Vince Pornelos / Vince Pornelos | December 01, 2010 17:27
Ticking the Right BoxesYou may argue all you want, but when it comes to subcompacts, the Vios is the undisputed king.
Think about it. There are plenty of great cars out there in the class like the Fiesta, Jazz or City, and arguably, any one of those would have guys like me grabbing their keys many times over than the Vios.
So what makes the Toyota Vios so special that it continues to reign as the king of subcompacts with an overwhelming 53.2% share and is the current best selling car in the country?
Much like the preference of the three bears, the Vios, especially in 1.3E trim, is one of those cars that has struck the middle ground so well that it's hard to argue against it. When it comes to looks, the Vios won't be winning any beauty pageants, but it wont come in last place either. The design is quite modern and wouldn't look out of place in any parking lot. It's a perfect car to breeze to and from work, school or the supermarket, and won't gather unwanted attention as some of the flashier ones out there.
Inside, its more of the same, with a straightforward layout and design. The dash is minimalistic but very functional, with all the controls laid out logically and ergonomically. The center stack gauge cluster takes a bit of getting used to, but having it in the center does create a better feeling of room, not to mention freeing up space for driver's side glove box. Having already undergone a facelift and upgrade, the new Vios gets a new flat-bottomed, anatomic steering wheel, lending the subcompact from Toyota some sporty inclinations.
In the versatility department, the Vios scores pretty well, with things like cupholders conveniently placed on the outer aircon vents (too keep drinks cool) and on the center console, while storage pockets are well placed around the cabin for convenience. The trunk is deceptively large for such a small car, and cargo space can be further extended by folding down the rear seats.
When it comes to engines, the Vios's range isn't the most powerful in its class, but again, its not the weakest either. You get a choice of 1.3 or 1.5 liter VVT-i engines, the former being good for 85 PS and 107 PS for the latter. Unremarkable figures sure, but if I was a dad shopping for a first car for a son or daughter, a car that has more power wouldn't be something I would want to hand over to a hormone-imbalanced, angsty teenager. Being a 1.3 liter model, this version has decent fuel economy that trips to the pump are minimized and mileage maximized (10.9 km/l urban driving with moderate traffic, 13.2 km/l highway), and thanks to a 4-speed automatic, is quite comfortable to drive in stop and go traffic.
As a drive, well, the Vios just serves up a decent one. Again, there's nothing great about the way it handles the corners on, say, an open mountain road, but it'll get you there without any frills. Roads like that are better taken in something like the Fiesta or the Mazda2, though stick the Vios in a city street and it'll do the job just fine.
You're probably thinking that I'm not inspired by the Vios, and I would have to agree, but I was never really looking for driving inspiration from the little Toyota: I wanted to learn what makes the unremarkable Vios so remarkable that people seem compelled to buy one. Argue all you want about it's brand or the potential for ever-so-coveted resale value, but one thing is certain: the Vios is really one of those cars that ticks all the "needs", not many of the "wants".
When all is said and done, in an age where priorities matter most, the one car you never expected to shine stands out by getting everything just right.