It’s all about value for money. Picking a B-segment sedan always comes down to how much you can get for your money, and for a long time the Toyota Vios was always regarded as a little behind in the specifications department. UMW Toyota has worked hard to bridge the gaps, adding new features and revising the pricing to make the Vios more competitive. But is it a matter of too little, too late?
- Engine: 1.5-litre transverse four-cylinder 16-valve DOHC with Dual VVT-i
- Power: 107 PS @ 6,000 rpm
- Torque: 140 Nm @ 4,200 rpm
- Transmission: 7-“speed” CVT, front-wheel drive
- Safety: 2 airbags, Vehicle Stability Control, ABS, EBD, BA, ISOFIX
- Price: RM92,800 for the 1.5 GX, RM96,400 for the 1.5 TRD Sportivo, OTR with Insurance
There are certain features that customers have begun to expect in their cars- basic things that are regarded as mandatory more as optional or by specification. Some of these are safety features: in the 1970s it was seatbelts, in the 1980s it was anti-lock brakes, in the 1990s it was airbags, and going into the 2000s it was electronic stability control. Perhaps pre-safe and anti-collision systems will be the defining feature of the 2010s- but we digress.
The pre-facelift Toyota Vios was notorious for its lack of stability control, which consumers had come to expect as immediate rivals were offering it as standard across the range. When even local car manufacturers could begin to offer the system it was clear that UMW Toyota had made a mistake- and this has been rectified with the facelift. The new vehicle stability control systems are as competent as you would expect, and there’s little else to say. You asked for it, and they have provided.
But there’s more to this new Vios than a few additional features. Just like the facelift for the previous generation Corolla Altis, this new Vios receives an entirely new powertrain. The newer generation engine has a higher compression ratio and variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust, while the severely outdated 4-speed automatic transmission has been replaced by a 7-“speed” CVT. Self-shifting aficionados can still purchase the basic Vios with a 5-speed manual transmission.
For our drive, UMW Toyota made available the new GX-level trim Vios, along with the top-of-the-line Sportivo models. Both models are largely the same in terms of features, with the mild differences being in the form of aesthetic trim pieces. For the purposes of our review, we will be talking about the GX-level model as this is the one we spent the most time with.
The Vios is decidedly middle ground in many aspects of its design, and the interior reflects this as well. It isn’t quite nearly as roomy as the Honda City, but neither is it as cramped as the Mazda 2. The facelift has brought a few aesthetic changes, chiefly in trim pieces along the dashboard and a slightly better build quality, along with the return of cupholders for both the driver and passenger.
Unfortunately, the lack of storage space is still an issue. This isn’t something that can be solved with a facelift, but rather requires a full model change and a proper look at spacing and packaging. The fake stitching has been carried over as well- something we would happily trade for a dome light or some other seemingly missing element. There is even footwell mood lighting, which seems like a feature that wouldn’t be as widely appreciated in this segment.
But in terms of actual features and functionality, the new Vios manages to make up the gap. These new touch-screen head units that UMW Toyota has started to employ across th eir model range seem to be the right choice, despite not necessarily being an integrated unit such as those found in Hondas or Mazdas. They are quick to react to inputs and have high functionality, with the only downside being the frustrating lockout whenever the car is moving.
For a long distance trip such as our drive to Melaka, the Vios provided enough room for three adults to ride in comfort. Once again, it isn’t quite the pinnacle in terms of product packaging, but it’s far from cramped and definitely a car you can live with on the daily. We just wish they would have gotten rid of that fake stitching.
It isn’t easy to tell this new Vios from its pre-facelift model, unless you’re looking at a unit with DRLs integrated in the front bumper. The overall look of the Vios has matured over the past years, but of course we remain thankful that it managed to escape from the Dugong-esque styling of the second generation Vios. The 15-inch wheels do seem a little small for the car (even for the TRD Sportivo model), but it’s largely a matter of taste.
How does it drive?
As the two variants available were both CVT equipped, the focus of the drive was on how vastly different the CVT was to the outdated 4-speed automatic that the Vios came with before. Toyota’s CVT has proven to be acceptable in most applications, such as the Corolla Altis and the Camry Hybrid- would it be any different in the Vios?
For the most part, no. There are some moments where the transmission holds an annoyingly high rpm due to the small capacity engine, but during low speed driving and maintaining a high speed the transmission behaves itself. There is a manual override, but you are much better off leaving the car in D and letting it decide for itself. At lower speeds the acceleration is adequate, although accelerating at higher speeds means dealing with the rubber-band nature of the transmission as it reduces ratio.
Handling dynamics are largely similar to the pre-facelift model, which once again means the Vios is fairly middle ground in this department. It doesn’t quite have the dynamic edge of the Mazda 2, but it has far better body composure and chassis response than the Honda City. The electric power steering doesn’t have much feedback to speak of, but it is well weighted.
How efficient is it?
This is an interesting topic, because we were made to carry out a 1-litre efficiency challenge with the Vios. Nothing was left to dispute as the testing methods were heavily controlled: a small capacity fuel tank with a separate fuel pump was mounted up front and connected directly to the fuel feed for the injectors and the engines were run until they died and could no longer be restarted- basically indicating there was no fuel left in the lines.
We were then made to measure out exactly 1 litre of fuel, pour it into this separate tank, and then fire up the car and drive out around Melaka International Motorsports Circuit. The rules were fairly simple- drive for as long as possible, at any speed and with or without the air conditioning. Running through quite nearly 40 participants with 8 cars on the track at any one time, it was a fairly interesting exercise.
The key here was to drive as quickly around the track as the tyres could handle, without accelerating too abruptly or having to use the brakes. Coming down the straight towards the hairpin at the end required a fair amount of coasting to bleed speed, but the idea is that having to touch the brakes or scrub the tyres into a corner meant that you burned too much fuel and built up unnecessary speed on the straight before it.
Once the fuel had run out and you literally came to a dead stop on the track, your trip meter and time would be recorded. Again, this means that you had used up the entire 1 litre of fuel you poured in, and it gives an exact kilometre per litre figure. The results were pretty impressive.
UMW Toyota’s own team had done a baseline run with the air conditioning on and the windows up to give a rough estimate of the worst case fuel consumption- a figure that came to roughly 16 kilometres per litre. My own results came in at a whopping 22 kilometres per litre, bouncing between 40 km/h and 60 km/h and leaving the air conditioning off. The best result of the day was 24.6 kilometres per litre, which is a little over 4 litres per 100 kilometres.
Even if you were to go by the baseline result, the Vios is impressively efficient at these speeds and these kinds of conditions. The CVT helps by keeping the engine boiling at a little over idle as long as you accelerate in a gentle manner, which allows it to stay frugal as you pick up more speed. While we had no time or place to test fuel consumption at higher speeds- say 80 km/h to 100 km/h- we have no doubt that there is potential for even better fuel efficiency.
How comfortable is it?
If you’re tired of hearing the phrase “middle ground”, then you should skip this section. The Vios is once again neither stiff nor soft, although at highway speeds it does feel as though it wanders a little within its lane. It doesn’t crash over expansion joints, but neither is it so smooth that you don’t even notice them. It’s middle ground.
At times, the best way to improve your product is simply to look at why consumers have passed it over for other options. The common gripes have been “no stability control”, and “4 speed automatic”- and simply put, Toyota has fixed these problems. To dive a little deeper, you might take issue with the seemingly poor storage space or the cost cutting in certain areas, but as a car to drive and experience it certainly doesn’t feel lacking. It may not be outstanding in any particular area, but this is no longer a car you can dismiss for a singular large reason. For those who find the Mazda 2 a little small and find the Honda City a little soft, the Toyota Vios might be the answer. The specifications that matter are pretty consistent throughout the model variants, but the 1.5G CVT may be the best bang for buck versus this new GX variant and the Sportivo model. Read about the specific trims and pricing in our launch story here.