By Frank S. Washington
NNPA Columnist

PONTE VEDRA, Fla. (NNPA) – Toyota’s move to more aggressive and stylish designs is not just limited to its midsize and compact cars. The automaker’s subcompact Yaris didn’t escape the stylists’ touch, either.

For 2015, the Toyota Yaris received an extensive exterior restyling. It had new horizontal headlihts, LED daytime running lights with a light bar accent. The new trapezoidal grille gave it an aggressive snarl and the fog lamps were also redesigned. In the rear, horizontal tail lights matched the set in the front. The car now has a backup lamp centered in the rear diffuser and the bumper itself had been redesigned.

The Yaris comes in three-door and five-door configurations. Toyota called it a liftback, which is the new code word for hatchback. Whatever you call it, this was a sharp little car.

Powered by a 1.5-liter four cylinder engine that made 106 horsepower and 103 pound-feet of torque, the only questionable component of the Yaris was its four-speed automatic transmission. You’d think with the advent of automatic transmissions ranging from seven to nine speeds, Toyota could come up with a six-speed forward gearbox for the Yaris. There is also a five-speed manual available but it wasn’t here.

We test drove the Yaris with the four-speed automatic and though we griped about the fact that it was only four speeds, the transmission performed flawlessly. The suspension was re-tuned and the body was more rigid than that of the model it replaced. This resulted in a ride that was smooth; there were not many bumps or deviations in the road here to challenge the torsional rigidity of the chassis but the new Yaris had substance. More insulation certainly aided the car’s quiet ride.

Toyota bumped up the quality of the Yaris’ interior, too. The car’s manual driver seat had a vertical adjustment. The dash board had a sporty look; there was soft touch material that really gave the interior a sophisticated feel.

There was a 6.1 inch touch screen as well as chrome and metallic accents. The 60-40 split back seat is now standard across the product line. The car had nine airbags including curtain side airbags.

And in another sign of just how globe gripping the auto industry has become, the 2015 Toyota Yaris was designed by Toyota’s ED2 design studio in the South of France; it has also been assembled in that country since 1999.

There are three trim lines for the 2015 Toyota Yaris: the L, the LE and the SE. Prices range from the L 3-door with a five-speed manual transmission for $15,670 to $18,445 for the SE with a four-speed automatic transmission.

Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.


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