The new Vios goes north

This techie teener has outgrown Britney, and wears protection when going out


The subcompact sedan Vios is 15 years old in the Philippines. I was there when Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) debuted the car to the local motoring media in May 2003 with a TV ad showing pop star Britney Spears—then 22 years young—breaking into song, interspersed with glamor clips and angles of the Vios in motion.

With the tagline, “Vios. It’s everything,” Britney drew young drivers into the Toyota brand of motoring, helping TMP and other Toyota markets in the Asia-Pacific region reel in sales.

Of course, the Vios delivered on its hype. The VVT-i (variable valve timing) technology represented by either the 1.3- or 1.5-liter twin cam fuel-injected engine saw to that.

A host of other nifty features of the Thailand-assembled sedan also helped: an antilock brake system, and the super ECT or electronically controlled transmission.

It’s now 2018, and the all-new Vios hasn’t diverted from its target market, adding as many tech goodies as it can to help the cause.

Though the brand has somewhat outgrown the Britney vibe, the Vios retains its youthful aura, and has grown quite a patriotic heart.

At its launch last month at Okada Manila, no new celebrity endorser shared the spotlight with the new Vios.

The star of the show was largely assembled in the Philippines, with many of its parts sourced and manufactured locally.

The engine is now a more efficient dual VVT-i partnered with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

The drive is sportier with the sequential shift and paddle shift.

The overall experience is enhanced with the push start and smart entry system, and eco and sport modes.

Finally, the Vios now boasts of “unmatched safety features that make it best in its class, the only model in its segment whose variants are all certified by the Asean New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) with a 5-star safety rating, the highest in its charts.

On paper, that safety claim has basis. The new Vios is equipped with seven SRS airbags, ABS, vehicle stability control (VSC), and hill start assist (HSA) functions.

The new Vios isn’t all about the look, although it does look bolder with bigger 16-inch alloy wheels, rear combination lamps with LED line guides, and halogen projector headlamps.

It’s also about getting in and out of the car in one piece.

Local motoring media got the chance to experience the Vios on the move on Aug. 8 to 10 when TMP led a ride-and-drive of the manual and automatic transmission variants (along with Toyota models Rush, Fortuner, and Rav4 SUVs, and the Innova MPV) on a route from Manila to La Union, then to Baguio.

The Vios 5-speed M/T we drove from Manila to La Union yielded a combined city and highway fuel efficiency of 14 km/liter, an impressive number, considering the heavy traffic and the collective weight of four warm bodies and luggage.

Ma. Cristina Fe N. Arevalo, TMP FVP for Brand and Product Planning Cluster, Marketing Division, told me the changes in the Vios that has led to improved mileages: “Aside from the change in the engine software, the aerodynamic design was also changed, resulting in better fuel efficiency of the vehicle. The modified shape of the rear bumper as well as the added aero-stabilizing fins enhance the car’s stability and allowed for a better airflow for the vehicle.”

Driving the Vios M/T for a good 117 kms, I did feel a bit of a power lag with the low gears, but found the sweet spot with the fourth and fifth gears at high speeds.

From La Union to Baguio City, our group drove the top-of-the-line Vios Prime G A/T.

The fit and feel felt like the car was designed to fit Asian physiques—the seats (non-leather for all variants) and driver’s seat height adjustments were comfortable. The rear passenger legroom was also generous.

“The new Vios’ overall length and width increased by 15 mm and 3 0mm, respectively. The seat shape was also improved to provide more space and comfort to the driver and passengers,” Arevalo said.

On my drive along the twisty ascents of Naguilian Road en route to Baguio City, I found the Vios G Prime A/T’s sequential shifting useful and responsive.

Compared to other vehicles in its segment, I would say the new Vios is generally KTA, or kind to animals. I was pleasantly surprised (and quite relieved) that no animal parts were used in the making of the Vios’ interior.

Aila Penaflor, TMP product planning specialist, told me that the Vios steering wheel, gear shifter, seats, and door panels are not made of, nor wrapped in, animal skin or parts.”

For millennial drivers looking to squeeze out more power and performance from the Vios, Penaflor offers this tip: “Use the sport mode and the paddle shifters. If you want a more fuel-efficient drive in the city, switch to eco mode.”

Enough of that techie mumbo-jumbo. The new Vios had me at “Heller, it really makes you look and feel like a millennial.”

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