Compact cars of the entry-level variety have long been the butt of jokes and the bearers of sniggering names like “econobox” and “tin can.” In the past few years, however, these little cars have become important even to the Detroit makes and competition has become fierce. As the 2015 Yaris demonstrates, being solid and low-priced doesn’t necessarily mean being a best-seller in compact cars anymore.

Quick Specs & Info

2015 Toyota Yaris Class: Subcompact 5-door
Base Model As Tested: SE
Powertrain 1.5L i4, 5spd manual Powertrain 1.5L i4, 4spd auto
Base MSRP $14,845 MSRP as tested $18,625

Overview

2015 Toyota Yaris - 4 - AOA1200pxThe 2015 Toyota Yaris is a great vehicle on many fronts. It’s low cost of entry, good dynamics, and expected trustworthiness are great points. The Yaris, however, is overshadowed by competition from both other automakers and Toyota’s own lineup, especially those from its younger Scion brand.

On the other hand, the 2015 Yaris does offer great new style, with an upgraded front and rear fascia and a far more upscale interior than it had before. As the subcompact segment moves beyond the “A to B econobox” era and into a more feature-filled future, the 2015 rendition of the Yaris moves forward with its contemporaries.

As for the Yaris, it’s available as a two-door or four-door hatchback with an L and LE trim option. The SE trim, which we drove, is available only as a five-door.

Inside the 2015 Toyota Yaris

2015 Toyota Yaris - interior 2 - AOA1200pxProbably the Yaris’ greatest strength is its new interior. The simplicity and ease of form have been retained from the previous Toyota Yaris, but have been augmented by better materials and a more upscale appeal. This means everything is easy to reach and use and nothing looks cheap. A good combination of strengths to have in the entry-level segment.

Seating is comfortable for the class and up to five can get into the Yaris if need be. Four is more realistic for normal use, of course. Cargo space is good, though not on par with others in the segment. Versatility is good, thanks to split-fold rear seating and a useful cargo cover option. We managed to get several home improvement items into the car plus three people without anyone getting cramped.

Under the 2015 Yaris’ Hood

The 2015 Yaris is powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 106 horsepower and 103 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard and a four-speed automatic, as we drove it, is available as an option on some trims and as standard on others.

Acceleration with this engine is slow, but about par for the subcompact segment. The EPA rates the Yaris at 33 mpg combined (30/37 city/highway) with the manual transmission and 32 mpg combined (30/36) with the automatic. These are good, but not great compared to the segment as a whole.

On the Road in the 2015 Yaris

2015 Toyota Yaris - interior 5 - AOA1200pxThe 2015 Toyota Yaris won’t be winning any rally competitions, of course, but its engine is good enough for most buyers in this segment. It’s not quick, but it’s strong and well-suited to the Yaris’ size. The car doesn’t struggle to attain freeway and highway speeds and will give a bit of umph for the pass if need be, but is most at home in town and at sub-highway speeds.

Handling in the Yaris is great. No one will call the Yaris a sports car, but few will have complaints about how the little car maneuvers around town, slides into almost any parking space, and gets through traffic easily. Visibility is another high point, giving the driver a full view around the car thanks to its short nose and wide rear window.

Competition

Competitors in the entry-level subcompact segment are plentiful. The best-selling Nissan Versa and Versa Note are not as upscale as the Yaris, but offer a lower price of entry. The Honda Fit offers a price- and feature-equivalent to the Yaris, but brings a more engaging drive with it. The Ford Fiesta is also competitive on all fronts and has more engine options as well. Finally, some of the Scion entries such as the xB are worth mentioning.

Strong Points

  • Good driving feel and confidence on the road.
  • Great value package given price point and amenities.

Weaknesses

  • Not as versatile or “fun” as some competitors.

Conclusions

The 2015 Toyota Yaris is a great all-around choice in a segment full of great choices. Like many Toyota vehicles, it doesn’t shine in any one area, but it hits most of the marks well.

Test Period Length and Limitations
The Yaris was a manufacturer’s press loan for about a week during which time a total of 241 miles were put on the vehicle. This included mixed highway and in-town driving as well as some light city traffic with various passenger and cargo loads.

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An automotive enthusiast for most of his adult life, Aaron has worked in and around the industry in many ways. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP) and freelances as a writer and journalist around the Web and in print. You can find his portfolio at AaronOnAutos.com.

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