I spent a week driving a new 2015 Toyota Yaris SE Liftback and came away impressed with this subcompact. The Yaris comes in a 3-door model along with the 5-door model I tested. It’s a small vehicle, but the extra two doors work nicely from a design and functionality point of view.
Toyota has become much bolder in its designs after years of playing it safe, and that shows up in the new Yaris as well, which was designed in Toyota’s ED2 design studio located in the South of France. It definitely has a European flavor. The aggressive new design starts with a horizontal chrome grille treatment that stretches into the headlamps. It also features a large grille opening we’re seeing on other Toyota models.
The SE is the sportier model with black headlight trim and special gloss black with machined spoke 16-inch alloy wheels with 195/50R16 tires. The package also includes four-wheel disc brakes and a rear diffuser.
The all-black interior is basic and functional, but it feels nicer than what you would expect from a vehicle in this segment. I drove the Yaris for a week and frankly felt very comfortable. The ride is quiet and the addition of newer, soft-touch materials makes a difference. It was also refreshing to have a dashboard with knobs that are very easy to understand from the minute you get into the car.
The first thing I noticed in this 5-speed manual was how smooth and easy the Yaris shifted between the gears which can be attributed in part to the new hydraulic clutch. It’s also as nimble as you would expect with a tight turning radius.
The Yaris features a 1.5-liter, 16-valve, 4-cylinder DOHC engine equipped with variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-i) producing a modest 106 horespower at 6,000 rpm and 103 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,200 rpm. With that you’re not going to expect much power but it’s adequate for city driving. We had several bad snowstorms in our area while I had the car, and the Yaris performed very well in the challenging conditions as you would expect from a smaller, front-wheel drive vehicle.
Yaris handled the snowstorm well
Toyota stresses a more rigid body structure, and I could feel that as the Yaris handled tight corners well. The Yaris also delivers 30 MPG in the city and 37 MPG on the highway.
All of the automakers have done a good job offering value in the entry-level, subcompact segment. Pricing for the Yaris starts at $14,845, and the model we tested has a sticker price of $18,724, including $825 destination charges. If you’re looking for a subcompact, you’re going to have plenty of impressive options, and the Yaris is a solid candidate. Styling will probably drive many of the decisions in this category, and the aggressive new look for the Yaris should generate more attention. Buyers looking for a manual transmission should test drive the Yaris, as that might tip the decision in its favor.