On the day of the official launch of the New Vios, the media fraternity were busying themselves with the new star of the show at UMW Toyota Motor’s HQ in Shah Alam, getting up close and personal with the variants on offer. Two new exciting colors and a new variant greeted us at the lobby of the building complex, a White Pearl CS TRD Sportivo and a Spark Crimson Red Metallic Vios GX (new variant to make a total of six altogether). Incidentally, White Pearl CS is only available on the top of the line New Vios TRD Sportivo while all other variants can be had with a new Super White II body color. Three other color choices are available across the range; Medium Silver Metallic, Silver Metallic and Attitude Black.

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Prior to the launch, we were merely expecting a refreshed external design and a new CVT gearbox in place of the ageing Super ECT 4-speeder, but this time round even the engine has been thoroughly updated to a newer all-aluminum Dual VVT-i motor with iridium spark plugs to replace the older single VVT-i four-banger. Compared to the older motor, this new 1.5-liter 2NR-FE Dual VVT-i engine produces slightly less peak horsepower and torque (down by 2PS and 1Nm) to arrive at a final figure of 107PS @ 6,000rpm and 140Nm @ 4,200rpm. Lay people will initially balk at this spec sheet, for who would’ve expected a newer powerplant to perform worse than its predecessor? Or so we thought…

At the media drive, I had the opportunity to speak with a senior Toyota official, who shed some serious light onto the matter. The thing is, the new motor combined with the new CVT has managed to earn EEV (Energy Efficient Vehicle) status, which brings about certain cost savings, which Toyota has gratuitously passed on to consumers, hence a lower asking price overall across the board. Consumers will stand to save between RM1,480-3,680 depending on variant. The Toyota official went on to explain that although on paper the new engine (part of the new NR engine family that also powers the new Avanza and Bezza) might seem underwhelming, but we would have to experience the difference behind the wheel. In other words, it’s All About The Drive… Truth be told, the new engine and gearbox combo proved to be markedly smoother and effortless, but more on that later. Toyota’s own testing has proven that the new engine and gearbox combo manages to improve fuel economy by a whopping 18%, which is no mean feat.

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So along with the new powertrain, Toyota has embellished the new cars with new bumpers fore and aft, new wheels for the different variants and new interior finishing. The top of the line TRD Sportivo gets a new bodykit replete with daylight running lights and an exclusive black grille to give it the edge. It also comes with an exclusive White Pearl CS color choice not available on any other variant. Slotting in between the TRD Sportivo and G variant, the new Vios GX will set hearts racing with desire. Sporting a brand new aerokit with aggressive front splitters, this new aerokit will surely turn heads wherever you take it. Standard on the GX, this aerokit is also available on lower variants as an option. The GX also sports a black/tan leather combination to give the interior space a sophisticated ambience while the sportier TRD Sportivo gets perforated black leather with red highlights.

Aside from having keyless entry and push start across the range, every variant now comes standard with VSC (Vehicle Stability Control), a feature usually reserved for more expensive variants. A quick check with Mr Toyota Official revealed that safety was one of their customers’ main concerns when it came to cars. With that in mind, Toyota Malaysia decided to equip all their Vios variants with VSC, which actually costs money to equip and isn’t just a simple and cheap program update. Without going into details, let’s just say that VSC is actually rather important these days and should not be left out of any modern mass produced vehicle sold in the country. Other manufacturers ought to take note…

2016 Toyota Vios: New Tech, All Good

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If I may say so, this is the Vios that should have been. During the short stint that we had with the car going down to Malacca and onto the Malacca International Motorsports Circuit (MIMC), we had the opportunity to really put the new car through the paces ranging from slaloms, emergency braking, hill climbs to test the CVT and even a 1-liter Fuel Challenge to see how many laps we could muster on 1 liter of unleaded RON95.

On the way down, we took the NSE which allowed us to experience the smoothness and effortless nature of the new powertrain. Indeed, “cruising” at 140km/h was now a whole lot less dramatic with the tacho at just a click under 2,500rpm. With the new powertrain, hitting 185km/h with three plus-sized occupants on board was achieved without a sweat. Surprise surprise, so what was that again about the new car having two less ponies? With the engine now unshackled from the confines of 4 fixed ratios, you can now have all 107PS pulling all the way without missing a beat!

Driving at sane speeds and with the newfound cabin quietness without engine roar, we were better able to appreciate the new 6.8-inch 2-DIN multimedia head unit with 6 speakers (TRD Sportivo, GX, G and E variants only). Said head unit comes standard with DVD, USB, Bluetooth, Voice Recognition, MP3 playback and reverse camera. Owners of the J variants can also upgrade their head units to this one, for a small fee.

Getting reacquainted with the Vios after a two year hiatus, I couldn’t help but remind myself about the solidness of the interior fittings and this was also helped by the superbly designed leather clad steering wheel which was just the right size. Fit and finish are up to the usual Toyota standards of excellence.

At the MIMC in Ayer Keroh, Malacca, we experienced a different aspect of the New Vios, thanks to the inclusion of VSC across the range. The track was setup to mimic emergency situations where one could easily lose control of the vehicle, to test out Toyota’s VSC in action. Well, either the car’s suspension was really improved or the tires were really doing their job, but it proved rather difficult to get the car to break its stride and activate the VSC.

During those times that some of us managed to activate VSC, the car responded instantaneously to keep us out of harm’s way. If you think electronic stability control is the same for all cars, think again. I’ve had my fair share of run ins and I dare say some cars react faster than others. In this respect, the New Vios passed with flying colors.

During the hill climb session, the accelerator pedal was partially blocked off to mimic a 40% maximum throttle input, i.e., we weren’t able to floor the pedal. In this way we were able to experience just how smooth the CVT was, and to demonstrate just how effortless it really is to overcome steep inclines with the right engine/gearbox combo. The Dual VVT-i (full electronic control over the intake and exhaust valves) showed its strength very clearly here, matching engine speed with the appropriate ratio in any given situation.

It was the 1-liter Fuel Challenge that we were all interested in, and not because there were prizes up for grabs. One of the Achilles’ Heels of the outgoing Vios was that it simply couldn’t cut the mustard in the fuel economy stakes. CVT was the way to go, moving forward, and thanks to the positive feedback that Toyota had received for its CVT-equipped Altis range, now you can also enjoy the same effortless and fuel saving cruise that Altis owners have come to love. Owners of the New Vios will notice immediate response with the slightest tap of the accelerator pedal with smooth and linear acceleration with absolutely no shift shock. For the adventurous, Toyota has equipped a 7-Speed Sport Sequential Shiftmatic mode in all variants with CVT, with 7 fixed ratios that can be changed up or down with a simple flick of the gear stick. Most of us managed to hit the high 19s and low 20s, but the eventual winner walked away with first prize by clocking nearly 25km/l!

In these trying times, the majority of B-segment buyers will surely be looking to cut corners here and there. The New Vios addresses this need with the new Dual VVT-i and CVT powertrain to offer consumers enhanced motoring pleasure without breaking the bank. Add to that the excellent fit and finish of what we’ve come to expect from Toyota, the New Vios will surely turn the tide and see the return of the King of B-segments soon enough. A compelling total of 6 variants including a manual, means Toyota is casting its net far and wide to appeal to the largest group of car buyers in the country. Will the offered packages be enough to unseat the incumbent? Time will tell.

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Text: Greg Yanag
Photos: Greg Yang and Aaron Lee