Power106 HP / 103 LB-FT
Curb Weight2,335 LBS
MPG30 City / 36 HWY
As Tested Price$17,708
Toyota is touting the new attitude of the Yaris. The company tasked its French design studio with bringing a little hot hatch flair to the party. That's mostly marketing hyperbole, but the car does look a lot better than it used to. What's more, the seats and interior materials have been upgraded, the body is more rigid, there's more sound insulation, and the suspension is retuned. There's even a 44-pound curb-weight reduction.
I drove the five-door Yaris LE, the mid-level trim between the basic L and more 'sporty' SE. It rings the register at $17,708 with destination; a price that puts it in the meat of a fiercely competitive class of vehicles. The biggest surprise is that I like it. A lot. I thought it was going to be miserable, but it's disarmingly competent. It's just a car – maybe not much of a car in total – but the Yaris is satisfyingly comfortable in its own skin. Instead of trying to be a smartphone on wheels, the Yaris is simple and easy. Every component just does what it's supposed to do.
- There's nothing revolutionary about the powertrain, but the Yaris goes down the road with competence. The 1.5-liter, 106-horsepower engine and four-speed automatic transmission are well-matched. The car doesn't feel underpowered, but it's certainly not quick. The transmission shifts crisply.
- Steering is well-weighted, direct, and quick to respond. It even loads up in the middle of turns to communicate what's up on the road surface. Impressive.
- Forward visibility is pretty great, too, with that big ol' windshield.
- The added spotwelds must be in the right places, because the body doesn't flex or feel flimsy. The Yaris isn't as solid as a Ford Fiesta, but it's not an overcooked noodle, either.
- The car's interior is plain but not horrific. It's dressed up nicely; I mean, the dash is padded. Still, there's lots of plastic that feels cheap and flimsy. You can't complain about a cheap interior in a cheap car, and this is a nice, cheap interior.
- The seats may be a new design, but they're not newly comfortable. They make you squirm after a while.
- The Entune Audio head unit is standard for all Yaris models. It's the same kind of system you'll find in Scions, and it sounds decent. Better than past Toyotas, that's for sure.
- The flat floor in the backseat makes it feel roomy, and there's a surprising amount of space, depending on who's sitting in front of you.
- Cargo area is very functional. The hatch opens wide and space is generous for a car with such a compact footprint.
- Overall, the biggest surprise is how well the Yaris drives. It's light on its feet, and the suspension is neither crashy nor floaty.
The 2015 Yaris is the kind of Toyota that built the company into what it is today. It's definitely not the best in its class – in fact, when you consider the Honda Fit, Fiesta, and Chevy Sonic, there are compelling arguments to be made against the Yaris. The starting MSRP of the Yaris L is around $15,000. Better-equipped LE and SE trims push uncomfortably close to $20,000, and that's where it gets tough to make the case for the Toyota. But taken on its own, the Yaris is a solid choice. It's also probably my favorite Toyota at the moment, simply because it's friendly to drive in a way this company's products usually aren't. It's priced cheaply, but not built cheap. You get a full-fledged car that's actually kind of fun to drive. "It's a car," indeed. And a pretty good one at that.