When word got out in 2002 that two new ASEAN cars were about to be introduced into the South East Asian markets of Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore etc by two of Japan’s largest carmakers (Toyota and Honda), the internet was abuzz with rumors and insider stories about what those cars would look like and how much they’d cost to own and run. When the curtains finally came down and the Vios was officially unveiled, it immediately garnered a huge following everywhere that it was made available for sale. On home soil, the Vios quickly became a firm favorite among the young and old wishing to own their first new Toyota, after having been served an endless diet of sub-par offerings on the budget side (cars below a hundred grand). 265,000 units on our roads since its introduction until now makes the Toyota Vios the overwhelming non-national sedan in the country, and no other compact sedan is even close.
Nevermind that the meter cluster was oddly placed in the middle of the dashboard to make it easier for drivers to read the meter (the rest of Toyota’s sedan lineup oddly gave this a miss), nevermind also that rear legroom was a little wanting, the Vios was *the* car most likely to find a new home among former owners of locally produced cars. Back then, there was but one main contender to the B-segment non-national car stakes, the Honda City. To many, the 2002 3rd Gen Honda City was an equally good offering and the motoring journos were quick to input their opinions, opining as to which car was the best, with the Vios camp preferring the tried and tested 3-box sedan design over the futuristic “flowerhorn fish” cabin-forward design of the City. However, numbers don’t lie, and every year since its birth, the Vios has managed to remain on top of the charts, year-on-year.
When the 2nd gen Vios debuted in 2007, it featured a new chassis (from the Yaris sedan) which improved rear legroom by quite a margin (120mm longer cabin overall) and created an additional 75 liters of trunk space, although externally it looked rather similar in size to the outgoing 1st gen. Even though the powerplant remained the same, it featured a redesigned intake and exhaust system which helped to improve low to mid-range torque, while an EPS system took care of steering assistance and relieved the engine from a power sapping auxiliary belt and pulley. So in one fell swoop, Toyota managed to address most of the major kinks of the old model; tight cabin, fuel hungry (compared to the H camp’s B-segment offering) and lacking mid-range grunt. The icing on the cake was the reimagined cabin that freed up precious centimeters of head and leg room while adopting a fresher, more pleasing cabin design. However, the first iteration of the 2nd gen Vios was met with mixed reactions, with many jumping over to the other brand because they felt the design was too simple, especially at the back. Toyota quickly responded with the announcement of new body kits that dramatically altered the car’s base looks, bringing the crowd back in droves.
Toyota Vios 2013: Lesson Learnt
So when the time finally came for the 3rd gen Vios to break cover, we wondered if Toyota were going with the safe route again by launching a nondescript sedan and wait for consumer feedback before reacting, or simply pull out all the stops and finally give the consumer what they wanted; a stylish, fuel efficient and spacious B-segment sedan that they’d be proud to own and drive around. When the variants were unveiled not long ago at an official ceremony, it seemed that this time round Toyota didn’t want to play it safe anymore. And what a pleasant turn of events it was to finally see the car in the flesh after months of speculative trawling on cyberspace. The stars of the show were the top two variants, G spec and TRD Sportivo which were tasked to spearhead Toyota’s B-segment challenge going into 2014. Indeed, this seemed to be more than a worthy successor to the B-segment throne vacated by the previous generation offering.
The new kid on the block sports Toyota’s new “Keen Look” design for the front which gives it an expressive and dynamic appearance that is more sculptured and 3-Dimensional than the outgoing model. Indeed, the front of the Vios was designed to move forward and take charge of the road ahead. The trapezoidal front grille looks sharp, truncated by equally sharp looking front headlights that overlap the fenders like a boss. Projector-style headlights on the 1.5 TRD Sportivo and 1.5G further complement the front styling, while the front air dam flares out towards the sides, completing the aggressive look of the car.
From the side, the new Vios looks totally different from the outgoing model, being 110mm longer and 15mm higher overall, with a longer overhang fore and aft. Wheelbase remains the same though, at 2550mm. Because of the way the A and C pillars slope downwards at a lesser gradient, the resulting package shows off a car that has grown significantly longer but looks sleeker than before, with tapered profiling extending from the shoulder line downwards. Purely from an aesthetic viewpoint, if only this compact had 16- or 17-inch wheels, it would have been more of a justice to its sporty good looks.
Round the back, there are again no traces left behind of the old car save for the T badge and Vios nameplate. The wraparound design extends to the large rearlights as well, with a low trunk line that rises to meet the rearlights, emphasizing the wideness of the rear design. What used to be a sliver of chrome across the trunk lid of its precedessor, is now a large but sleek chrome lining that extends all the way across from light to light, adding to the sculptured look of the car. The trunk lid is now wider at the base which makes loading and unloading baggages that bit easier. Trunk space has also expanded a good 31 liters more than the old Vios, with the new car now boasting 506 liters, which Toyota claims is good enough for 4 golf bags.
Toyota Vios 2013: Same Wheelbase but More Legroom
The totally redesigned cabin of the new Vios deserves much praise. From its inception in 2002 the Vios made it clear that it was made for short and trim Asians. After much lamenting among the less vertically challenged and more horizontally endowed consumers in ASEAN countries, they relented and lengthened the cabin by a fair margin in 2007. Better quality of life and opulence meant Asians were getting taller and bigger by the generation, and this time round the new car has even more legroom (and derriere room) than before, boasting an additional 75mm in the rear, while knee room has gone up another 44mm. Seat design has also been significantly improved, with better seat-to-body contact for a more planted feel, while the front occupants get several adjustments on customized seating positions.
After two rounds of insisting that a center console was better for safety, the traditional position for the meter cluster has returned in the new Vios, sporting a 3-dial meter cluster complete with an MID (multi information display) that displays relevant information like time, odo/trip meter, gear position, average speed, average fuel economy and driving range. Having driven the previous two gens of Vios before, I can definitely say that the traditional position, albeit not as safety friendly, is indeed a welcome move. Many a time have I looked in front of the steering wheel and went “Oh Sh*t, where are my meters?”. On hindsight though, that empty space could’ve been handy to place a GPS or my superhero figurine collection. Anyway…
In the automatic variants, an ECO light comes on whenever your right foot behaves itself, so it’s like having an onboard eco-driving instructor. One thing I liked about the meter cluster, is that it has done away with the flashy Optitron style illumination of the past and instead relies on more traditional means; you can read the meters in broad daylight without illumination, but you won’t be able to see anything after dark, forcing you to turn on your lights (brilliant!). The number of drivers on our roads who fail to turn on their lights after dark are simply too many to count, simply because with Optitron style meters many drivers are sometimes unaware that their lights are switched off, forgetting that part of the reason for turning on their lights is for other drivers to be aware of their presence on the road. And the biggest offenders that I’ve encountered thus far drive dark colored vehicles. Go figure.
The dashboard has a sleek new look, which I am told was designed by the same people responsible for designing Lexus interiors, hence the tell-tale family resemblance. Although the entire dash is made from polycarbonate, it features a stitched finish counter top made possible using world-leading Japanese precision-molding technology, so you can’t tell that it’s not real leather just by looking at it. The slightly matte finish of the textured dash surface adds to the illusion of a finely stitched dash top which looks premium for its class, and seems like a subtle way to introduce the company’s luxury offerings in the Lexus range so that up and coming urbanites may aspire towards one of those babies in future. Smart move. The TRD Sportivo and G variants both come with perforated leather seats, with the former getting a sporty black tone with red lining while the latter is adorned with cream leather. I personally liked the latter for it gave the car a more airy feeling of spaciousness and premium feel. The rest of the car’s interior color follows the color of the seats, with the G variant getting a two-toned interior.
A floating style center console appears to be suspended above the center air-cond vents, and owners get to choose 2 optional Sat/Nav 2-Din systems, DVD-AVN (7” touchscreen) or DVD-AVX (5.8” touchscreen). Both optional head units come complete with Bluetooth/USB/MP3/Aux connectivity and reverse camera capability. Those opting for the regular music console at no extra charge get a decent CD player with USB/MP3/Aux and the full complement of 6 speakers (TRD, G and E variants have a nicer player while J variants have a more basic unit). For a budget-oriented B-segment offering, the sound system in the Vios deserves mention as one of the better sounding systems in the market. Again, another nail in the ol’ coffin for aftermarket ICE shops.
Toyota Vios 2013: Tech Talk
Sporting the tried and tested 1,500-cc 4-cylinder 16-valve DOHC workhorse from the previous car, the ubiquitous 1NZ-FE with VVT-i again takes pride of place in the engine bay of the new Vios. However, this new powerplant has had some work done on it to reduce overall weight of the powertrain. Developing a healthy 109PS@6,000rpm and 141Nm@4,200rpm and mated to a four-speed automatic with Super ECT (no Super ECT in the old model),performance will depend on external factors such as kerb weight (between 10-30kg lighter) and coefficient of drag (0.1 Cd lower). A catamaran-shaped roofline and improved sealing of crucial openings helps reduce drag to 0.28, while the use of higher tensile steel throughout the chassis and frame helped to trim its weight down to between 1,050 and 1,095kg (variant dependent). Toyota claims a 5% improvement in fuel economy, which, coupled with its near unchanged pricing in an economy with a roughly 4% inflation rate, translates to better savings overall.
A lot of effort had been made to improve the new car’s rigidity, so a total of more than 100 additional spot welds were incorporated. In the more expensive variants, acoustic glass is used for the windscreens to cut down wind noise, while a lot more asphalt sheets around the floorpan area reduces low-frequency noice and resonance. The suspension system has also been completely made over, with the new Vios getting a rear stabilizer bar for improved linearity at speed, reduced body roll and improved comfort.
In practice, the car does indeed seem rather solid, and certainly more surefooted than its predecessor. Bumps are dispensed with a firmer rebound while on straights it is poised and unperturbed by minor road imperfections. On takeoffs, the engine can sound a little boomy for my taste, but once you’ve hit third gear and beyond its engine note softens down to a purr. The leather wrapped steering (TRD and G variants) feels supple enough and feedback was good even though it was an EPS, but I can’t help but wonder if it would’ve been even better with a tighter ratio. Steering effort however was indeed minimal when it came to parking, so I guess it was a good tradeoff.
The supplied 185/60 R15 Continental CC5 tyres are indeed a good match for the Vios, further adding to the comfort factor of the car. Road noise was largely inaudible below 80km/h, and only when hitting 100km/h and beyond did the car start to make its presence heard. For a car costing less than RM90k, getting shod with Continental tyres is indeed something. Of course, being comfort oriented and being a little on the high side, it won’t do as well round corners compared to a lower profile and wider tyre. Continental CSCs perhaps?
Toyota Vios 2013: Moving Forward
The automotive industry was indeed challenging this year, with many uncertainties abound both from the powers that be and from a rocky economy. As mentioned, the numbers don’t lie and most of the car buying public prefer to stick to the top selling cars in the country for a reason, and that is continued reliability and a rock solid resale value. Thankfully, the majority of the non-national B-segment market who would most probably buy a Vios can thank their lucky stars that this time round, Toyota has caught up with the rest of the market by offering most of the in-cabin creature comforts demanded by today’s consumers (keyless entry and start, reverse camera, Bluetooth connectivity etc). It sure looks like Toyota has played their cards right this time, and with no clear challenger at the moment, it sure looks like the Vios will remain on top for now and in the near future, which makes owning a new Vios going into 2014 a no-brainer.