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Tech comes cheap in new Toyota Yaris

The 2015 Yaris comes in at a base price of $14,845, yet even the lowest trim model sports a 6.1-inch touchscreen.

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Wayne Cunningham
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Wayne Cunningham

Managing Editor / Roadshow

Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.

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When you hit the lowest trim level in a model line, you are usually faced with seedy-looking monochrome displays for 1980s-level cabin tech. Toyota bucks this trend in its 2015 Yaris, fitting every model, from the lowly L up to the top SE trim level, with a 6.1-inch touchscreen and Entune Audio head unit.

Toyota released a few details of the 2015 Yaris with photos showing a much more attractive car than the outgoing model. Available in three- and five-door hatchback versions, the Yaris' roof rises like a bubble, creating what appears to be good headroom and visibility for front passengers. A single contour line adorns the side, with a simplicity echoing the Mazda2 .

The front end gets a bit complex, the most notable feature being a mammoth air intake coming up from the front lip to the Toyota badge, similar to that of the new Camry shown at the New York auto show earlier this year. The inset around the badge stretches off to meet the headlights. Fog lights sit in faux side air intakes next to the large central intake.

New Toyota Yaris makes small stylish (pictures)

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The Yaris' headlights get new prominence, with the upper areas cutting into the hood space. No LED headlamps, but the Yaris does get LED running lights at the SE trim level.

Cloth seats show double-stitching and ample bolsters in photos of the SE trim Yaris. Toyota calls out soft-touch materials on the dashboard surfaces, although the design looks fairly mundane. Nestled in the middle of the dashboard sits the standard 6.1-inch touchscreen.

Toyota calls the Yaris' head unit Entune Audio, Entune being the overall name for its latest cabin tech. Entune Audio sits at the lowest level of the line but includes Bluetooth for hands-free phone calls and music streaming, voice recognition, and a USB port for drives or iOS devices. In an upgrade over current Entune Audio head units, the Yaris also gets HD radio. Toyota notes that navigation will be available as a dealer-installed option.

Missing from this feature-set is the Entune App Suite, Toyota's clever system for integrating apps such as Bing destination search, OpenTable restaurant reservations, and iHeartRadio. It would have been nice to at least get some audio apps integrated with the new Yaris.

At least the existence of the touchscreen gives drivers a better interface for audio selection and may pave the way for Toyota to include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in the future. As of now, Toyota is listed as a partner with Apple for CarPlay, but not yet in Google's Open Automotive Alliance, which governs the specification for Android Auto.

2015 Toyota Yaris
A 6.1-inch touchscreen comes standard as the head unit in the 2015 Toyota Yaris. Toyota

Beyond looks and cabin tech, Toyota chose to keep the driveline of the Yaris the same. Under the hood sits a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that manages 106 horsepower and 103 pound-feet of torque. Buyers can choose a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Given the unchanged engine and transmission choices, expect the fuel economy to come in near the 2014 Yaris' 30 mpg city and 37 mpg highway.

Typical for this segment, the front-wheel-drive Yaris makes do with a McPherson strut assembly at the front wheels and a torsion bar at the rear wheels. Toyota notes that SE trim level models will come with a sport-tuned suspension and disc brakes at all four wheels. L and LE trim models get drum brakes at the rears.

The 2015 Yaris will owe much of its success to price. In the US, the base L model with manual transmission will come in at $14,845, while the SE trim with automatic transmission, the most expensive model, will retail for $17,620. Beyond dealer accessories, Toyota is keeping options to a minimum, simplifying pricing.

UK buyers already can get the Yaris' new styling with a base price of £9,995, and the option of a hybrid drivetrain. Australian pricing for the new Yaris has not yet been announced.