The Vios has come a long way since that day in 2003 when Toyota Motor Philippines introduced it on the market as an entry-level sedan. Developed for the Southeast Asia, China and Taiwan markets, the Vios replaced the Tercel (called the Soluna in Indonesia). In Australia and the United States, the second-generation Vios is known as the Toyota Yaris sedan. The Vios is manufactured at Toyota’s Gateway City plant in Chachoengsao province, Thailand, and at the Toyota Philippine assembly plant in Santa Rosa, Laguna.
In the Philippines in 2007, the Vios had only 8.7-percent market share in the subcompact segment, but by 2012, it had soared to 48.9 percent. The Vios became the best-selling motor vehicle in the country, averaging 1,500 units sold per month. Of course, a major chunk of that was due to taxicab and commercial fleet sales, but the fact remains that if the Vios hadn’t gained a reputation for reliability, durability and value for money, there wouldn’t be as many privately owned Vios seen daily on the road as there are now.
Although the Vios dominated the entry-level subcompact segment, it wasn’t as stylish-looking as some of its competitors. To many young consumers shopping for their first car, style is an important deciding factor. Now Toyota is aiming to captivate the younger generation and overtake its rivals in terms of style with the full model change, third-generation 2014 Vios. Touted for its new “luxury-sport” design and “Value Beyond Belief,” the latest Vios was unveiled at the 2013 Bangkok International Motor Show.
VALUE ABOVE PRICE. As Takatamo Suzuki, the deputy chief engineer of Vios, announced at the formal launch in Manila last month, Toyota wants to “share the pride and joy of buying and owning your first vehicle with as many customers as possible all over the world” and “provide value above its price with an impressively attractive design that customers would want to proudly present to their family and friends.”
The key words in Toyota’s presentation of the new Vios are “class above” in exterior and interior design, and interior roominess. Certainly, up front, the 2014 Vios looks bolder and more aggressive than its preceding iterations, what with a large maw of an air intake below the chrome radiator grille that is now standard on all the new Toyota vehicles. Projector-type halogen headlights and front bumper-incorporated fog lamps complete the upgraded façade. At the rear, a chrome garnish bar located on the same level as the clear sections of the new combination taillights gives the impression that they are stylishly linked.
Inside, what immediately catches your attention is not only the new location of the instrument dials in front of the driver, but also a perfectly stitched black-leather-like finish covering the surface of the dash and window sills. Its craftsmanship is “class above” and adds a touch of luxury to the cabin. The 1.5-liter G model, which I test-drove for a week, has ivory and black interior colors, silver and chrome accents, a multi-information display, audio controls on the leather-wrapped steering wheel, a six-speaker audio system with CD track title and artists’ name display plus AUX and USB connectivity. What’s also new is an “Eco” indicator on the dash. But alas, no reverse parking camera, not even a rear parking sensor.
ROOMIER. Since the new Vios is built lengthier (173.6 inches) and higher (58.1 inches) than its predecessors, it has longer overhangs and a roomier interior. The front seats, though thinner, can accommodate taller occupants as lifter range has been increased from 45 mm to 60 mm and slide range from 240 mm to 260 mm. Door pockets, a console pocket, glove box and a console tray under the dash offer storage space for small items, but there is only one cupholder and it is inconveniently located at the rear of the center console box. The 60/40 split rear seat can be folded forward to enlarge luggage room. As it is, trunk space has been extended from 980 mm to 1,056 mm, while volume has been increased from 395 liters to 476 liters, big enough to carry four golf bags. So, in terms of interior space, the 2014 Vios ranks “class above.”
But when it comes to the powertrain, the new Vios is “same-same” rather than “class above.” The INZ-FE 1.5-liter, four-cylinder in-line VVT-i 16-valve DOHC engine with electric fuel injection mated to either a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission has been retained although it is at least 10 years old. Max output is still 107 HP/6000 rpm and max torque, 141 Nm/4200 rpm with a 6400-rpm redline. The lower-priced E, J and base models still have the 1.3-liter, 85-HP 2NZ-FE engine.
Car enthusiasts have no reason to be disappointed with the 2014 Vios’ powerplant since, from day one, it was designed for the entry-level mass market, not for boy racers, whether young or young once. What they can do is petition Toyota to come up with a turbo version. Not many people know that in Thailand, a turbocharged, 141.04-HP first-generation Vios was produced that zoomed from zero to 100 kph in 8.1 seconds, and had a transmission ratio and differential ratio based on that of a Toyota MR-S. Only 600 units of this limited edition were manufactured.
SMOOTHER. Despite the presence of the same old engine in the new Vios, Toyota claims that the car is smoother and quieter due to thicker body panels, a more rigid body, added stiffening braces, increased spot welds and better airflow control. The test unit I drove did run smoothly and quietly, although the engine boomed when accelerating. Toyota also says that a newly developed front and rear suspension provides excellent riding comfort and handling stability, but offers no details in the specs sheet. The previous Vios generations had McPherson strut in front, torsion beam at the rear with stabilizers fore and aft, while brakes in the 1.5-liter variant are ventilated discs in front and solid discs at the rear. In the 1.3-liter variants, the rear brakes are drums.
The standard safety features in the 1.5- and 1.3-liter variants are driver and passenger SRS airbags, three-point seatbelts for front and rear occupants, child lock protection and high-mount stop lamp. The 1.5-liter G model has, in addition, pretensioners and force limiters for the front seatbelts, and electronic brake force distribution with brake assist.
Summing up, Toyota has fulfilled its promise to elevate the 2014 Vios to a class above in terms of exterior and interior design and interior roominess. Adding more punch to the engine would have upped the car’s retail price beyond the entry-level range. Anyway, the Vios has already captured the lion’s share of the affordable subcompact segment because of its time-tested reliable performance, fuel economy (15.8 kilometers per liter?), handling stability, riding comfort and durability. As the saying goes, why fix it when it ain’t broke?
The restyling of the new Vios is indeed refreshing, and while it may still not look as sporty or as edgy as its rivals, there’s no denying that the interior looks and feels more luxurious and spacious than ever before—although it lacks the smart, sophisticated technologies of competitors like voice-activated media and Bluetooth streaming. Retail prices range from P592,000 for the 1.3 base manual transmission (M/T) to P847,000 for the 1.5 G automatic transmission (A/T). A white pearl M/T 1.5 G is available for P827,000, but if you want your white pearl Vios 1.5 with an A/T, add P15,000 to the G model’s price. The orange mica metallic color, by the way, is exclusive to Vios made in the Philippines.
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