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Toyota Yaris

2015_Toyota_Yaris_SE_014

Base Price: $15.670
Price as Tested: $17,620

The Toyota Yaris will probably never be memorialized in poetry or song. “She’ll have fun, fun, fun ’til her daddy takes the Yaris away,” just doesn’t have much of a ring to it. But then, entry-level cars aren’t meant to stir the soul. What they are meant to do, which Yaris does very well, incidentally, is provide safe, competent transportation at an affordable price.

Yaris isn’t the least expensive car on the road, it is a Toyota after all, but it’s well worth its price. Packed with all manner of 2015_Toyota_Yaris_008standard features, even the sub $16,000 base three-door L has its share of creature comforts like power windows and door locks, air conditioning, trip computer, Bluetooth connectivity, and a six-speaker audio system with iPod interface and a 6.1-inch touchscreen.

My test Yaris was a top-of-the-line five-door SE. Toyota offers this hatchback with two or four doors. Adding the two extra doors increases the bottom line by $1,100. There are two grades of the two-door: L and LE. Only the four-door qualifies for SE trim decked out with larger wheels, a rear spoiler, four-wheel disc brakes and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The front suspension in the SE is a bit tighter as well.

Other standard gear on the LE and SE includes power outboard mirrors, cruise control, redundant steering wheel-mounted audio controls and remote keyless entry.

2015_Toyota_Yaris_SE_012Toyota doesn’t overwhelm shoppers with a dazzling array of color choices. It comes in red, black, blue, gray, silver and white. If it matters to you, this is fewer choices than offered by key competitors Honda Fit and Nissan Versa Note. You may choose any color interior as long as it’s black. The total lack of interior-color choices is common within this class of cars.

There are even fewer choices when it comes to what is under the hood. Every Yaris gets its spunk from a 106-horsepower 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. A five-speed manual is the standard transmission. Pony up an extra $725, and you can get the four-speed automatic. Yes, you read that correctly. The automatic-transmission upgrade is a FOUR speed. Welcome to 1995.

My test Yaris with its automatic transmission was peppy enough for around-town duties. The automatic tranny’s gear count notwithstanding, the government-estimated fuel economy is an acceptable 30 mpg city, 36 highway and 32 in combined city/highway driving. Not bad, but not at the top of its segment. For example, it isn’t as good as either the Honda Fit or the Versa Note with their continuously variable transmissions (CVTs). When armed with the five-speed manual, Yaris eeks out marginally better numbers at 30 mpg city, 37 highway and 32 combined.

Dealing with urban confines is what Yaris is all about. Easy to park, it squeezes into narrow spaces found in city parking garages2015_Toyota_Yaris_SE_003 and mall lots. I’m not sure I would want to go across country in one, but for typical day-to-day usage, Yaris is comfortable and competent enough. It accommodates four adults without making rear-seat passengers feel like second-class citizens. At 33.3 inches, legroom in the backseat is better than the C-Class Mercedes-Benz Coupe.

There is nothing showy about the cabin. There are no swoops or swirls. The plain, straightforward design of its dashboard and instrument panel makes utilizing its systems rather easy. Misplacing the owner’s manual won’t leave you helpless in the face of overly complicated systems’ controls. Nothing is overly complicated. Three large knobs arranged below the audio-system controls and touchscreen, provide complete control over the climate system. There are actual knobs for adjusting the audio system’s volume and changing channels. It doesn’t get much more intuitive.

Calling Yaris “basic transportation” doesn’t seem quite right. It’s more than that. Other than its antiquated automatic transmission, Yaris is a passenger livery of the first order. It won’t wow much of anyone, but it’s nicely equipped, adequately powered and reasonably priced. What more do you need in an entry-level hatchback?