Where do we start with the Toyota Yaris iA?

Like any adoptive child, the DNA of the new little Toyota sedan can get complicated.

For starters, it began as the Scion iA until Toyota killed off that youth-oriented division, and absorbed most of the vehicles into the mother ship. In fact, the change is so recent, they don’t have any video with the car wearing Toyota badges.

But it really didn’t start there because, the Yaris iA is actually the late lamented Mazda 2. They don’t send that Mazda here anymore, but it was too good to die completely, so Toyota reached an agreement with Mazda. So, the little Mazda 2 got a nose job with the new Toyota family trapezoid grill, and voila, you have the Yaris iA.

The exterior tries to blend that nose with the Mazda shape, and it works pretty well. What also works is the interior, which is a cut above all the other sub-compact class. It has a quality feel to it that you usually have to pay a lot more for.

But now to one harbinger of things to come that I, as a radio guy, was horrified to see. Our car came with the base model radio, and when I went to set my favorite stations, I found there was no AM band. I had heard rumors, but this is the first example I’ve seen from a major manufacturer.

While on the subject of things that work, the little Mazda 1.5-liter four under the hood cranks out only 106 hardworking ponies. But while rowing through the gears of the 6-speed transmission, It felt like so much fun, and was so controllable in the twistys, you don’t realize it takes 8.7 seconds to get to 60 miles an hour.

I recall a writer friend years ago saying that when driving the Fiat X1/9, he’s having as much fun as the guy in the Ferrari, you just can’t tell from the outside.

At just under $17,000 this is the screaming deal in its class. Wherever it came from, I for one am glad it’s here, and if you drive one, you will be, too.

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