2015 Toyota Yaris Hatchback – First Drive

New recipe for an old favorite, but something’s different about the cook
Imthishan Giado

2015 Toyota Yaris Hatchback

The old Yaris hatch is one of our favourite subcompacts. We ran one for two months and it won us over with its surfeit of charm, practicality and Mini-like agility. And it’s now been replaced – after just two years – with a Thai-built new version, larger and more aggressively styled. We didn’t like the saloon version very much, calling it ‘rental fleet fodder’; can this car do better?

The Look

Where the previous Yaris was designed with European city-car tastes in mind, this new Yaris was built from the ground up to appeal to value-conscious Asian Pacific buyers who want one thing – space. Hence it’s longer ander wider, but strangely lower as well. For better handling? No, as you’ll see later.

Design? Generic and inoffensive with a large airy glasshouse and smooth flanks. The only concession to fashion is the weird plastic Fu Manchu moustache that bisects the grille and the lower fascia, and the over-styled tail lamps that make the Yaris seem like it wants to be a Focus ST when it grows up. Oh, and blacked pillars that give it a nifty floating roof.

2015 Toyota Yaris Hatchback

The interior is as the Yaris saloon. This is not a plus – it feels unrelentingly cheap throughout with hard plastics shiny enough to serve as solar panels and awful touches like the fake stitched plastic. Feels like a step back from the old car which also had a plasticky interior but somehow managed to feel a cut above in materials.

Equipment can be best described as ‘stingy’. In the 1.3 SE model I sampled, it came with an OK-sounding AUX-equipped stereo (with steering wheel controls), manual A/C (top spec has single zone climate control), electric windows and locking and…umm, that’s about it. The 1.5 gets Smart Entry. But neither gets Bluetooth as standard (it’s a dealer-fitted option) or even a thermometer! For reference, the old Yaris had both as standard.

On the Road

Your choice of powertrains are either a 84bhp 1.3bhp four-cylinder or a 107bhp 1.5-litre four. On the basis of my brief test drive, don’t walk, run towards the 1.5. The 1.3 is a tepid unit that revs slowly and doesn’t make much power or torque when you get there. Not helping is the slow-shifting four-speed auto which really should be a five-cogger in this day and age.

The ride is decent and the seats are comfortable, but this car really feels the increase in mass. Gone are the playful steering response and the fun handling; in their place are stodgy understeer and a big-car delay in reflexes through the bends. Small cars should make up for their lack of juice with tons of character and quirkiness, just as the Mini did. Not this Yaris, which seems to let out a dejected sigh everywhere it goes, as if it were the automotive equivalent of Eeyore. On Valium.

Verdict

It’s not a bad car, this Yaris and at a starting price of AED51,000 for the 1.3 (AED54,900-57500 for the 1.5) it’s sure to do well in our cost conscious market. A bigger, tougher car to do a tough, thankless job on the motorway; I just wish some of the effervescent character of the old model had survived the Yaris’s journey through puberty.

2015 Toyota Yaris Hatchback
Specs
Prices:
1.3 SE AED51,000
1.5 SE AED54,900
1.5 SE+ AED57,500
Engine:
1.3-litre, VVT-i, 84bhp @ 6000rpm, 89lf ft @ 4400rpm
1.5-litre, VVT-i, 107bhp @ 6000rpm, 104lf ft @ 4200rpm
Transmission: four-speed auto, front-wheel drive

 

 

 

 

 

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