MONTREAL: The first thing you need to know about this latest Yaris is that it’s essentially new clothes covering existing hardware.
As fellow Wheels writer Jim Kenzie once wrote, most everything you see, feel and touch in a Yaris is new; most everything you don’t isn’t.
A predecessor to the Yaris, the 2005 Echo hatchback, remains one of the most trouble-free cars I’ve owned. Bought used, I drove it for 80,000 km and sold it with more than 250,000 km on the clock. The previous owner’s maintenance records revealed it had no mechanical issues or warranty claims, and this trend continued while I drove it. It was completely rust free and still had the original battery in it when I sold it, eight years after it left the showroom floor.
Beneath its skin, the new Yaris is essentially the identical drivetrain that was in my Echo. It has the same 1.5-litre, 106-hp inline four mated to either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. Technology junkies might find this to be an abomination, but I figure if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Of course, the trade-off for using decade-old technology is that you get decade-old performance, and the Yaris 106 ponies struggle hard to get you past slower traffic, especially if you drive the automatic.
Toyota refuses to take part in the pricing frenzy triggered by the introduction of the $9,998 Nissan Micra (Mitsubishi now offers a $2,500 rebate on the Mirage, Hyundai a $1,500 rebate on the Accent), and the base three-door Yaris CE lists at $14,545, an increase of just under $300 from the current model. Company reps defended this relatively high starting price by emphasizing that the base CE model now comes with power windows and door locks, and a Bluetooth audio system with a 6.1-inch touch display. They have also raised the content level on the five-door LE and SE models, maintaining the pricing at $15,995 on the former, and significantly lowering it to $17,665 from $19,255 on the latter.
Despite its dated undercarriage, the Yaris remains relatively frugal, claiming 7.7L/100 km in the city and 6.3L on the highway with the manual transmission. This is better than the Micra, which claims 8.6L and 6.6L, respectively. All figures are recorded using the latest five-cycle testing.
On the outside, the Yaris now sports a European-designed, snarly, gaping-mouthed snout on what should otherwise be a cutesy car, at least to me, as I prefer the current model’s styling. There are a few exterior trim variations between the CE, the LE and the sportier SE, and the latter has 16-inch cast wheels, whereas the others make do with steel 15-inchers. Also unique to the SE are LED daytime running lights and a rear spoiler.
Handling is more responsive on all 2015 versions, which now share the firmer electric power steering of the outgoing SE model. An increase in welding points make the chassis more rigid, suspension settings are firmer and anti-sway bars are now solid on all three trim levels. From the driver’s seat the Yaris feels taut, and improved noise reduction gives it a relatively quiet highway ride, though a fair amount of engine noise creeps into the cabin when accelerating hard, especially with the automatic model, whose ratios are spaced wide apart.
The interior is abundantly roomy, and there are more soft-touch surfaces, added nooks and crannies for storing small items, and there’s the new 6.1-inch touch-screen audio system. Power windows and door locks are standard throughout the trim levels. There are some omissions in the options list, like heated seats, and while the steering wheel tilts, it doesn’t telescope (which I would have extended to reduce its reach). Climate controls are manual; there’s no available automatic climate control system, and while there’s a wiper delay setting, there’s no variable intermittent wiper option.
The 2015 Yaris is not a revolutionary step up from the old, but it’s more than just a minor evolutionary step. There are more standard features for roughly the same price as before, except for the SE, which has seen a significant price reduction.
If that’s enough to woo potential Versa Note, Hyundai Accent, Ford Fiesta or Kia Rio buyers remains to be seen. One thing I can attest to is that even though the Yaris has changed little beneath its bodywork, what is there will likely take you a long way.
Expenses for Costa Mouzouris were covered by the manufacturer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org