2015 Toyota Yaris Hatchback SE Review
The 2015 Toyota Yaris Hatchback features improvements made to steering, suspension and handling, along with new standard features.
2015 Toyota Yaris Hatchback Five-Door SE 4A at a glance
BODY STYLE: Subcompact hatchback
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive
ENGINE: 1.5-litre 16-valve, DOHC inline four-cylinder with VVT-i (106 hp, 103 lb/ft)
FUEL ECONOMY: SE Five-Door 4AT 7.8/6.6L/100km (city/hwy); As tested 7.4L/100km (comb)
CARGO: 286 litres
PRICE: SE $17,665; as tested $18,665 including optional four-speed automatic ($1,000), not including $1,495 Freight & PDI or other fees
2015 Toyota Yaris Hatchback adds details to a dependable subcompact
?No stripped-down subcompacts here!?
That?s the opening salvo in the Yaris Hatchback press release, really a volley of return fire after the debut of the $9,998 Nissan Micra and the quick-to-follow price slashing by the Mitsubishi Mirage.
It?s dog-eat-dog in the subcompact sales war where the cars are small and the profit margins even smaller.
But Toyota?s philosophy has been to hold the high ground of quality and content, rather than squabble in the trenches over just who has the cheapest price.
And to bolster that strategy, the current third-generation Yaris has undergone a mid-cycle makeover for the 2015 model year.
Starting from Toyota?s ?B? car platform foundation, the Yaris adds 36 more welding spots and reinforcements throughout the chassis to strengthen platform rigidity.
Engineers also focused on reducing NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) with complementary structural improvements to the body structure. Suspension tweaks complement an upgraded steering package that used to be limited only to the top-of-the-line model. And improved aerodynamics also helps the Yaris cut through the air more quietly.
The Yaris Hatchback also adds a little European flair to its exterior design for 2015.
The imports coming to our Canadian market were redesigned and built in France, a fact Toyota happily trumpeted earlier this year at the official vehicle launch in Quebec, the province that accounts for more than 65 per cent of Yaris sales.
There are new bumpers in front and back, new tail light assemblies and, most noticeably, following the current Toyota/Lexus styling trend, a new gape-mouth grille up front. It?s an aggressive look that might seem hard for a smallish putt-putt to live up to, especially in light of important fundamentals that have not changed for 2015.
The carried-over 1.5-litre DOHC four-cylinder engine still makes 106 hp at 6,000 rpm and 103 lb/ft of peak torque at 4,200 rpm. Power is translated through a reliable but dated duo of transmissions ? a standard five-speed manual gearbox or an optional four-speed automatic ($1,000).
I wouldn?t quite characterize those trannies as ?boat anchors? but they do pale somewhat in the face of increasingly sophisticated six-speed manuals, five- or six-speed automatics and/or CVTs available in competitive products.
Having said that, these two powertrain choices probably seem perfectly adequate to average econo car customers, a group that I think we can safely classify as the ?car-as-appliance crowd?, focused more on practical and reliable transportation than on extra sport performance cues or fancy frills.
That air of practicality carries over inside the Yaris, with no added cutesy content, no body-coloured panels or gauge eccentricities a la MINI or Fiat 500, just simple and direct ergonomics, albeit with up-scaled instrumentation, better buttons and dials, and improved fitments and textures for 2015.
Staying with the increased content theme to justify the starting price, all Yaris Hatchback models now also feature a 6.1-inch Display Audio system with Bluetooth and USB input, along with power windows and power door locks as standard equipment.
And, speaking of price, to sweeten the pot, Toyota has stayed close to 2014 prices, even reducing the top-line SE starting price by $1,590.
The Yaris Hatchback lineup (Toyota Canada dropped the sedan after 2012) offers a three trim selection that starts with a three-door CE ($14,545), followed by a mid-range 5-door LE ($15,545), and topped by a five-door SE (17,655), as tested here with the optional automatic ($1,000) listing for $18,655.
The SE tester, seen here, comes wrapped in a Brown Sugar Metallic paint job and the upscale trim also adds new projector style headlamps marked with signature LED daytime running lamps. Building on the entry-level basics, a long list of SE standard features includes unique 16-inch alloy wheels, a colour-keyed skirt package with rear spoiler and fog lamps.
Inside standards include air conditioning, upgraded front sport seats, piano-black door trim pieces, leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel with spoke-mounted audio controls and cruise control stalk, an intermittent rear wiper, keyless entry and an upgraded six-speaker audio system.
The 6.1-inch display screen can be augmented with a navigation system ($1,015) and a few other accessories are available – cargo net ($125), hood deflector ($170), etc.
So how does this whole package come together?
Well, inside I found the interior somewhat staid, overdosing on grey but there is some relief with sporty white stitching on the upholstery.
Seating space is do-able in front and back with some good-natured compromise all round. The most notable and universal passenger reaction was hilarity and wonder at the Yaris? big single-bladed wiper sweeping across the windshield in the rain.
And I may have pooh-poohed the powertrain a little but there are plenty of small car qualities to enjoy – thriftiness, nimble handling and any space parking ability, backed by Toyota?s legacy of dependability.
The little engine manages just fine, thank you, returning an official fuel economy rating of 7.8/6.6L/100km (city/hwy). My real world results averaged out to 7.4L/100km (comb).
Other markets get diesel and hybrid versions but, as long as we are tied to American tastes, we will probably never see the small diesel. And, in the North American market, any hybrid needs at this small car level are ably served by the Prius C.
It?s not unfair to think of the mid-cycle refresh of the 2015 Yaris Hatchback as sort of a stopgap set of improvements.
There has been talk of a new replacement subcompact in 2016 or 2017, actually a Toyota version of the Mazda2, built economically in Mexico and featuring fuel-thrifty Mazda sourced Skyactiv engines and technologies. But all of that is still up in the air.
For now, the 2015 Yaris Hatchback remains as a practical entry to the Toyota lineup, offering small car pricing and efficiencies, a long list of improvements made inside and out and bullet-proof reliability.
And with maybe even a little eye-catching curb appeal.