Cars Coming Soon: Inexpensive Small Cars Getting Fun… Mostly

2012 Toyota Yaris

“Yaris. It’s a Car.”

That’s either the best tagline ever or a terrific parody used to describe the ultimate appliance-mobile. Truth be told, it might be both. The tagline is used by Toyota on social networks to introduce the world to the new 2012 Toyota Yaris. To give you an idea of just how “exciting” this car is, the biggest technology upgrade from last year is a single-arm windshield wiper with washer jets aimed to either side of the big blade.

Yeah, the new Yaris is just that dull. Or just that perfect, depending on who you ask.

Enthusiasts will despise the Yaris, as they always have, and poke fun at its 1.5-liter 106-hp engine and antiquated 4-speed auto gearbox. Zero to 60 times in a car like this aren’t even relevant and might be listed with a resounding “eventually.” The Yaris is the car for people one step away from bumming rides from parents or friends. It’s for people who don’t want to drive but have to and need something reliable and cheap. It’s for people who view driving as nothing more than a temporary distraction from texting.

For that reason, the Yaris is brilliant. It holds perfectly to Toyota’s small-car brand experience and will shuttle its owners in boring bliss to wherever they want to go. Reviews on the car are about what we’d expect.

FIAT 500 by Gucci and fashion model Natasha Poly

During a time when most other small cars are jumping on the fun-to-drive bandwagon, it’s kind of nice to see Toyota sticking to what it does well. Adhering to the formula will keep the Yaris separate from the Ford Fiesta, Mazda2, MINI Cooper and FIAT 500.

The 500, while we’re on the topic, might be the polar opposite of the Yaris.

The humble Yaris isn’t exactly the type to sport a trim level inspired by a designer fashion label. FIAT’s spritely little 500, though, is tailor made for such an association. Fashionable FIAT fans in the U.S. will finally be able to drive away in the stylish FIAT 500 by Gucci after the car makes its debut during New York Fashion Week, which kicks off on September 8.

The cars, available in only black or white, don’t feature any performance upgrades but are customized by Gucci design boss Frida Giannini and are adorned with a number of trademark Gucci elements including the brand’s famous green-red-green web pattern.

If the Yaris is the appliance for people who don’t care much for cars, the 500 (and especially the 500 by Gucci) is the handbag for people who appreciate at least a little driving zest.

What would you prefer in a small car: basic, economical transportation or a more-expensive fashion statement?

-tgriffith

Find Used Cars in Your Area at CarGurus

Used Toyota Yaris
Used FIAT 500
Used Ford Fiesta
Used Mazda2
Used MINI Cooper

3 Comments

  1. Youcan shove the Yaris and the 500 where the sun dont shine I already got a fun to drive hatch thats well equipped economical handles brilliantly and is comfortable for 4 adults from France where they Know how to do this type of car

  2. Back when gas first hit $4 I test drove a Yaris. My impressions:
    1. Cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap. Yes, it gives the impression of cheap at every level.
    2. Just about the worst steering except for that home-made go-cart with two ropes and a board. Yes, it’s got electric power steering but you have to work to make EPS this numb and lifeless.
    3. Cute little boxes with lids stuffed all over the instrument panel.
    4. Drives, rides and handles like that home-made go cart.
    5. Did I mention cheap?
    I think the problem is that Toyota picked a price point just below what they are capable of engineering as a recognizable “Toyota” product, and the results are more like the Chevy than Toyota.
    Nothing about the car would evoke “fun” in my mind.

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