Despite my reservations about Toyota’s subcompact hatchback offering, it would probably do well a blind taste test. And by blind, I mean all markings identifying it as a Toyota Yaris and this, of course, as long as those doing the testing do not recognize the car.
The Yaris hatchback is, after all, the latest version of Toyota’s smallest car whose roots can be traced farther back than the Starlet. Although the latter may have been forgotten by most, we all remember the Tercel and the Echo. This is to say that Toyota’s had many a decade to get the small car right and to burrow into consumer’s psyches as a provider of diminutive economical and reliable modes of transportation.
The 2015 Yaris hatchback hovers as one of the top 5 bestselling subcompact cars in Canada. This hotly contested segment is expected to grow, so having a strong foothold amongst the top players is imperative. Thing is that some new players (as well as older ones) are giving the Yaris a run for its money. It is 5th after the Hyundai Accent, Honda Fit, Kia Rio, and Nissan Micra.
Perhaps not so much bi-polar as a sheep wearing wolf’s clothing… The Yaris H/B was redesigned for the 2012 model year where it essentially replaced its 6-year-old outfit for a newer, more daring one. That trend continues, in an even more exaggerated way for the 2015 mid-cycle refresh.
I’m trying to be nice here, and sense that I’m about to fail... The new Yaris looks like a cartoon character whose gaping mouth reminds me of a giant leech about to latch onto something. The car’s sides and rear quarters are far more subdued. The 5-door SE’s 16” alloys are a nice touch, as are the foglights, but the Hyundai Accent, Ford Fiesta, and Nissan Micra are far less visually comical.
Big and small
One common theme shoppers in this segment will find is that the vast majority of these subcompacts make an impressive use of the available interior volume. The Yaris hatchback is no different. The available room for the possible five occupants is surprising. The individual who sits in the middle portion of the rear bench had better not have too much “back,” though.
The dashboard’s layout is simple, but a little botched in some respects. There are a few cubbyholes (something the Echo was famous for) here and there, namely ahead of the passenger, but I’ve yet, after a week, worked out what they’re for as nothing fits. The gauges are large and legible; the same goes for the HVAC. The audio system’s controls are fair and can be adapted to in time.
The front passenger seat is not height adjustable. As such, my 5’1” girlfriend sits at my level on her perch. Although fine by me, anyone roughly 6’ tall may end up running out of headroom if they have to compromise their ideal position should there be a passenger in the rear. The boot is snug with the seatback in place, but will do for a reasonable trip to the grocery store.
On the topic of position (for the driver), the Yaris’ true age (came about for 2006) becomes evident. The non-telescoping steering column makes finding a proper driving position nearly impossible without some concessions.
The selling point
In this blind taste or sampling test, the 2015 Yaris would fare well. Its ride is surprisingly compliant and comfortable. Handling and stability remains top of the list of high points for the Yaris. It in fact drives slightly bigger than it actually is. This is a nice trait.
Two of my favourite aspects are the car’s brakes and steering. The electric power-assisted rack and pinion steering is very quick and responsive; yes, you read that right. The standard for the SE 4-wheel disc brakes are remarkably powerful, effortlessly bringing the Yaris to a stop from speed.
The 106-horsepower 1.5L 4-cylinder engine does what it needs to do, and quite well I might add. Although I would have preferred the 5-speed manual ‘box over the archaic 4-speed slushbox, I find myself having to admit that it does the job. Short on cogs, it juggles the power (hey, the Yaris has 103 lb-ft of torque!) efficiently, but I can imagine attaining less than 7.5L/100km as an average if the transmission had a few more gears or none at all.
Despite my misgivings about Toyota’s subcompact Yaris, this is a good car. That being said, at $14,545 for a base 5-speed 3-door, I would never consider it over a $9,998 Nissan Micra. The Micra is the only other top-selling subcompact that offers a 4-speed as an option. Nissan’s excellent Micra would be my first choice, followed closely by the Hyundai Accent, which incidentally tenders an optional 6-speed autobox.
My tester retailed for $18,665. For this money, I would likely consider a Fit LX with CVT for $18,595 or, the better alternative, an SR 4-speed auto Micra.
Conclusion: Test-drive the Micra before buying any other subcompact car.