Toyota Vios: Raising Comfort Level in a Spirited Way

By Lee Pang Seng
THE latest generation Toyota Vios has come a long way since the first model was introduced here more than 10 years ago. Although it continues to serve as the entry level Toyota model for the Malaysian market, it has been improved in the area of comfort to measure well up to expectations.

When the Vios was first introduced to serve as an entry model to the Toyota range, it already came well equipped to rise above its ‘entry level’ image. This gelled well with the younger buyers who wanted an affordable non-national car, yet one that could live up to expectations in equipment, driving fun and reliability.

With close to 280,000 Vios being sold since then, it best summed up this Toyota model’s successful run here. And it is not about to lift its grip on the market in its latest evolvement. The latest Vios has shed the conservative outlook with a more dynamic thrust from the front, enhancing its appeal significantly to the target buyer. As it were, more than 20,000 orders were received since its launch.

The new ‘face’ with the ‘keen-look T’ theme (probably to stand for Toyota) – the headlights and nose grille form the top bar and the huge air apron forms the vertical bar – is well supported by the aerodynamically biased lines that flow along the sides to the rear. For the Sportivo model, the angular cowl of the foglights at each extreme of the air scoop in front adds a nice touch of agro.

The rounder profile in this area of the standard models isn’t too bad either and this styling bent is also adopted at the rear to lift its mediocrity. As a whole, the new Vios exudes the same youthful and outgoing character of the first model, but in a bigger car dimensionally.

Aerodynamically, the new Vios boasts of a slipperier body profile with the Cd (co-efficient of drag) value improved to 0.28 from 0.29 for the previous model. More attention was paid to this area and the catamaran roof is one clear example of the wind tunnel efforts. This catamaran design is said to streamline air flow with the direct benefit being the better acceleration and fuel economy.

The car’s underside was among many areas smoothened to offer least resistance to the wind and all openings were sealed to reduce turbulence and wind noise. Toyota also installed ‘air spats’ around the tyres to regulate air flow and reduce turbulence. Likewise, small aero fins were used in a few areas, such the door mirror mounting frames and rear light casings, to create air vortices along the car flanks. These vortices are said to exert pressure to stabilise the car in a straight-line motion.

It sits on the same 2550mm wheelbase, which is long enough for its model category. Toyota has instead added to the new Vios’s body length and height, extending the former by 110mm to 4410mm and raising the roofline by 15mm to 1475mm. By using more high tensile steel (from 47 per cent previously to 56 per cent), the new Vios is reportedly lighter by 10 to 30kg against the previous model.

How does all this translate to the physical feel of driving the new Vios? We checked that out in the Vios 1.5G that came in the new Quartz Brown Metallic, which was supposed to add a luxurious impression with its metallic three-dimensional sheen. It wasn’t our favourite hue though as we are biased towards silver. Moreover, this brown sheen reminded us too much of the days when we had to change baby nappies.

Being the top model, the Vios 1.5G was decked to please and we were certainly happy with the push button to start and stop the engine. We did find the closing of the doors a little hollow but generally acceptable. In the driver’s seat, most of the support areas were within expectations and we got a comfortable posture right away. Steering wheel controls were kept to a minimum, these being for the audio volume and station selection.

With the 1.5-litre 1NZ-FE engine being similar to the one powering the previous model, we didn’t expect too much in the new Vios’ performance. As it were, there wasn’t much to harp on either. The output is respectable at 80kW (109PS) at 6000rpm and 141Nm at 4200rpm. There was also no change in the transmission options either, being the four-speed automatic and five-speed manual for the 1.5J model.

The pace was more or less the same as the previous model, which was pretty good. You can get going quickly, maintain good (and illegal) speed on the highway and enjoy good fuel mileage with prudent driving and anticipation. The big difference was in the quieter ride: we heard less of the engine, even when pushing the engine up to 6000rpm, but for general driving, one couldn’t ask for more in refined driving for this model category.

The improved Electric Power Steering also gave us the sharpness in steering direction when taking to our favourite corners and winding roads. Stabilisers (anti-roll bars) front and rear kept body lean to a minimum, and the MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension was reasonably well set-up to let us explore the new Vios’ dynamic limits a fair bit through the bends.

It was obvious that the Toyota had tuned the springs to provide a slightly firmer ride than before, which we enjoyed on the highway, but which was quite a clunky experience when going over bumpy stretches. This is not to say the new Vios is less comfortable than before as its ride was noticeably better. The suspension still had the absorbent quality when going over speed-bumps or the odd pothole to iron out the harshness of the impact. We just heard more of the suspension working to cushion the hardness.

The interior is suitably improved to make the ride experience more comfortable for passengers, front and rear. There was nary a complaint in that department and if we were to take a weekend holiday, the boot looked huge enough to accommodate its fair share of luggage. The 60:40 split rear seatrest (standard to the Vios 1.5G and 1.5E) should come in handy when longish items need to be transported.

What we found least desirable were the meters on the instrument panel, or rather the design of the dial panel. They look like old records with scratchy surfaces, or dull and weather worn plates. They simply looked out of place in a brand new car and model. A simple dark back panel would have made a world of difference here.

Pet peeves aside, we could easily see ourselves as prospective owners of the new Vios if we were in the market for one. Price-wise, the 1.5G looks affordable at RM88,500.00 on the road with insurance or better still the 1.5E that fetches RM82,900, while the lesser-equipped 1.5J variants are tempting buys at RM77,300 (automatic) and RM73,200.00 (manual). The Sportivo model that we had a few days with goes for a premium of RM93,200.00.

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