This appears to be the only Yaris Zipcar available in San Francisco, so I’ve been anxious to give it a test drive after blogging about it in Small is sexy (and Smart). It’s pretty much the third shortest car you can purchase new (when the Smart Fortwo goes on sale), or the second shortest featuring at least 4 seats after the Mini Cooper (the Yaris, it turns out, has seat belts for 5!). But I figure if you’re going to offer 4 seats, they might as well be comfortable, which the Mini, even in my shortlegged experience, can’t claim.
Somehow the Yaris managed to feel spacious without looking like a minivan scaled down 75% (I’m talking about you Honda Fit). Cute definitely comes to mind. I’m not a fan of the center mounted dash/speedometer, but whatev. Bonus feature: right next to the emergency brake was a miniplug for connecting your auxiliary audio device (iPod), something I think EVERY car should have (it’s included in their “Power Package” along with “power door locks, power windows, power outside mirrors, 60/40 split, reclining, sliding, fold-flat rear seat, AM/FM CD player with MP3/WMA playback capability, rear window wiper, rear defroster and 15-in. aluminum alloy wheels”). Who knows how much that adds to the base price of $11,150.
I was going 80mph easy driving down highway 24 without really feeling or hearing it. I guess 106hp goes pretty far when you’re only pulling 2335lbs (plus our butts) around. Acceleration from a standstill felt a little funny, like the RPMs were too high and the torque was too low, but probably because I’m just not used to Toyotas (or small cars). Handling was great going up and down Mount Diablo. I felt like I could comfortably take some of those downhill hairpins without slowing down completely.
When we dropped it off, Stephanie and I both got in the backseat and were impressed with how spacious it felt. There were still inches between my knees and the seat in front of me, and I didn’t feel squeezed against the side or the top/back (or Stephanie). I’m a big believer that cars are social spaces, enabling people to go places together—so a car that can comfortably bring 4 people someplace makes me happy. Of course I’d prefer 4 doors, but that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make for something so small. We’ll see if I have a change of heart after test driving a new Smart Fortwo later this week…