Under-Promise and Over-Deliver: The 2015 Toyota Yaris

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Toyota Yaris
The 2015 Toyota Yaris.
The Toyota Yaris, on paper, seems like a horrible car.  The name is neither memorable nor pleasing to the ear, it is not particularly attractive---the new aggressive corporate face looks rather angry and frustrated on the Yaris---its 106 horsepower trails even that of the Nissan Versa by three, the Honda Fit by 24, and its EPA fuel economy estimate is only 30 city/36 highway, which brings up the rear in that group of the big Japanese three's subcompacts.

Blame that on a four-speed automatic transmission as opposed to the Versa and Fit's continuously variable transmissions. Four gears equates to higher RPMs at speed, which means worse fuel economy, and a higher level of noise and harshness.

Side view of 2015 Toyota Yaris
2015 Toyota Yaris.

But living with the Yaris for a week, in the mindset of the intended buyers---young, urban types looking to buy their first new car, stretch their dollars and never have to worry about reliability---well, the car is better than it is on paper.  It drives easily, rides no worse than anything else in its class, and in SE trim, as our test vehicle was, even attempts a level of sportiness.

The Yaris 5-Door SE Liftback base price is $17,820.  That includes a sport-tuned independent MacPherson strut front suspension with stabilizer bar, torsion beam rear suspension, disc brakes front and rear---not a given in this price class---machine-finished alloy wheels and traction control and brake assist technologies. It also comes standard with projector-beam headlights with LED daytime running lights, integrated fog lamps, a black front grille with piano black accent, a rear spoiler, rear window wiper and washer and color-keyed outside mirrors.

Interior view of 2015 Toyota Yaris
2015 Toyota Yaris interior.
The interior is utilitarian, but still the base price buys air conditioning, an AM/FM/HD Radio/CD Entune audio system with USB, Bluetooth, voice recognition and a 5.1-inch touchscreen.  It also comes with cruise control, a leather-trimmed steering wheel with audio controls, a leather-trimmed shift lever, remote keyless entry, power windows and door locks and a cargo area cover. The only options on our test vehicle were carpeted floor mats and cargo mats for an additional $180.

With $825 delivery, processing and handling fee, the as-tested price came to $18,825. Last year, Toyota advertised the Yaris with the tagline "It's A Car".  Yes, it is.  And for some people, looking for reliability and value from their first new car, it is a car they'll be happy with.