What comes to mind when you hear the word 'Vios'?
Practical and efficient? Definitely. Spacious? Yup. Reliable? Check. Good resale? It's a Toyota, so definitely yes.
There are probably more, but all of those are great selling points on the showroom floor. Let's be honest, though: the number one automaker in the Philippines' representative in the subcompact sedan segment has been one of those cars that we really couldn't call fun or even exciting. It's not a car that you wake up in the morning and think to yourself, “Man, I can't wait to drive to work today!”
My, my, how things have changed with this all new Vios... but we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Flip the calendar back a few years and Toyota, under the leadership of Akio Toyoda, found itself reeling from a series of incidents in the United States regarding sudden unintended acceleration, so much so that the Toyota CEO found himself apologizing to the U.S. Congress directly for what happened. Toyoda then redirected the company his forebears founded, making a clear commitment to not just produce reliable, safe everyday cars but fun ones as well, and at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show, he unveiled the new slogans of the company: 'Reborn' and 'Fun to drive, again'.
So where does Toyota's entry level sedan fit into this new direction then?
To start: the Vios has never looked this good. The sporty and aggressive design statement is quite similar to the Yaris that Toyota China launched earlier in the year, albeit without the silver bumper trim. The front grille and headlamps wrap around the front end from just above one wheel to another, while the lower bumper looks like it was inspired by a personal favorite of ours: the Lancer Evo X.
Not much to report from the side, and the rear end completes the design nicely with wraparound taillamps and a high trunkline. The 15-inch rims look a little understated for the body, so if you wish to change them for something nicer, there are plenty of better designs out there. Overal -and finished off in orange metallic- the Vios is quite the head turner... not a very common characteristic of a car sold in economy class.
The interior too is properly updated and upgraded over the old model. The most noticeable difference if you're familiar with the previous two generations of the Vios (who isn't?) is the migration of the gauge cluster from the middle of the dash to where its supposed to be: directly in front of the driver.
Everything about the cabin is an effort to make the Vios feel more expensive than it actually is, and that's never a bad thing. The 'floating' audio console using textured plastic is a neat touch, along with the faux 'stitching' on the leading edges of the dashboard and door panels. The color scheme of the interior in this 'G' grade models is quite nice with beige/cream seats, panel, carpets and other bits, accented by the satin silver trim and the black dashboard. Overall, the cabin feels like it belongs in a car a class higher.
For features, everything is standard given that this is the top spec Vios. You get power windows, mirrors (with the fold function), steering wheel audio controls, iPod compatibility (via the USB port), auxiliary input, a multi-info display (trip, fuel consumption, range, among others) and a very powerful manual airconditioning system. Anti-lock brakes and dual airbags are standard for safety, along with a keyless entry system. Also, the stock 4-wheel disc brake system in this G model could well be the best in the class, after testing them thoroughly aboard the Vios 1.5G Cup Car.
At the heart of this orange Vios is a 1NZ-FE 1.5-liter, twin-cam, 107 horsepower, mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission. I know what you're thinking: why didn't they change or upgrade the current engine, and why still the same gate-type, 4-speed automatic? Well, from driving it around for a week, the engine and transmission combo is perfectly fine.
Fuel economy in the city with moderate traffic is at a very decent 8.5 kilometers to the liter and 12.2 kilometers to the liter on the highway. Not bad. Acceleration too is quite good, even though the car actually got bigger and heavier. The real trick that the Vios had is in improvements to the suspension and noise-vibration-harshness (NVH) lessening.
The new Vios is far more comfortable over what passes for paved streets in the metro nowadays. Handling? On the limit, the new Vios actually (and surprisingly) performs better than the one it replaced; easy to maneuver at speed and progressive (hence predictable) when driven hard. And again, the brakes are excellent.
The best part is that this new Toyota Vios 1.5G 4AT has only experienced a slight increase in price over the previous generation. As it stands, this variant costs PhP 847,000. If you want it in White Pearl, add another PhP 15,000.
Toyota as a global organization has always been known for being the purveyor of practical, everyday cars. Akio Toyoda is revolutionizing that notion of the company he leads and this bolder, more striking, more exciting Toyota Vios is exemplary of that new direction.