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HEELS ON WHEELS: 2015 Toyota Yaris Review +VIDEO


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2015 Toyota Yaris Hatchback and Sedan

HEELS ON WHEELS
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel


INTRO TO THE TOYOTA YARIS VEHICLE
The budget-conscious Yaris increases its looks for 2015, drawing this hatchback closer to Toyota’s more aggressive style. Available in 3- and 5-door liftback configurations, functionality has also improved along with a roomier and quieter interior.

I drove a 2015 Toyota Yaris with the 106-horsepower 1.5-liter Dual Overhead Cam four-cylinder engine and four-speed automatic transmission. The lineup offers three trims: L, LE and the sportier SE (five-door only). My SE included the following standard equipment: remote keyless entry; Entune multi-media with a 6.1-inch touchscreen; Bluetooth; USB and auxiliary input jacks; a six-way-adjustable driver seat; a leather-wrapped steering wheel with mounted controls; cargo area cover. Total price as described comes to $17,620.

While subcompact competitors like the Fiat 500, MINI Cooper and VW Golf remain a solid European choice for style and performance, the Yaris has stepped up its demur by taking design cues from Toyota’s ED2 design studio located in the South of France. All other competitors include the Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta, Mazda2, Chevy Sonic, Chevy Spark, Mitsubishi Mirage DE, Kia Rio, Hyundai Accent, smartfortwo.




HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA

Stylish But Comfortable Results: A lower windshield angle, short overhangs and wheels pushed out to the corners give the Yaris a more road-hugging stance. Inside, practicality still reigns supreme with clear views from behind the driver’s seat, ample leg and foot room for rear passengers, and noise-reducing improvements like an acoustic glass for the windshield and sound-insulating materials in additional locations throughout the car. The interior design has taken on a sassier feels with soft-touch trim at the instrument panel and front doors. Special assets to the SE trim include piano black interior trim accents, a leather-trimmed shift lever, black headlight trim and special gloss black with machined spoke sixteen-inch alloy wheels. The navigation upgrade will cost an extra $899.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The 2015 Toyota Yaris offers nine standard airbags and front seats. Standard equipment includes Toyota’s Star Safety System which brings Vehicle Stability Control, an anti-lock braking system, traction control, EBD and Smart Stop Technology. Once a Top Safety Pick, The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Yaris just a “Marginal” crash test score in small overlap front (with “Good” in all other areas. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the Yaris four-door 4-Stars in rollover crash testing.

Cost Issues: A major draw to the Yaris has always been its starting price – try $14,845 and with more standard features for each trim than model’s past. The base Fit starts at $15,525 and tops out at $20,800. The Fiat 500 base starts at $16,445 and the Mini Cooper Hardtop at $20,700.

Activity & Performance Ability: Not much has been done on the powertrain front with the four-speed automatic transmission and 1.5-liter that delivers just 106 horsepower – you get a sufficient ride that can be pushed to feel zesty at the corners at times. Others in its class can do more under six-speed configurations – that Fit with the Earth Dreams Technology outputs 130-horsepower with a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine featuring i-VTEC technology and has an improved a six-speed manual along with a newly developed automatic Continuously Variable Transmission with G-Shift Control.

The Green Concern: EPA-estimated fuel economy is 30 miles-per-gallon city and 36 highway equating to 32 combined. Fuel economy numbers for the Fit with the better powertrain are 25-city and 38-highway for a combined 35 miles-per-gallon. You’ll have to go to a hybrid or electric vehicle to get better.

FINAL PARTING WORDS
A starting price of $14,845 and the Yaris' improved looks will please any subcompact shopper – yet those expecting a slightly sportier ride should also test drive the Honda Fit to see if it can outplay the Yaris on the performance front.

©2015 Katrina Ramser

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