2015 Toyota Yaris: It's Economy Car Enough

By Frank A. Aukofer, November 1st, 2014

With the 2015 Yaris, expectation trumps technology. Because it is a Toyota, anyone would expect the refreshed new Yaris to be durable and reliable. For anyone looking for an entry-level economy car, that likely would be enough starting at $14,845.

Manufacturer photo: The new Yaris combines an energetic shape with a more comfortable cabin
Manufacturer photo: The new Yaris combines an energetic shape with a more comfortable cabin

Add the 2015 changes, consisting of sporty styling enhancements by Toyota's European designers, along with newly tuned steering and suspension modifications, a fresh focus on interior styling and upgraded quality materials, and the Yaris is a slam dunk. The only hiccup could come from some competitors. The Yaris carries on with the same fundamentals as before, in contrast to other small models that have rolled forward.

There's the 106-horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers good fuel economy, but less than exciting acceleration. Then there's the four-speed automatic transmission or, if you prefer, the five-speed manual gearbox. The combinations work well enough yet are unquestionably dated and more suited to an economy car of five years ago.

The new Hyundai Accent four-door hatchback is a direct competitor to the Yaris. It is priced about the same, with nearly identical government safety ratings, comparable fuel economy and, in the version tested here, more standard equipment and better performance.

The Accent's 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine delivers 138 horsepower and the transmission choices are a six-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual. Moreover, in the SE version -- compared to the tested top-line Yaris SE -- comes with Sirius XM satellite radio as standard equipment. The steering wheel tilts and telescopes; on the Yaris it only tilts and there's only HD radio, not satellite.

Manufacturer photo: The new Yaris combines an energetic shape with a more comfortable cabin

Right off the bat, the Yaris has that European scat back appeal. It's a tidy size for shooting through holes in traffic and sneaking into parking spaces that would cause the jerk in the big Mercedes-Benz to look elsewhere.

The EPA fuel economy rating is 32 miles per gallon in combined city/highway driving, which is a comfort. Moreover, Toyota designers and engineers argue that most American buyers don't care whether their car has a four-speed or six-speed automatic transmission, or whether the horsepower is 106 or 138, or whether the manual gearbox is a five-speed or a six speed, or whether it has HD or satellite radio, or a tilt steering wheel instead of a tilt and telescoping steering wheel.

Perhaps they're right. The Yaris performs well within its stated parameters. It has comfortable cloth seats, gets away from a stop sign without embarrassment, and can be driven at illegal highway speeds without straining.

The designers did a decent job on the interior, which has nothing anyone could point to as an obvious cheap solution. In today's world, nobody gets away with bargain basement interiors.

A perceptive customer might look at the Yaris and Accent sticker prices, and conclude that the Accent is the better buy. Actually, the Yaris price listed here included a $899 navigation option, so the comparison prices were $18,725 for the Yaris and $18,315 for the Accent.

Manufacturer photo: The new Yaris combines an energetic shape with a more comfortable cabin

There's no question that there's a huge reputation gap. Toyota's is longstanding, Hyundai's more recent, but has been coming on strongly to the point where the brand has high quality ratings. Moreover, it continues to offer a basic warranty of five years and 60,000 miles, and 10 years and 100,000 miles on the engine and transmission. The Yaris comes with a three year, 36,000 mile basic warranty and five years, 60,000 miles on the engine and drive train.

In the end, the choice of an economy car, for anyone paying attention, will come down to the imponderable of trust. On that basis, you would choose the Yaris.

Specifications

Base price $18,445 (as tested: $19,624)
Curb weight 2,335 lbs.
Displacement 1.5-liter
Engine type 16-valve 4-cyl. w/MPI
Epa mileage rating 30 mpg city, 36 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 11.1 gal.
Horsepower (net) 106 at 6000 rpm
Overall length 155.5 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 103 at 4200 rpm
Transmission 4-speed automatic
Vehicle type 5-passenger FWD subcompact hatchback
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