The revised 2015 Toyota Yaris is now available in five-door guise only, with the heavily facelifted hatchback ditching the price-leading three-door variant due to poor demand.
We got behind the wheel of the mid-grade SX variant with a five-speed manual transmission. Pricing for the Yaris SX starts at $17,790, while the SX auto is from $19,390. There’s a broad spread across the Yaris range in terms of pricing, with the newly named entry-level Ascent starting from $15,690, while the range tops out with the ZR (auto only) for $22,690. Read our full specifications and pricing story here
Hyundai’s Accent is currently the top seller in this competitive segment, following model changes for the car tested here and the popular Mazda 2 and Honda Jazz impacting on sales of those models this year.
In comparing the Yaris against the popular Accent there may not being an exact match, but the SX is best compared to the Accent Active, which starts at $16,990. Yaris gets a five-speed manual, while Accent gets a six-speed, the Yaris has a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine with 80kW and 141Nm. The Accent’s 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine generates 90kW and 156Nm.
Some of the notable standard inclusions across the Yaris range worth mentioning are the reverse-view camera, cruise control, a 6.1-inch touchscreen, 15-inch wheels, reach adjustable steering wheel with controls and emergency brake lights.
Exterior styling has been subtly tweaked at the rear, but more extensively revised up front and it’s nose-on where the new Yaris is most obviously different to the model it replaces. The front end has benefitted from some detail changes, which really sharpen up the overall visage of the Yaris – there’s no mistaking what it is, but it’s also significantly different to the old model.
Our test model is resplendent in lipstick pink (‘Hot Pink’ in Toyota parlance), and it certainly garnered plenty of attention – quite possibly because this tester looked like an idiot driving it. That said, girls loved the colour and exterior style and a few male friends appreciated the amount of room and clever interior design - so it wasn’t all bad.
The 1.5-litre isn’t as powerful as some, but it gets off the mark smartly and carries the Yaris up to speed easily. The gearshift is one cog short of the competitors (and the auto remains a four-speed unit, two short of almost all competitors in the class), but the absence of a sixth gear is barely noticed around town. In our time with the car, fifth gear was barely ever engaged, with fourth keeping the engine revs right at city speeds between 40-60km/h.
There’s no notchiness or hesitation and if you zing the engine up to the redline, and the shift action is just as smooth as it is short shifting lower in the rev range. Importantly, the clutch is light enough for a range of drivers to feel comfortable. Despite automatic transmissions being a more popular option for drivers who spend a lot of time in traffic, the Yaris’ manual is an impressively usable gearbox.
This drivetrain combination returns an official fuel figure of 5.8 litres per 100 kilometres. Around town, over more than 200km and with only a short freeway run, our test Yaris consumed 6.2L/100km – impressively close to the theoretical figure.
The electric power steering – for a city car – is a revelation. It’s light and direct and the turning circle is exceptional. It enables the driver to negotiate the most confined inner-city streets without worrying about complicated manoeuvres. Reverse parking couldn’t be any easier – aided by the standard reverse-view camera of course – and all-round visibility from the driver’s seat means it is easy to position the Yaris confidently.
Toyota claims to have stiffened the body shell for the 2015 Yaris, added retuned springs and shock absorbers, and reduced noise and vibration. The company says the increased rigidity delivers more linear steering response and improved ride comfort and body control. The outgoing Yaris wasn't necessarily poor in any of these areas, but the new model is definitely better - particularly its control over rough urban surfaces.
The around-town ride is comfortable without being either too harsh or too sloppy: it manages to find the middle ground. Larger ruts and bumps are soaked up without any nasty banging or crashing through the chassis. It also proved comfortable – even with four adults on board – clambering over those gigantic speed humps that abound in urban areas of Australia's cities.
The increased use of noise absorbing insulation and thicker door/window seals ensures the cabin is quiet and comfortable at any speed. Smaller ruts and bumps on city streets don’t aurally intrude into the cabin and even at 110km/h on the freeway the Yaris is peaceful from the driver’s seat. We noted no rattles or buzzes from any of the interior trims, either.
The cockpit benefits greatly from clever design and use of space. Behind the handbrake there’s space for wallets and phones and a cupholder for the rear seats. Forward of the park brake is a clever place to stow sunglasses and two cupholders that also fit small bottles. Both front doors have deep storage pockets and bottle holders as well.
The input for 12V charging and USB/auxiliary devices is also well positioned, although some buyers may prefer to be able to hide their devices hidden in the glovebox. There’s a clever shelf for the passenger above the glovebox and there’s also an extra hidey-hole to the right of the steering wheel for the driver.
Steering wheel-mounted audio and phone controls are handy, and the touchscreen itself is clear and easy to use. Phone connectivity was managed easily and quickly, and the Bluetooth reception is clear. The Bluetooth audio streaming works well and while the Yaris is no opera house, the six-speaker sound system was solid enough.
The luggage area is big enough for most daily chores with 286 litres of capacity, and the rear seat can be folded forward to an almost-flat position with room for larger objects, too. The hidden subfloor beneath the main luggage area also offers a place hide more valuable items.
Yaris used to offer only height adjustment for the steering wheel but now includes reach adjustment, too, which is a welcome addition and ensures that different sized drivers will be able to get comfortable behind the wheel. As with the Honda Jazz we tested recently, the Yaris manages to feel larger inside the cabin than its diminutive external dimensions suggest - albeit to a lesser extent than the Jazz.
Passengers commented that the seats (front and rear) were comfortable, with enough room for six-footers in the back even behind long-legged drivers up front. Headroom is also impressive, even for taller second-row passengers.
While the Yaris isn’t as spacious as competitors like the Honda Jazz, nor as value packed as the Hyundai Accent, it remains an exceptionally good value city car - and remains backed by affordable capped price servicing ($130 per visit, with services every six months or 10,000km for the first three years).
It’s versatile, comfortable and performs in a way that makes it well suited to the daily grind. The light car segment is a tough battleground and the Yaris remains a smart money option.