The background on Toyota’s “Yaris” moniker is quite interesting. They say that it’s inspired by Greek mythology, in which one can find a goddess of beauty and elegance named Charis. “Toyota Charis” doesn’t exactly flow off the tip of the tongue, so the brand wizards at the company combined it with the German expression of agreement, “Ya”.
Toyota says that this name is supposed to symbolize the Yaris’ intended broad styling appeal, and represents their existing and future generation of global cars.
And so it seems that these days, car manufacturers are having to find ever creative angles to sell their bread and butter cars in volume.
Honda touts the new Fit (a Yaris’ competitor) for it’s fun-to-drive character and clever packaging resulting in a spacious interior. Nissan touts their Micra as the cheapest new car in Canada.
As for the Yaris, Toyota is using its French-designed roots as a selling point. Betcha didn’t know that the updated model was also engineered and built in France?
This seems to makes sense. After all, small hatchbacks have been all the rage in Europe for years if not decades, partly due to their high fuel prices. And one can’t argue that France is one of the fashion hubs of the world, renowned for avant-garde design.
For 2015, Toyota says that they’ve taken the best out of the Yaris and made it even better by adding more content across the board.
The biggest change that previous Yaris owners will notice is the aggressive front grill and bumper, which gives a stronger and more dynamic appearance to the car. The new cross-shaped structure is part of Toyota’s new “Under Priority” design language.
A quick poll on the streets gave mostly positively feedback about the new styling. Many people thought the new snout gave the Yaris a more attractive and eye-catching look to an otherwise pretty utilitarian design. But some previous owners felt that it was slightly over-styled.
As they say, “your mileage may vary”.
The 2015 Toyota Yaris is available in three models:
- The sportier trimmed five-door Yaris SE now features a new grille, piano black door beltline moldings, projector-style headlamps with LED daytime running lights, chrome inner door handles and Toyota’s 6.1” Display Audio system. The SE has a new, lower starting MSRP of $17,665.
- The five-door Yaris LE includes more comfort and convenience features for 2015. This year’s model also has the 6.1” Display Audio system and a starting price of just $15,965.
- The three-door Yaris CE is the base model out of the trio. New for 2015, the Yaris CE now features power windows and the 6.1” Display Audio system. The MRSP is $14,545.
The car equivalent of a basic appliance
The Yaris provides all the basics of personal transportation and that’s what its intended audience wants.
The flat floor in the back helps to maximize room for 2 full-sized adults, or 3 skinny ones. And there is a decent 286 litres of cargo space with the rear seats folded, but you won’t find any clever fold-up rear seats like that in the Honda Fit.
There are 9 airbags, a high-strength passenger cabin, stability control, and ABS. All part of Toyota’s Star Safety System.
Heck you even get standard Bluetooth connectivity across all trim levels for 2015, available satellite radio, and optional premium audio with GPS satellite navigation.
However most Yaris buyers will probably not expect luxury and they won’t get it anyway. This is a functional and reasonably priced point A-to-B car. The new dash has more soft touch features for improved tactility, but it still looks basic and is basic. At least there is a sense of high build quality as expected from a Toyota product.
The knobs are easy to use with gloved hands, important for use in those Cold Canadian winters, but you won’t find automatic climate control here.
You also won’t find two front windshield wiper blades, as presumably in an effort to save cost and weight, Toyota has amusingly fitted a larger bus-styled single wiper blade. Not to worry though, it works surprisingly well and has a lot more coverage than I expected.
I would’ve liked a steering column that both tilted and telescoped instead of just the former. After longer periods of driving, I found that my forearms fatigued more than normal due to having to really reach for the wheel. Moving the driver’s seat closer wasn’t an option as my knees would then bump into the lower dashboard.
So how does it drive?
There is something to be said about driving a small, light, and nimble car. With only a 9.6 metre (31.5 foot) turning radius, the Yaris gets out of even the tightest spots with ease.
For 2015, engineers have re-tuned the front Macpherson struts and torsion bar rear suspension for greater ride comfort and better body control. New valving reduces the vibrations permeating the cabin and the rear suspension has a stiffer torsion beam combined with softer coil springs to enhance grip, balance, and to reduce understeer.
Front rigidity has also been increased using a new windshield bonding material and a thicker dashboard bulkhead structure. The central and rear body rigidity was strengthened with the use of 36 additional welding spots, a redesigned central tunnel base, and a redesigned rear bumper attachment.
With this more rigid upper and lower body structure, the revised Yaris offers a slightly more direct and linear response to steering inputs.
The ride quality is pretty much what you expect in a small car. Comfortable, but not particularly sporty. It can be slightly choppy on rough surfaces due to the relatively short wheelbase and narrow tires but is acceptable for most road conditions.
The Yaris’ powertrain is carried over from the Toyota Echo, so you won’t find any groundbreaking engine technology here. The costs have long been amortized, which is how Toyota keeps the price of the Yaris as low as it is.
The 106 hp / 103 ft-lbs of torque 1.5 litre 4-cylinder engine does have a few small tricks up its sleeve such as Toyota’s VVTi (Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence). However, power is modest as is acceleration, though it’s totally adequate for driving around town or on the highway.
My test vehicle was equipped with Toyota’s long standing 4-speed automatic transmission, also carried over from the Echo. This transmission has been around for eons and even makes its appearance on the current day base model Toyota Corolla. In short, it gets the job done and is pretty much bulletproof. In fact I found it more responsive than the CVT transmission on the 2015 Honda Fit EX that I tested just before the Yaris.
Where the 4 speed auto box falls a bit short is when it comes to efficiency. At the same highway speed, the Yaris’ engine is revving at 300 rpms higher than the Fit with the CVT, which consequently means that fuel economy at highway speeds will suffer slightly.
Toyota Canada says that the Yaris equipped with the automatic transmission is rated for 7.8L/100 kms in the city, and 6.6L/100 kms of fuel on the highway. I averaged 8.4L/100 kms in mostly city driving.
The long and short of it is that Toyota markets the Yaris for its compact size, spacious interior, and Japanese reliability. It’s a good value for people who want the Toyota for A-to-B and back. Nothing more, nothing less.
Is it fun to drive? Not particularly. Is it spacious? Yes, but not particularly when compared to the new Honda Fit. Is it fast? Definitely not however, it will still keep up with traffic so long as you’re not in a huge hurry.
And so the Yaris continues to be an honest to goodness…well, car. But just a little better for 2015.