Toyota’s Lowest Priced Car You’ve Never Heard Of
Toyota, the third best-selling car nameplate in the USA has standouts such as the Camry, Corolla and Prius, but they also have a car that apparently most people don’t know about – the Yaris. Yaris sales are lagging in the crowded subcompact category that includes the Ford Fiesta, Chevrolet Spark, Nissan Versa and Honda Fit. It even sells fewer units than the Mitsubishi Mirage, which Clean Fleet Report reviewed here with mixed feelings. The obvious question then is, why would Toyota allow itself to have such a weak player in the highly competitive subcompact segment when it dominates with its other cars? Let’s see if we can get to the bottom of it.
The front-wheel drive 2015 Toyota Yaris SE, running on unleaded regular, is powered by a 1.5L four-cylinder 16-valve DOHC engine, with multi-port injection and variable valve timing, putting out 106 hp and 103 lb-ft of torque.
Clean Fleet Report had the opportunity, in back-to-back weeks, to drive the Yaris SE with the five-speed manual and the four-speed automatic. The manual is EPA rated at 30 City / 37 Highway /
33 Combined and the automatic at 30 City / 36 Highway / 32 Combined. We were able to exceed these numbers for each model by driving 75-percent/25-percent highway/city where we averaged 35.2 mpg for the five-speed manual and 34.9 for the automatic. This means the Yaris is a likely member of our 40 MPG Club for its highway mileage. [Note: The EPA’s gas mileage formula is 45-percent highway and 55-percent city. Here in Southern California our 75-percent/25-percent highway/city driving pattern is far more real world and is why we report it to you.]
All of this sounds okay, so far. The reality though is that the powertrain – engine and transmission – is not as sophisticated or powerful as others in its class. To get the Yaris moving you have to keep your right foot planted. And if you have the automatic, nothing is happening very fast. The Yaris SE with the five-speed manual was a bit more sprightly and allowed us to squeeze every bit of oomph out of the available 105 hp. What we also could not understand was why the manual doesn’t have a 6th gear to maximize fuel economy. At 45 mph we were turning 2,000 rpms, while at 70 mph we were at a whopping 3,200rpms. Having a 6th gear would drop the 70 mph revs to about 1,800 and certainly increase the highway fuel economy by a few miles per gallon.
This may be the reason consumers have not warmed-up to the Yaris and embraced it with open arms. Because, as we are about to reveal, it is an otherwise nice little car.
Driving Experience: On the Road
At 2,335 lbs. the Yaris felt solid on the road with little wind buffeting from big rigs or unexpected gusts of wind and little road noise transmitted into the cabin. In SE trim, the Yaris is nimble,
handling firm and flat with little body roll thanks to the 16-inch alloy wheels with 195/50VR16 all-season tires, front independent MacPherson struts with rear Torsion Beam suspension with front stabilizer bars. The Yaris L and LE models come with 15-inch wheels, so the handling probably is not quite as sharp as on the SE model.
The electric, power-assisted rack and pinion steering was smooth and did not over-assist, as can be the case in many cars. All-in-all, the Yaris SE has nimble handling and was easy to drive.
Stopping was straight and true, with no fading, from the front power-assisted, ventilated discs and rear solid disc brakes (available only on the SE model), assisted by the four-wheel Anti-lock Brake System (ABS).
Driving Experience: Exterior
Toyota did a significant restyling for the 2015 Yaris with what they call “a bold new look with a distinct European flavor.” This new look comes out of their design studio in the South of France, and, compared to the previous generation Yaris, it is a huge improvement. The exterior has new front and rear ends with a more appealing and sporty overall stance. In the SE trim you get stylish 16-inch alloy wheels, resulting in a pretty good looking little car.
Available only in a 3-door or 5-door liftback, the Yaris has an aggressive, but not menacing, front grill with a horizontal chrome treatment that runs from headlamp to headlamp, where projector
beam headlights with integrated fog lights and LED daytime running lights live. The sweeping windshield transitions to a flat roof spoiler that extends about four inches over the rear hatch glass. Toyota has done some pretty cool designs with their SEMA showcars and even campaign the Yaris in the FIA World Rally Championship.
Driving Experience: Interior
Clean Fleet Report’s fully optioned 2015 Toyota Yaris SE had cloth black seats with white top stitching and were six-way manual adjustable for the driver and four-way for the passenger. The seats lacked ideal lumbar support but had good thigh bolstering, so you stayed planted when cornering. But, and this drives me crazy, there was no center armrest. The leather wrapped steering wheel tilted, but did not telescope, and had audio controls.
The dash layout is simple and clean with easy to find controls. I was especially pleased to see the radio had real knobs for volume and channel selecting and the climate control wheels were a different size than those of the radio, and were located away from the radio to eliminate any confusion. This may not seem like a big thing, but it is when reaching for these very different controls in the dark – regardless of your familiarity with the dash layout.
The front visibility was very good and a nice touch was the single windshield wiper that swiped-away water effectively. Having the single blade reduces distraction of two, regardless if they are going the same direction.
As part of the 2015 Yaris redesign, time was spent to reduce cabin noise with rocker panel protectors, asphalt sheets under the floor panels and under-hood insulation to block engine noise. I cannot compare the 2015 with previous generations, but I will say that for a subcompact, it was quite quiet.
These noise reduction efforts will be appreciated by all passengers, including those in the rear seat, which, incidentally, can handle three adults. However, for better comfort on longer trips, two
adults would be more comfortable where they could take advantage of the fold down arm rest on the 60/40 split bench rear seat. At 5’ 9”, I fit in all cars, including open wheel racers, so a true test was having a 6’ 1” associate sit in the driver’s seat and when having that seat positioned for him, then have him climb into the back to check leg, knee and head room. The Yaris accommodated my friend in comfort with room to spare.
All Yaris trim levels come with Toyota’s Entune Audio that includes a 6.1-inch touch screen with a six-speaker AM/FM/HD/CD and MP3/WMA playback sound system, with a USB port, iPod connectivity, Aux-in jacks and Bluetooth streaming audio, voice recognition and hands-free telephone. Navigation, SiriusXM and a rear view camera are not available, as well as other driver assistance technologies such as lane departure warning.
Other nice interior features are A/C, power windows and door locks, power outside mirrors, multiple cup holders, carpeted floor mats, 12-volt accessory outlets and a cargo area tonneau cover.
Safety and Convenience
The 2015 Yaris comes with safety and convenience features including nine air bags, remote keyless entry, anti-theft engine immobilizer and Toyota’s Star Safety System that includes Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control System (TRAC), four-wheel disc Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) with Brake Assist (BA) and Smart Stop Technology.
Pricing and Warranties
Base pricing for the three-door 2015 Yaris with the five-speed manual transmission is $14,845, excluding the $825 Delivery and Handling charge. Clean Fleet Report’s 2015 five-door Yaris SE had a MSRP of $17,620, excluding the $825 Delivery and Handling charge. The automatic transmission is a $785 upgrade.
The 2015 Toyota Yaris comes with these warranties:
- Basic Three-year/36,000-mile
- Powertain Five-year/50,000-mile
- Factory-scheduled Maintenance Two-year/25,000-mile
- Roadside Assistance Two-year/25,000-mile
- Anti-Perforation Five-year/Unlimited-mile
Observations: 2015 Toyota Yaris SE
With easily attainable 40+ mpg on the highway in a nicely designed and comfortable car, it would seem Toyota could sell more than 13,275 of the Yaris each year. Maybe the rumored completely new Yaris – or whatever Toyota will call their next generation subcompact – will address the one big drawback to the car – a drivetrain with an underpowered engine and transmissions that are far from industry standard bearers.
The Yaris should be added to your shopping list to see first-hand what a sharp little car it is and research the standard equipment that comes with what is one of the lowest entry prices in the segment.
Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!
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