ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: Interior ergonomics are weird here, which, looking back is actually the first thing I said about the last Yaris I drove. So I guess the redesign for the 2015 year didn’t change that. The seat is very upright and always feels too close to the underside of the steering wheel, which tilts but doesn’t telescope. Further, the radio head unit is positioned in the middle of the dash and not angled toward the driver or anything; it’s tough to look at it dead-on without craning your neck to the side.
Once you get past that, though, there’s not much to hate on here. The Yaris is, as the ads for it used to say, just a car -- only this 2015 Yaris SE gets luxuries like power windows that previous stripper-spec test cars lacked. You could probably re-write that line as “just a decent, frugal, boring but probably reliable car available at an acceptable price” but that doesn’t have the same sort of ring to it.
Snowy conditions kept me from really making full use of its 106 hp or 103 lb-ft of torque, but I’ll give Toyota credit for building a smooth little motor. From what I could tell, it does seem to drone a little less than the Honda Fit at near-expressway speeds. That’s despite having a five-speed manual to the Fit’s six-speed. Never got to take it up to 75/80 mph to confirm, though.
I also got stuck in my driveway with all the snow we’ve gotten, but that probably wasn’t the car’s fault -- much as I’d like to imagine it was.
Clearly, there is no shortage of perfectly practical just-a-cars at this end of the market; though I prefer the ergonomics of our long-term Honda Fit, I feel we could have swapped this in for the next few months and no one would complain. Or possibly notice. The sticker is a few hundred higher, but the Yaris does get navigation, which our Fit doesn’t.
Of course, there’s a stylish new Mazda 2 on the horizon. Based on the current car, that’s probably the one I’d recommend to enthusiasts seeking a practical, spirited subcompact.
ONLINE FEATURES EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: This 2015 Yaris SE is a great deal for a hatchback that will do everything any other hatchback will do, except give the driver a comfortable seating position. There’s something about this car -- and previous versions -- that makes you feel like you’re falling towards the steering wheel.
Like Graham said, this does have luxury items like power windows and locks, which our last stripper didn’t have, and it has a music player input, too. Honestly, one doesn’t need more than that.
The engine is underpowered, which means you’ll have to rev the heck out of it to get any forward momentum, but I didn’t have a problem keeping up expressway speeds. The shifter action is smooth and clutch is easy; it would be a good car to learn how to drive a manual on. I think you’d have a hard time getting less than 30 mpg.
Visually, this is definitely better-looking than the first generation, but it won’t win any style awards. It’s curvier up front than the last car, and it has a cooler rear-end treatment, too. I didn’t need to use the hatch, but with it, and the folding rear seats, you could fit a lot of stuff in there.
The Yaris is soft, both in the suspension and steering department. But in this class of vehicle, that’s fine. Almost all of the bumps are soaked up, though the sound penetrates the cabin. The steering is a little rubbery, but the Yaris will go where you point it.
I’d check out the Ford Fiesta, especially the 1.0-liter, and the Mazda 2, before I bought one of these. On the other hand, it’s a Toyota, so there’s reliability built in, at least in the motor.
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