Who doesn't know the old adage: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." That must be Toyota's mantra for its entry level subcompact Yaris auto that has made a solid dent in the economy class of vehicles since it came on scene.
For 2008, Yaris is almost a mirror image of the 2007 model, with a few carefully executed changes. Most notable is a Sport version -- three-door LB. (Stands for "Liftback." Clever, right?)
The new Sport LB adds color-keyed front and rear under-bumper spoilers and side rocker panels for that kicky look. Driver and front seat passenger get sport seats. There's a leather-trimmed steering wheel and sport knob on the shifter, tachometer with amber illumination and an auxiliary audio input jack to accommodate MP3/WMA. Fifteen-inch wheels, rear window defroster, wiper and "S" badging complete the picture.
Carrying over are a large number of standard features that move the Yaris above basic. Included are air conditioning, six-way adjustable front seats, vanity mirror for front passenger, digital clock, tilt steering wheel and map light. Several options include keyless entry and fog lamps. Available side curtain airbags for both rows augment safety features—a major consideration for a vehicle that's dwarfed by large pickups or SUVs. Power comes from a 1.5L, 106-HP four, that gets about 34/40 best mileage.
LB base pricing (five-speed manual transmission) for 2008 is $11,300. The base, manual trans sedan starts at $12,175, reflecting a $150 price increase from last year on all Yaris models. The newly added Sport Liftback (manual) begins at $12,975.
Any vehicle that comes in super small size is going to have a cutesy quality about it. The law of physics has control of that one. But one can err on the neat, well-proportioned side or just come off as butt-ugly. Yaris manages to look and function as a well-balanced small fry in both appearance and manners.