Text: Vince Pornelos / Photos: Vince Pornelos | posted March 17, 2014 20:00
One for the masses
So the all new Toyota Wigo is here, officially making us the first market outside of Indonesia to get it, lighting up an entry level hatchback category in a country addicted to sedans. It's not far fetched to assume that the Wigo could be causing a few headaches for Toyota's competitors such as Mitsubishi with the Mirage and Hyundai with the Eon and the new Grand i10.
The little Wigo is actually a Daihatsu; if the Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86 were developed in the same joint program, the Wigo was spawned from the Daihatsu Ayla/Toyota Agya program designed to meet the Indonesian Low Cost Green Car scheme (LCGC). It's not manufactured in Santa Rosa, Laguna, as -much in the same way that the BRZ/86 come from the Subaru plant in Gunma, Japan- the Wigo comes off the assembly line at the Astra Daihatsu plant in Indonesia along with the Toyota Avanza. The only real difference lay in Toyota Philippines renaming the model for our market.
So what is Toyota's most affordable model like? Let's find out.
Personally-speaking, I generally have a big respect for the smallest, cheapest cars; a respect that would probably match or even surpass that of a new supercar. The reason is simple: it must be a true challenge to engineer a small-engined entry level hatchback using strictly monitored resources and with very sensitive price points than it is to engineer a 500+PS supercar with big funds and astronomical pricetags for the finished product. Is the Wigo one such entry level hatch?
For one thing it's quite stylish; Daihatsu and Toyota seem to have really worked on making the Wigo look pretty good. The edgy front end, the side profile, the wheels, the rear end all look well thought out by today's design standards; no worries about bringing this to the trendier parts of the metro. That said, the only thing I would have changed on the exterior would be the door handles and the side moulding. The chrome on them do look a bit much; perhaps color matching them to the body would have been a better (more subtle) option.
Opening the rather light door, the Wigo does greet you with a well designed, if not clever interior. The dashboard certainly looks better than what you would expect, same goes for the steering wheel (as inspired by the FJ Cruiser) and the 2-DIN DVD/USB/iPod-ready entertainment unit. It has a navigation function but you'll have to buy the antenna and the SD Card with all the maps. Power windows are standard along with power steering and a rather powerful airconditioning system.
Seating is quite comfortable for 5, though if you wish to fit 3 in the back, they shouldn't really be plus-sized. Legroom is good for all as the seats are also a bit more upright than, say, a Vios. Nevertheless, even with the rear bench up, the Wigo can fit 5 water dispenser bottles, each with a 5 gallon (18.9 liter) capacity with more space to spare. A reader asked if a bike can fit inside and the answer is yes, but not a full size one; some disassembly is required. Another asked what the spare tire was: yes, it's a full size spare and not one of those “donut” space savers.
Of course from this point you'll notice the many touches and details implemented by the engineers/designers to make the Wigo/Ayla/Agya more cost efficient to manufacture and keep the SRP down. The dashboard and door panels are all plastic. The dome/cabin light is a bit of a throwback as it also serves as the base for the rear view mirror. The rear seat is a bench affair, and uses a simple latch on either side to fold down the backrest as one piece. The backrests of the front seats are also of the one-piece design; no adjustable headrests for the driver or the passenger. All these touches were primarily made to make the Wigo cheaper to mass produce and therefore cheaper to buy, though Daihatsu/Toyota seem to have found a way to integrate them together in an attractive car for the price.
Twisting the key, the Wigo's 1.0 liter 1KR engine kicks itself into action. It's only a three cylinder, but it does make a respectable 65 PS and 85 Nm of torque. This particular version is the 1.0G with the 5-speed manual gearbox, but those who want the convenience of the automatic can opt for the 4-speed auto for a bit more.
The way the Wigo drives (power and handling) isn't what we would call particularly noteworthy. Handling is decent and has a nice balance for comfort in soaking up bumps, though I would generally avoid rumble strips as NVH could use a bit of work. Power is also decent with two in the car though (as expected) it feels significantly slower the more people you get in there. Thankfully, even with 5 inside the Wigo does make it up parking lot inclines as (judging by feel) the 1KR engine seems to have decent torque at the bottom end of the rev range even though it doesnt have VVT-i. Pedal feel is decent and the clutch is light, though I'm not a big fan of the notchy gearbox when shifting. If you buy one I would suggest a good quality shift knob (Momo, Sparco, OMP or whatever you wish) as one of your first mods on the list; it just improves the way it feels.
Unremarkable as the handling and power may be, it doesn't mean the Toyota Wigo is boring around town. You might actually enjoy zipping through the metro's tight streets with ease and without worrying about clipping your side mirrors easily. It's quite agile in traffic and the high mount 3rd brake light does make you more visible to bus drivers, but it's always better to be alert and aware of the cars around you; thankfully the large greenhouse makes for good visibility. We posed a question on our Facebook page about what our readers would like to see in the review, and the most common things were the airbags and the crash safety... but we'd rather not put those to the test.
Now here comes the important part: fuel economy. For starters, the Wigo does 60 kilometers per hour at 1800 rpm in fifth gear; that should give you an indicator about how close the gear ratios are and how short the highest gear is. The Toyota Wigo is really optimized for low speed urban driving, but it does return 16.2 km/l on the highway at an average speed of 80 km/h with no traffic. In the city, the Wigo was able to achieve 13.4 km/l with light traffic (night time, 2 people in the car) and 10.1 km/l in moderate traffic (rush hour on a Friday, driver only). It would be interesting to see how the 4-speed automatic version would perform in terms of fuel economy.
During our time with the Wigo, what we realized is that it's meant for a different kind of customer. If you've just stepped out of an Altis (or even the Vios) and hopped aboard the Wigo, chances are you will feel that a downgrade took place. I felt it, and the reason is that this is not meant for people who have already experienced more expensive cars for the simple reason that you're already higher up the automobile ownership ladder.
That's not where the Wigo is.
It's really a car meant to motorize the masses; people who are stepping up from bicycles, motorcycles, outdated second hand cars, Chinese or Indian hatchbacks, commuting or even their own bare feet to get to school, to work or home. The Wigo is for the many out there who do not own a car yet, and that's why they've enlisted the help of actor John Lloyd Cruz and singer Sarah Geronimo as endorsers.
The 2014 Wigo is Toyota's way of introducing new customers to their brand, to new car ownership and ultimately to the freedom to go where you need or want to go. It's the first step on the automobile ladder, and judging by the way this car is equipped, the way it looks, feels and performs, the Wigo is a great starting point for new car owners around the country.