DALLAS – Man, the automotive landscape sure has changed. It used to be, back when SUVs roamed free, selling a small car like the 2007 Toyota Yaris in America was an afterthought, and not a major occurrence as it is now, thanks to spiraling fuel prices. In other areas of the world, however, these little cars never fell out of favor, prized as they were for their fuel economy and maneuverability. While Toyota had more trouble than usual selling the silly-looking Echo on these shores, its brother, the Yaris, was widely loved elsewhere, even becoming the 1999 Car of the Year in Japan.
Maybe we should have paid attention. Listened to what all those Japanese, Germans, British, and French car buyers were telling us, snapping up Yaris subcompacts as if they were zero-down Tahoes with five grand on the hood. Because, as it turns out, our little sanctuary between the two great oceans is quite vulnerable to the vagaries of OPEC pricing and ExxonMobil profit drives – a lesson you’d thought we’d have learned in the seventies, when little cars like the Yaris were all the rage in the good old USA.
Ah, but we forget when times are good and we can buy Suburbans. Yeah, the automotive landscape really has changed.
Today, the subcompact market is hotly contested, with virtually every automaker offering a credible vehicle – or frantically making plans to do so. That’s not Toyota, of course, because they got to where they are by selling great little cars around the world. The 2007 Yaris continues that tradition, and more. As a replacement for the unloved Echo, the Yaris is a leap up the evolutionary ladder, a new car wearing an old, trusted name known the world over – except here. That will change, and quickly, as the 2007 Toyota Yaris offers ample room, zippy power, surprising style, and great value. And while typical subcompact compromises exist in this new model, such as road and engine noise, the Yaris does a good job of changing the equation and meeting heightened expectations. The only question is this: with bigger, more powerful and cheaper competitors coming from all corners, the Yaris will be challenged for the king of the small car mountain. Replacing the sour memory of the Echo is great, but for Yaris, the competition is going to get a whole lot tougher – and soon.