When it comes to subcompact cars, there is now a 300-pound gorilla in the room that goes by the name of Micra. That would be Nissan’s Mexican-built five-door Micra, advertised as the cheapest car in Canada with a stripper model (behave…) opening at $9,995.
Cue Toyota’s refreshed-for-2015 Yaris subcompact. It waltzes on stage, announces a $14,545 starting price, with five-door models from $15,965… and the crowd goes silent.
As they say in showbiz, “tough room.”
Before we get out the proverbial hook and accuse Toyota of blind arrogance, we should let the Yaris state its case through its fresh plus-size maw. If anything’s going to get your attention, the Yaris’ new in-yer-face face will.
The styling and suspension upgrades are coming from European engineers, and as we know, that part of the world takes its B-segment cars (subcompacts to us) very seriously.We’re listening.
First off, the entry-level $14,545 two-door CE comes with power windows, a 6.1 LCD screen and a few other goodies the base Micra doesn’t have. For 2015 the top trim SE has come down in price from $19,225 to $17,665. Tested here is the $15,965 LE with standard air conditioning, the model that will account for about 75 percent of Yaris sales in Canada.
Secondly, Toyota has binned the Yaris’s horribly cheap interior for an altogether more palatable experience. It ain’t ritzy, but the design is somewhat pleasing, there are more soft-touch plastics and the seats have been redone, showing better contours and a nicer fabric.
The 6.1-inch screen is bright and the standard four-speaker AM/FM/CD/Aux audio with USB is quite a bit better too. Below are a trio of large rotary knobs for climate control. As an interface, the dash is logical and easy to use.
Then we get to the outside. For a Toyota, the snout of this refreshed Yaris is positively snarky. The back end is slightly tweaked too. Painted in the cheekily named “Absolutely Red”, I’m pretty sure it actually drew a few second looks.
The Yaris’s visual promise is not backed up with any drivetrain upgrades. It still soldiers on with the wimpy 106-hp, 103 lb-ft 1.5L four, hooked to either a five-speed manual or $1,000 four-speed auto dubbed, wait for it… 4-speed Automatic Super Electronically Controlled Transmission. Before we all start waving our arms in derision, note the Nissan Micra uses a four-speed auto, too. That said, this is down a cog or two from just about every other competitor.
2015 Toyota Yaris LE, dashboard, gauges, centre stack. Click image to enlarge
For your $15,965, the 5-door LE comes with air conditioning, Bluetooth, heated and powered mirrors, cruise control, keyless entry, USB, auxiliary input, multi-info display and tachometer.
Under the skin we do find some meaningful improvements. All 2015 Yarises benefit from a firmer structure thanks to additional weld points and stiffer body bracing. This enabled the retuning of the MacStrut/torsion beam suspension for better response. It gets softer springs all around, but the addition of rebound springs within the front dampers and a stiffer torsion beam improve body control. Additionally, the steering ratio is quicker.