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Performance Is the Only Thing Holding Back the 2020 Toyota Yaris Hatchback

Since its announcement, the 2020 Toyota Yaris has made headlines — and not always in a good way. Most reviews criticized the Yaris’s extreme lack of performance, mostly due to its 106 horsepower engine.

While other countries are getting a version of the car modeled on the FIA World Rally Championship’s Yaris rally car, the Yaris hatchback coming to America is a sign that perhaps Toyota’s competitors were correct to move away from the subcompact class.

What the 2020 Toyota Yaris Hatchback does right

When a vehicle has the reception that followed the 2020 Toyota Yaris Hatchback, it can be difficult to find anything positive to discuss. However, the Yaris Hatchback available in the U.S. does have some upside.

The Car and Driver review of the 2020 model praised its handling. Even in a hatchback, being fun to drive is an important part of any vehicle purchase. They went on to say,

“Despite its crude torsion-beam rear axle and tiny rear drum brakes, it’s fun to toss around and welcomes being hustled. There’s more grip than you would expect, and its body motions are well controlled.”

In addition to the handling, the gas mileage is serviceable. Although the Car and Driver test didn’t meet the estimated 32 mpg city/40 mpg highway while pushing the vehicle to the limit, those numbers are likely achievable by a more patient driver.

Some vehicles simply aren’t meant to be exciting, and the 2020 Toyota Yaris Hatchback seems to have found its place in the market.

The downsides

Unfortunately, the Yaris Hatchback falls so short in the performance department that it manages to sabotage the gains it makes in other areas. As noted in the Car and Driver review, the transmission (which is only available in automatic) seems to sit far too long in second gear, redlining at 6.4k RPM before clicking into third.

The aforementioned excellent handling simply doesn’t have anything to do when the vehicle struggles to muster barely 100 horsepower.

The build of the vehicle is fine and the look of the car is an improvement over previous models. For its class, the Yaris Hatchback does a great job of looking appealing. Both the interior and exterior of the vehicle are built well and please the eye, comparing favorably against competitors in its class.

Along with the look of the car, the Yaris Hatchback also scores points with the price. There are two trim options available for purchase: the LE and the XLE.

The XLE, the most expensive option, comes with a laundry list of features, including “convincing leatherette upholstery, automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers, LED headlights, leather on its steering wheel, shift knob, and parking-brake handle”. All this for under $20k isn’t bad if you’re willing to forgive the performance issues.

Indeed, many hatchback customers won’t ever have the need to go faster than 65 mph. The long second gear and the low top-end power simply won’t matter to a massive portion of car-buying customers.

Entering 2020, Americans were driving more than ever. Although we’ve seen a recent dip in overall mileage, once everyone is back on the road fuel efficiency will be paramount. The Yaris hatchback is perfectly positioned as an inexpensive vehicle that fulfills the role of a hatchback, even if the towing capacity tops out at 1,200 pounds.

The bottom line

Many consumers simply don’t need a hatchback. In a lot of cases, a sedan will do just fine. But for those looking for something with a little more cargo space, inexpensive models like the 2020 Toyota Yaris Hatchback provide an entry to the hatchback world without sacrificing too much functionality.

If you’re fine with the low performance — and that’s a big if — the Yaris hatchback may fill its role perfectly