Latest Toyota Vios Gets More Comfortable & Dynamic

By Lee Pang Seng

TOYOTA is increasingly shedding its conservative look and developing cars that look more outgoing and aggressive, while improving its dynamic feel and performance. And yet retain its family oriented qualities in a comfortable ride for everyone on board. The latest Vios is an excellent example of this progressive evolvement from the staid and boring image to a vibrant and lively one.

This is not a completely new Vios but an updated variant of the existing third-generation model range. However, so much improvement has been made – apparently about 90 per cent – that this latest version could be considered an entirely new model. The giveaway is the similar body profile but the front and rear are completely reworked.

The longish headlamps now sweep flowingly to the flanks to provide a sporty and sleek touch. The lower apron complements the sweeping headlamp design with a wide wing-like outline, like a butterfly taking flight, and the central nose badge is now enclosed in a similarly wing-like support instead of being left sitting alone for the preceding Vios.

This new styling exercise would have been more complete if Toyota had opted for LED (light emitting diode) headlamps to give the latest Vios an even more contemporary standing. Instead, the yellowish projecter halogen headlamps are retained for the Vios G (with multi-reflector halogens for the E and J variants).

A saving grave are the LED daytime running lights in the lower winged apron that serve as a complement to the rear LED combination lamps (bulb type for the Vios J). The design change for the rear combination lamps appears to toe a family look as recent model updates for other Toyota models bear a similar longish styling.
Another nice touch is the rear red foglamps located at the bottom of the bumper, providing greater visibility during night driving (in that rear approaching road users would see you more easily than before). This feature was already introduced in the preceding model to mixed responses apparently, although we found it a practical one, having followed the new Vios in the rain-soaked highway in Johor.

Sharper looks aside, the main improvement is the quieter ride with greater body insulation and other related updates. We were given the opportunity to gauge this new Vios character in a drive from Shah Alam to Desaru, Johor and back. Our experience here was gauged from three perspectives; the driver’s seat, the front passenger outlook and the rear passenger area.
On that score, we would give the new Vios a hearty thumbs-up. At legal speeds, the Vios is as quiet as the bigger models such as the Corolla and Camry. The cycle of air noise seemed to vary some, being a bit higher at legal speeds but tapering to more comfortable levels as we picked up speed, even up to 170km/h.

The other intrusion was road noise and this varied according to the respective tarmac sections; some surfaces tend to generate more road noise and this was clearly discerned when we drove over them. For the most part, however, road noise was at a minimum to make the drive and ride pleasant. The tyres fitted to the Vios G were the Toyo Proxes 195/50 R16 that proved to be reasonably quiet running rubbers.

We had a brief shot at some winding stretches but heavy traffic curtailed that somewhat. Through the few corners that we did push the Vios through at fairly good speeds, we found this entry-level Toyota sedan well up to mark. The body lean might have been a bit more than expected, but good directional feedback from the steering and adequate power - by manually selecting the ‘gears’ for the seven-speed CVT (continuously variable transmission) via the steering wheel paddle shifters – kept dynamic control of the Vios at a confident level.

We also enjoyed a good bit of wet weather driving in Johor; apparently we brought the rain as this region had been pretty hot and dry for the past week or so. The Toyo Proxes R50 cleared standing water quite well and that raised our confidence in driving the Vios at a quick pace.
We did have some reservations when taking some of the sweepers quickly in the wet as the directional feel was a little iffy. Nevertheless, we could still carry pretty good speed through them. The Vehicle Stability Control and Traction Control systems standard to this Vios probably did their part keeping it stable through the less ideal conditions that we were driving the car through.

The Vios is independently sprung all round with MacPherson struts in front and a torsion beam rear, complete with anti-roll bars front and rear. It retains the same 1.5-litre (1496cc) unit as the previous model that has Dual VVT-i and delivers 79kW (107PS) at 6000rpm and 140Nm torque at 4200rpm.

On guts acceleration, leaving the CVT to its own devices, the Vios might not ruffle many feathers sprinting away. In this respect, its closest rival might enjoy that advantage as the CVT in that car seems to work better in delivering engine power to the front wheels quicker to make initial acceleration more exciting.

On the other hand, passing acceleration wasn’t too bad as the CVT selected the right gear quick enough for the engine torque to propel the car to overtake effectively. The characteristic growl of the CVT during hard acceleration, whether standing or passing, was there but good firewall insulation kept that to comfortable levels. It also didn’t sound as rough as those in earlier CVTs.

There are some standard features in the Vios G worth mentioning such as the Front Digital Video Recorder, Panoramic View Monitor (PVM) and Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert. We encountered beeps generated by the BSM on the highway drives as well visual symbols that lit up on the door mirrors.
The detection of traffic nearby is speed progressive; at 30-50km/h, the detection zone is four metres. From 50km/h to 70km/h, the detection zone is doubled to eight metres and above 70km/h, it covers up to 12 metres. This is a practical feature as it alerts the driver of vehicles in the rear that are not immediately or readily noticed.

The PVM is useful if you are manoeuvring in a tight spot as it could guide the driver through such situations without knocking into anything. This is, however, easier said than done. We were given the opportunity to try this out in a controlled environment but some disorientation set in and we knocked down a cone or two in the process. Perhaps with more familiarisation, we could pick up the knack of driving through tight areas just by looking at the 6.8-inch touchscreen. This system is deactivated at above 20km/h.

Being the top model, the Vios G comes with perforated leather upholstery that adds some premium ambience to the interior. The rear passenger seats provided just enough thigh support and we didn’t suffer any fatigue after the long drive from Desaru to Shah Alam, mostly as a passenger.
We had our fair share of driving the Vios on the way down, including two extended drives when we made a wrong turn and had to find our way back to the original route via GPS. The second instance was when we left a friend behind at the petrol kiosk on the highway and had to take an almost 50km circuitous backroad to get back to the place. As the Vios was a pleasant car to drive, we didn’t feel the additional distance.

At the time of the drive, we were told the Vios would be available from RM77,200 for the Vios J to RM87,300 for the Vios G that we drove. These are on the road prices without insurance that make the Vios value-for-money cars, especially when you consider the generous range of standard equipment. It’s a pity that we are more of a Toyota CHR or Rush customer!

Related story here.