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Small Car Shoot-Out Heats Up with Updated Toyota Yaris

Subcompact hatchback gets a “new attitude.”

by on Jul.24, 2014

The 2015 Toyota Yaris goes for a more aggressive design to compete in a crowded segment.

There’s a big battle underway in the small car market, and Toyota has rearmed with a new version of the Yaris subcompact.

Coming to market in both three- and five-door hatchback versions, the 2015 Toyota Yaris is the Japanese giant’s newest model to opt for a more aggressive design than Toyota has traditionally been known for, the maker declaring the hatchbacks now have “a new attitude.”

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They’ll need it considering the increasing competition in the small car market from the likes of the recently restyled Nissan Versa and Honda Fit, never mind the domestic small cars that have begun gaining traction in a market long controlled by the Japanese, such as the Chevrolet Sonic and Ford Fiesta.


Mazda Will Build New Small Car for Toyota

Mazda Mexico plant could prove replacement for Toyota Yaris.

by on Nov.09, 2012

Mazda will produce a small car based on this Mazda2 for Toyota.

Toyota plans to team up with erstwhile Japanese rival Mazda to produce a new small car that would either replace or share the mini-car market with the Japanese giant’s existing Yaris model.

The new model, the two makers today confirmed, will be based on the same platform as the little Mazda2 and will be produced at the factory Mazda is now building in Mexico.

The announcement underscores the shifting strategies redefining the auto industry. Long determined to do just everything on its own, Toyota has been rapidly inking an assortment of alliances with traditional competitors like Ford, BMW, and now Mazda.

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For the smaller Japanese maker, the move could be equally significant.  The current Mazda2 was developed as part of a long-running alliance with Ford Motor Co. But the U.S. maker has steadily wound down that relationship since Alan Mulally signed on as CEO six years ago, leaving Mazda searching for a new partner.


Kia Rio Wins Subcompact Sedan Shoot-Out

But Consumer Reports slams Toyota Yaris.

by on Mar.22, 2012

Strong praise for the Kia Rio from Consumer Reports.

Don’t call the new Kia Rio sedan a “penalty box.”  There was a time when that might have applied to subcompact sedans in general – and Korean-made products in particular – but a shoot-out among domestic and import small cars suggests the best of the subcompact segment deliver more than just a cheap price tag.

The Rio EX, in particular, made a strong impression on the folks at Consumer Reports, the non-profit publication rating the Korean subcompact best in an otherwise impressive class of sedans.  The Rio hatchback didn’t score quite as well, but still landed in the top three among a field that also includes the Honda Fit and Nissan Versa.

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Notably, CR some harsh and unexpected pot shots at the Toyota entry into the growing – and increasingly competitive – subcompact segment , suggesting the Japanese giant’s Yaris hatchback  “continues to underwhelm.”  Once dominant in the small car market, Toyota has been losing ground of late, and many industry analysts believe its decline is only tangentially related to last year’s Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

The challenge is keeping up with a segment that has improved dramatically in recent years.


Toyota Reveals New Yaris at Lollapalooza

Maker upgrades its smallest offering but falls short of 40 mpg.

by on Aug.08, 2011

Toyota hopes to gain ground in the subcompact segment with the newly-updated 2012 Yaris.

These days, you never know where a new car might first show up.  While most makers continue to rely on major auto shows, such as those in Detroit, Frankfurt or even Beijing, industry planners have been looking for ways to avoid getting lost in the crowd.

The unveiling of the next-generation Honda CR-V, for example, is scheduled for the upcoming Orange County show, the little cousin of the big Los Angeles Auto Show.  And now, it seems, music fans attending the big Lollapalooza concert in Chicago were the first to get an in-the-sheet-metal look at the all-new 2012 Toyota Yaris.

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The image above, supplied by Toyota, provides a better sense of the new subcompact than the pics that came out of the show, though the following interior shot, first posted on, gives a look that Toyota didn’t provide of a distinctly redesigned interior.

The basic dimensions of the 2012 Toyota Yaris are familiar.  But the longer nose of the new 5-door hatchback appears to be designed to give the small car a bigger feel, something that might appeal to American motorists who have traditionally steered clear of microcars.


New Ford Fiesta Nudges Into Hybrid Territory

Maker promising up to 40 mpg.

by on May.17, 2010

Ford will offer both this sedan and a hatchback version of the 2011 Fiesta.

The new 2011 Ford Fiesta will nudge into hybrid territory when it’s released later this year, delivering a rated fuel economy of up to 40 mpg on the highway, the automaker announced today.

The Fiesta is the latest – and most highly-promoted – among a series of European products Ford is migrating over to the States.  Though there’ve been a number of changes made to the interior, as well as to bumpers and lighting, all to meet American safety standards, Ford maintained the European car’s emphasis on fuel economy.

The American version of the Fiesta will be powered by a 120-horsepower 1.6 liter Duratec inline-four engine featuring a number of technologies designed to improve mileage, Ford boasts, including Twin-Independent Variable Cam Shift Timing, or Ti-VCT, and electric power-assisted steering.

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The engine is mated to an electrically-shifted clutchless six-speed manual gearbox, dubbed PowerShift, that Ford claims will deliver automatic convenience with manual efficiency.

There are no plans to import the European diesel powertrain for the 2011 Ford Fiesta, however.


First Look: 2011 Ford Fiesta

Ford's European small car finally ready for American debut.

by on Dec.02, 2009

The most "Euro-centric" version of the 2011 Ford Fiesta, the 5-door could get American motorists back into hatchbacks.

The most "Euro-centric" version of the 2011 Ford Fiesta, the 5-door could get American motorists back into hatchbacks.

For a small car, the new 2011 Ford Fiesta has a big mission ahead of it.

Fiesta is the European-designed small car that has garnered a slew of awards for the automaker since its introduction, two years ago.  It’s also the first serious attempt to translate Ford’s Continental design and engineering into a vehicle that meets the needs and desires of American motorists.

In years past, the automaker would likely have developed separate products for the U.S. and Europe – if it brought out such a small car in the States, at all. That’s one reason small cars like Fiesta have been big money losers in this country.  But by spreading out costs on a platform that could eventually account for 1 million sales, worldwide, Ford is betting it will actually make money on Fiesta – and also be able to pass some of the savings to consumers in the form of a car that breaks from the traditional mold of boring, stripped-down Detroit econobox.

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What’s clear is that U.S. buyers are becoming much more open to small cars, which have seen their share of the market surge from just 14.0% in 2004 to 21.6% for the first 10 months of 2008.  The problem for Ford is that Japanese and Korean imports, such as the Toyota Yaris and Honda Fit, have dominated the various small car segments.


Mazda2 Sub-Compact Headed for U.S.

The award-winning car was offered to American executives when last redesigned but they thought it too small.

by on Sep.18, 2009


Mazda2 will also have competition from itself via the Mazda-designed Ford Fiesta.

Mazda North America is finally setting aside its reservation about the size of the potential market and plans to begin importing the subcompact Mazda2, staring late in 2010.

By that time it will not only face competition not only from  the successful Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit and Nissan Versa models that have been on sale in the U.S. for years with multiple body styles, but it will also have competition from itself via the Mazda designed Ford Fiesta.

Jim O’Sullivan,  Mazda North America CEO, made the announcement during a meeting of the company’s top dealers  Mazda had previously announced that the car also would be sold in Canada, beginning at about the same time. The car will be introduced to American consumers during the Los Angeles Auto Show in December.

“You’ve asked us for it for a while now, and we’ve been studying the market to make sure we can make a business case for it across North America,” O’Sullivan said.


"Fiesta Movement Agents" Thomas and Whit took this photo to demonstrate "how unique it is." Really? See the Mazda2 above.

“As consumers’ tastes and attitudes toward small vehicles have changed, we now believe strongly there is a place in our lineup for a car below our current least-expensive car, the Mazda3. Mazda2 will be true to everything that makes our cars stand apart from the competition: it will be stylish, fun-to-drive and a heck of a value,” he claimed.