2015 Toyota Yaris: Like the Camry, but Smaller

Strong points
  • More modern lines
  • Better quality materials
  • Suspension is slightly firmer than before
  • Short turning radius
  • Above-average reliability
Weak points
  • Not everyone likes the new exterior
  • Weakling engines
  • Automatic transmission has four speeds only
  • Sensitive to side winds
Full report

A few months ago, Toyota unveiled the 2015 Camry, a mid-generation model featuring some fairly significant changes. These updates fell just shy of a new generation, as the mechanical parts and chassis remained the same. 

And now Toyota has just introduced its all-new Yaris. Last revamped in 2011, this valiant city car was due for a mid-cycle overhaul. Toyota went beyond the surface to enhance the vehicle’s technical aptitudes and infuse it with a more distinctive style. 

A front end worth a thousand words

Among all these changes, the front end received more than its fair share. Were they for the better? I’ll let you be the judge of that. A row of LEDs was added to the headlamps and foglamps of the more luxurious SE, but the LE and CE will have to live without these features. The CE is a three-door hatchback, while the other trims have two extra doors, making them much more versatile. The changes to the rear section were more discreet, but observant people will notice that the tail lights are different and the rear back-up light is now in the lower part of the bumper. A spoiler has been added to the roof of the SE to boost its overall style and ensure that the vehicle stays stuck to the road beyond 250 km/h. Ha! That’s just a car-journalist joke!  

The changes made to the dashboard are subtle but very worthwhile. The overall effect is less over-the-top than in the past. There is also a 6.1-inch screen with Bluetooth and a USB port, available on all trims. The materials are better quality than in the past and the assembly is exemplary. People like me who tote lots of items will appreciate the numerous storage compartments. The rest of the interior remains unchanged. 

Tried and true mechanics

As before, the Yaris is using the recipe as the Camry's upgrade when it comes to drivetrains, which is another way of saying that no changes were made to the engines or transmissions. The tried-and-true 1.5-litre four-cylinder still delivers 106 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 103 lbs.-ft. of torque at 4,200 rpm. The manual transmission still has five speeds and the automatic has four. Before you go voicing your disappointment on social media, rest assured that its handling is in the norm. A five-speed would have been better, but it would have increased the purchase price. The new Yaris was designed and built in France, where automatic transmissions are practically non-existent. And thus the number of gears seemed less important. The next generation (which should come out in two or three years, I’m told) will probably have a CVT. According to Toyota, the manual Yaris’ fuel consumption is 7.7 L/100 km in the city and 6.3 L on the highway, whereas the automatic’s figures are 7.8 and 6.6. These numbers are up compared to 2014 simply because now manufacturers are calculating the average consumption over five cycles instead of two, which is more realistic. 

The chassis is the same, but the engineers seized the opportunity to make it more rigid with additional weld points around the doors – another trick stolen from the Camry. The anti-roll bars are now solid instead of hollow, and the steering provides better feedback on all trims. Note that the SE has a sport-calibrated suspension (stop laughing!), disc brakes and 16-inch wheels. 

Still room for improvement

Despite the changes to the platform—all of which were minor—the vehicle doesn’t handle like a Corvette. This is still a Yaris, just a slightly better one. Its acceleration is very noisy, but the improved soundproofing makes it more bearable. The vehicle is also less noisy at cruising speed. The automatic transmission does an honest job, but it is not flawless. The manual has a mushy clutch and none-too-precise gear shift lever. And yet, I don’t know if it’s my age catching up to me or if Toyota has quietly made improvements, but I found it to be more pleasant than in the past. Ok, it’s my age! With all the bumps and potholes that pepper our road network, the 2015 Yaris is better equipped than before. Sure, it’s still prone to body roll or you might notice the rear torsion beam being overtaxed, but the improvement is appreciable. Meanwhile, the steering offers a bit more feedback, though if Toyota hadn’t mentioned it, I might not have noticed. 

Like its predecessor, the 2015 model has a small turning radius, reasonable peripheral visibility (though the three-quarter visibility is a bit complicated), a single windshield wiper that does a great job in the rain, comfortable front seats and a relatively comfortable rear bench. And while Toyota wouldn’t confirm it, we all suspect that a sedan version is in the works. 

The 2015 Yaris is rolling into dealerships as we speak. The base trim (three-door CE) costs $14,545 and the LE costs $15,965. Lastly, the “sporty” SE is priced at $17,665, which is $1,600 less than the previous model. 

Despite all these improvements, buyers looking for a new city car will hear the call of the Kia Rio or Hyundai Accent, both of which offer six-speed transmissions at a similar price and a comparable equipment level. The Nissan Versa Note is also a serious contender. In all, the 2015 Yaris is better than the 2014 version, it’s reliable and sure to have a good resale value. But the competition is very strong and shouldn’t be overlooked. 

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