2015 Toyota Yaris Five-DoorPosted on August 26th, 2015
Subcompact hatchback is big on versatility
By Nina Russin
Let’s face it: Nobody really enjoys paying for gasoline. As a runner, I’m happy to spend whatever it takes for shoes and gear that give me the ergogenic edge, but I’ll shop around for the best deals on gas. Toyota’s newest subcompact Yaris, available as a three or five-door hatchback, minimizes pinch at the pump with 32 mile-per-gallon average fuel economy according to the EPA. Priced below $20,000, the versatile, peppy Yaris offers a lot to love for active urbanites for which long commutes and limited street parking are a way of life.
For 2015, Toyota’s European design studio in the south of France did a major restyle, giving the pint-size Yaris a youthful face and refined interior. The car is slightly longer than the outgoing model. A retuned suspension and stiffer body structure contributes to a quieter, smoother ride.
Power comes from a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine and four-speed automatic transmission. Base price for the five-door test car is $17,820. A cargo mat option and the delivery charge bring the final MSRP to $18,825.
Test drive in southern Arizona
I spent the past week driving the Yaris around the Phoenix, Scottsdale and Chandler, Arizona metropolitan areas as well as through sections of the Gila River Indian community south of town. I wanted to see how well the Yaris would do sharing the road with the large trucks that populate the highways in this part of the country and also evaluate its performance at the 80 mile-per-hour highway speeds typical on the I-10 freeway.
There is no question that the restyle has made the Yaris a much more appealing car. The new ‘mean’ grille should attract younger buyers who were turned off by the outgoing model’s conservative looks. The interior has been remodeled as well, with more attractive upholstery, and more functional instrument panel displays.
Readers who wonder why the automatic transmission lacks fifth and sixth overdrive gears need to remember that the engine is quite small, and needs to rev relatively high to make power. It reaches peak torque- 103 foot-pounds- at 4200 rpm: a pretty deep dip into the throttle. Big overdrive gears would make the engine completely anemic. Unfortunately there is no manual transmission option for cars sold in the United States. A manual gearbox would enable the drive to make the best use of the small engine’s power.
One downside to the four-speed setup is space between the gears. The transmission tends to hunt and shift hard when the driver digs into the throttle. I noticed this merging into high-speed traffic and trying to maneuver around slower vehicles on the highway.
The new suspension is a significant improvement over the outgoing model. The independent MacPherson strut front end does a good job of smoothing out bumps in the road. A Torsion beam rear axle is fine for a car this size, especially a front-wheel drive platform in which most of the vehicle weight is up front. The live rear axle is more compact and durable than an independent rear end, allowing engineers to maximize room in the second row of seating and the cargo area.
The electric power steering system provides good feedback at all speeds. The five-door car has a 36.1-foot turning circle: five feet longer than the three-door model, but still quite easy to parallel park. Although the test car did not come with a rearview camera, I found visibility around the perimeter to be quite good. The Yaris’ large greenhouse is a refreshing change from many new models with narrow, non-functional glass areas.
Aside from some rough shifting, performance on the highway is surprisingly good. The engine has adequate power to keep up with high-speed traffic. Drivers will notice some road noise, but engineers did an excellent job of minimizing engine and wind noise intrusion to the interior. The chassis feels quite solid and safe, despite the fact that the car runs on relatively small wheels.
The restyled interior is a big improvement over the outgoing car. The cloth seat upholstery is practical and attractive. I found the seats to have good lower lumbar support, and was able to adjust the driver’s seat for a clear forward view. Redundant audio controls on the steering wheel minimize driver distraction.
The center stack screen is large and easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions. I found the red-on-black gauge cluster more difficult to read at night, particularly the digital information display. I’m the first to admit that my near vision isn’t what it was twenty years ago, but I don’t typically have problems reading these displays in other vehicles.
There are some nice surprises in the area of infotainment, including a standard USB port and HD radio. Sound quality from the local classical music station was surprisingly good.
The five-door configuration makes access and egress to second-row seats much easier. However buyers with growing families should consider the limited cargo space with the rear seats in place. There is enough room for the weekly groceries and one roller board luggage piece: not enough stowage for a family with children. However buyers who need the second row for occasional use when meeting up with friends will find the arrangement quite functional, since the back seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor for larger items.
Toyota is a brand known for safety and reliability: the Yaris is no exception. Standard safety features include nine airbags, daytime running lamps, whiplash resistant front seats, tire pressure monitoring, antilock brakes, traction control and stability control.
The new Euro-style Yaris is on display at Toyota dealerships nationwide.
Like: An affordable, safe and versatile subcompact car with appealing styling and excellent fuel economy.
Dislike: Transmission shifts hard when the engine is under load.
Model: Yaris five-door
Base price: $17,820
As tested: $18,825
Horsepower: 106 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 103 lbs.-ft. @ 4200 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 30/36 mpg city/highway2015, Urban 2015, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, performance, pricing, standard safety, Toyota