Sunday, June 7, 2015

Has Toyota given up on small cars?

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 Over the years, the humbly priced subcompact car has evolved in the best ways possible, and today's models deliver more than just basic transportation. Quite a few choices in this class of car now offer options that were only available on more expensive luxury cars. In many ways, the 2015 Toyota Yaris hatchback holds its own with the current roster of overachieving subcompacts, but it also trails them in several key areas.

     The Yaris boasts many appealing attributes. It's a nimble and handy companion around town, and its competent suspension helps the car cruise around the turns with good stability. Overall, this is a pleasant and rather easy car to drive. The interior is spacious, with rear seats that are comfortable for most adults. It also boasts solid design and materials quality. Feature content is equally generous, with things like a touchscreen interface, Bluetooth, are standard on all models along with a/c, power locks and mirrors, and a height adjustable driver seat.

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     In other ways though, the Yaris gets left in the dust. the outdated 4-speed automatic transmission is a step down from the 6-speed, or CVT transmissions available, and leaves the Yaris feeling slow during passing. Also, other models boast a better ride, more comfortable seats, sharper handling or more cargo space.

     The 2015 Toyota Yaris is a subcompact economy car available as either a 2-door or 4-door hatchback. The L and LE trims are available in either configuration, while the SE trim is only on the 4 door.

     Standard features on the L include 15-inch alloy wheels, power door locks and windows, a/c, height adjustable driver seat, a tilt only steering wheel, trip computer,a 60/40 split folding rear seat, Bluetooth, and a 6-speaker sound system with a 6.1 inch touchscreen interface.

     The LE adds 15-inch alloy wheels, power side mirrors, keyless entry, cruise control, metallic interior accents, chrome interior door handles, and steering wheel audio controls.

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 Those of you who opt for the SE get 16-inch alloy wheels, projector beam headlamps, LED running lamps, fog lights, special exterior styling bits, a rear spoiler, a sport tuned suspension, sportier tires, 4 wheel disc brakes, a leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and upgraded cloth seating surfaces. A navigation system is available on all Yaris models as an option from the dealer.

     The front wheel drive 2015 Toyota Yaris is powered by a 1.5 liter 4 cylinder engine that produces 106 horsepower and 103 lb.-ft of torque. Two transmissions are available, a 5-speed manual, or a 4-speed automatic. The manual is standard on the 2-door L and 4-door SE, while the 4-speed is optional on these. In testing, a 4-door Yaris equipped with the 5-speed manual went 0-60 mph in 9.5 seconds, while the automatic equipped Yaris took 10.7 seconds. Both times are decent for the class, but other cheaper competitors are faster.

     EPA estimates for the manual equipped Yaris are 33 mpg combined, while the automatic comes in at 32 mpg combined.

     Standard safety features include antilock brakes, traction and stability control, active front head restraints, front seat side airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags, front seat cushion airbags and a driver knee airbag.

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     In brake testing, a Yaris equipped with 4 wheel disc brakes came to a stop from 60 mph in 125 feet, which is solidly average. In crash testing, the Yaris 4-door hatchback earned 4 out of 5 stars for overall crash protection.

     The interior of the 2015 Toyota Yaris couldn't be easier to use. There are just a couple of gauges to read, and the large speedometer is placed directly in front of the driver. Those who worry about a subcompact giving you a low view of the road will find that the high mounted seats of the Yaris give you a pretty solid view of the road. However, the lack of a telescoping steering wheel and firmly padded seats can make longer journeys uncomfortable for some people. In the back, there is quite a good amount of leg room, but the sloping roof line cuts down on headroom. Two averaged sized adults can fit in the back just perfectly.

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 Materials within the 2015 Toyota Yaris are a step up from the previous generation of car, but there is still a lot of hard plastic, and top rivals like the Honda Fit feel more refined. The car comes standard with all of the basic features you are likely to want, including a user-friendly touchscreen interface, and Bluetooth. Some of those features you would have to pay extra to get.

     The 4-door Yaris has 15.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats. You can find more room in the Chevy Sonic, and the Hyundai Accent. The split folding rear seat does help with practicality, but it still trails the benchmark in that area, the Honda Fit.

     Given the expectations you might have of this car, the 2015 Toyota Yaris that makes 106 horsepower will be just fine. There is enough gumption to deal with most suburban traffic flow, and the Yaris has no problem holding most common highway speeds. However, be prepared to move over to the right and put on your hazard lights if you go up mountains.

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     Not helping in this area is the 4-speed automatic transmission , which is an antique, given that most competitors are now using either 6-speed autos, or CVT's. If you don't mind shifting your own gears, the 5-speed manual is the better transmission choice for this car.

     The Yaris is steady and returns a pretty smooth ride. The SE models quicker steering and upgraded brakes as well as suspension add a sportier side to the 2015 Toyota Yaris' mission, but I wouldn't go quite so far as to call it sporty.

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