Toyota’s Yaris product team, charged with doing something to reinvigorate the sales of the entry-level Toyota Yaris, apparently stuck to the “don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater” dictum, ‘cuz their baby is still there. Despite new sheetmetal (“a bold new look”), interior upgrades (see headline) and a ‘distinct European flavor’, there’s still but 106 horsepower under the hood of the 2015 Yaris, and just four automatic speeds – or a 5-speed manual – hooked to it. If only the product team had been as inventive in their pursuit of something truly new as the guys charged with writing the press release. That, I’m here to tell you, was creative!
We write this with a very real affection for Toyota’s entry-level subcompact. As these things go, it strikes a nice balance between small and easy-to-park, while still offering a modicum of utility for those of us with something to carry beyond our overstuffed b*ttocks. Available in both 3-and-5-door configurations, the Yaris has struck a chord with the few remaining bottom feeders in Toyota showrooms (most have gravitated to Kia and Hyundai) and the occasional ‘tuner’ type, who sees minimal horsepower as but a pebble on life’s highway…or something like that.
So, we’re given an expressive new look, a comfortable cabin with premium seats, a ‘sporty’ new dashboard and new (there’s that word again), softer materials covering most – if not all – interior surfaces. Behind the metal and beneath the seats you’ll find a retuned suspension, more rigid body structure, improved sound insulation and greater attention paid to aero efficiency. The footprint, however, along with the architecture atop it, is apparently the same.
Available in base L, premium LE and sportish(?) SE, it’s the SE package that turns the Toyota Yaris into an ‘urban-cool’ sporty ride. And while we’ve seen a Yaris – or two – capable of giving off an urban-cool vibe, Toyota had darn little to do with it. It’s rather like saying George Harrison was cool (and he was supremely cool) because his dad rove a bus. Driving a bus can be cool, but so much depends on what type of bus, and the route, and whether it has Sirius/XM.
Arriving in showrooms shortly after you read this, the Toyota Yaris L 3-door will set you back around $15K, while the SE urban-cool 5-door with auto (more doors than automatic speeds…) will run almost $18K. Will Toyota grab additional market share in a hypercompetitive market? We’ll guess by the (newish) skin of their not-so-fearsome teeth.