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Media Drive: 2015 Toyota Yaris

2015 Toyota Yaris

The Toyota Yaris is probably one of the most forgotten about hatches in Toyota’s line-up. Competing against its hybrid brother the Prius C, the Yaris has fallen to the shadows and left in dark. To bring back some life into this little hatch, the designers at Toyota went bonkers with the styling giving the Yaris some much needed personality to hopefully boost its sales figures.

Small hatchbacks aren’t really America’s specialty. So when it came time for the Yaris’ mid-cycle 2015 refresh, Toyota left it up to their partners over at Toyota Motor Europe to do their magic. And who better to design a sporty little hatch than the Europeans?

This new design speaks volume. They’ve transformed a typical city car into a hot hatch… minus the “hot” part. Toyota gave the new Yaris a more aggressive and assertive stance. This new design shares some similar characteristics with its European sibling, the Aygo, sharing the “X” design black grille and similar largemouth fascia. The rear has been tampered with as well giving the Yaris a more fashionable tight end with new tail lights and lower center mounted backup lights.

The Yaris will continue to be offered as a 3-door and a 5-door hatch in L, LE, and SE trim levels. The SE, being the bolder, sportier one of the bunch gets the most upgrades with projector beam headlamps, snazzy LED daytime running lamps, a sportier honeycomb grille, and hipster looking 16” black and silver wheels.

Toyota though just didn’t go to town on the exterior, but the interior as well giving the consumers more of what they wanted in terms of comfort and driving enjoyment. The new interior features a more upscale cabin with soft touch materials, a quieter cabin space using 25 percent more sound absorbing materials and all trim levels receive a new Yaris Entune 6.1” audio display – Navigation can be a dealer install.

Using the same structural shell, Toyota managed to make the most of the interior volume and managed to widen the cabin space allowing for more passenger comfort. During our one hour venture, we found the seats to be fairly comfortable, especially since we spent nearly 90 percent of our time stuck in college traffic. There is room for four and storage is fairly decent with commodious luggage space in the rear and 60/40 split folding rear seats.

There is a little bit of a love, hate relationship going on with this new Yaris. Toyota did their magic on fine tuning the chassis and suspension to give a sportier, dynamic feel and removing all of the unwanted flex when tossed around a round-a-bout. You get the sense they weren’t messing around when they added nearly half an inch to the tires and adjusted the electric power steering which gives the Yaris a sharper, agile response and better feel for the road from behind the wheel.

Where we start to find our dislike is with the old powertrain. The 80’s called, they want their four-speed transmission back. Toyota claims its consumers had no concerns with the outgoing powertrain as it’s designed for efficiently pushing out an EPA MPG rating of 30 city and 37 highway – we beg to differ. None the less, we’re stuck with its 106 horsepower, 1.5-liter four cylinder engine for now. Luckily a five-speed manual is available on their base L trim and the sportier SE trim models; however, considering it makes up for less than 3% of its overall sales, it’s unlikely you’ll find one on sitting on the dealers’ lots.

The truth here is, the Yaris is a small, affordable, city car – designed to get you from point A to point B, in a stylish manner. Prices start at $14,845 for the base 3-door L trim and works its way up the 5-door SE at $16,820 (prices before destination charge). With prices that low, we might be willing to look past the outdated powertrain – but we’ll determine that once we spend a little more time behind the wheel.

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