

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