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I’m one of the few people proud to admit I’ve owned a Toyota Yaris. Technically, I have owned five, including the very similar Toyota Echo I had a few weeks ago. These cars are the butt of plenty of car jokes and not exactly enthusiast-friendly, excluding the GRMN we won’t get stateside. No, the regular Yaris is dorky-looking and clumsy to drive.

From a performance-driving perspective, a U.S.-spec Yaris review could be summed up with: It has dead steering paired with suspension biased far more towards comfort than sportiness.

They are reliable cars, though. Everyone knows about famous Toyota reliability, and the Yaris, in my experience is exceptional there. My four years of Yaris ownership were largely uneventful, which is the whole point. Because of this, the Yaris is a go-to car I recommend to friends and strangers who are looking for no-nonsense transportation that’s easy to buy and maintain on a budget.

Just a humble Yaris – Image: Toyota

Aside from the car’s dynamic deficiencies, the Yaris could be accused of being excruciatingly basic. Many older models don’t even offer stuff like power windows, power locks, or cruise control.

Here in Ohio, where drives tend to be long straight shots on a highway, cruise control is necessary. And for some, not having it is a dealbreaker. No one wants to be stuck in a basic and uncomfortable car every day. Heck, I’m not going to lie – I sold mine because I wanted something that drove better. My 2007 liftback didn’t have many options, manual everything, no cruise control. Freeway drives were agonizing.

There are aftermarket kits that can add cruise control to the car, but they don’t always play nice with the car’s onboard computer. Or, at the very least, are ugly when installed with a big cheap-looking wand sticking out of the steering column. For that, many have tried to opt for the OEM cruise control. But for someone unfamiliar with the car, that can be easier said than done. I’ve heard of dealers and mechanics say that adding the factory cruise control to a car that didn’t come with it is impossible.

That’s wrong, though! If you’ve got a 2006 or newer Toyota Yaris, and you live in the U.S. or Canada, your car already has cruise control. 

It’s true, the software that controls cruise control for the Toyota Yaris is already programmed into the vehicle, it just needs the cruise control stalk. The upgrade is pretty easy, I’ve done it before on my old 2007 base model Yaris hatchback.

Essentially, all you have to do is plug in the standard Toyota cruise control stalk (a part unchanged from nearly every cruise-equipped Toyota for almost 20 years now), and the addition of a clutch interlock switch if the car is a manual. Everything is plug-and-play, and there isn’t any need for any dealer-specific tool or software to get cruise control working.

Image: Kevin Williams

There are multiple online posts and walkthroughs that give clear instructions. They even tell you what parts to order! Installation only took me around an hour to complete and cost less than $100 in parts.

Looks just as good as the factory! – Image: Kevin Williams

For me, adding cruise control made the Yaris much more tolerable. Sure, the car was still maladroit to drive, but the addition of cruise took away one less thing I didn’t like about the car. I started to see the car for what it was, even. For example, the Yaris is a very light car; the manual transmission base model hatchback is a mere 2,200 pounds. Because it’s such a ubiquitous car all over the world, there are plenty of aftermarket parts to choose from. After I added cruise, I thought about how coilover suspension or a big sway bar could dial out some of that clumsiness.

I never got the chance to add an upgraded suspension, but I did put on a set of nice wheels and tires, which improved both the look and the performance of the car. Dare I say it, I started to like the car again. At the very least I asked myself, “Is this car that bad?”

Sometimes I miss my old Yaris, and I still toy around with buying one again and maybe trying to dial out some of the dynamic issues I had with it.

I digress, though. I think you should all know that it is very easy to add cruise control to these cars. Doing so might be what makes a bad car better.

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