Text: Anton Andres / Photos: Kelvin Christian Go, Brent Co, Anton Andres | posted April 05, 2016 11:28
Does familiarity breed contempt?
Find me a person who hasn't ridden or driven a Toyota Vios. With so many plying the streets, it's easy to take Toyota's best-selling subcompact for granted and has pretty much been the default choice for people looking for a city or provincial runabout.
So, what makes the Vios fly off the dealership lots in Toyota dealerships nationwide? What does the Vios have that other cars in its segment do not? In the case of this particular TRD model, it's the STI-like rear wing.
As mentioned above, the model I got was the 1.5 G with the TRD package. It gets the aforementioned wing, a bodykit and a handsome set of 17 inch wheels. The TRD model is essentially a Vios Cup car with a full interior. Still, one look at the car and you know its a Vios. Discount the fact that you see thousands on the road, the Vios is a rather good looking car with its wraparound headlights, wide grill and fuss-free styling. While the bodykit complements the Vios rather well, I couldn't say the same about the wing. Personally, I'd ditch the tall spoiler for a more subtle duck bill trunk spoiler. One thing is for sure though, you won't lose it in a car park filled with standard Vioses.
Inside, it gets the same tan interior from the 1.5 G model although there are small pieces of trim to remind you that you got a Vios that one-ups the rest of the range. There are TRD trims inside, from the dashboard applique to the shift knob. Even the instrument panel got the TRD treatment with a simulated brushed metal look. Its ergonomics are good too. The dials come with large and legible fonts, aircon controls are easy to use and the touchscreen doesn't require an owner's manual to operate. The steering wheel mounted audio controls are straightforward too.
Gripes? The lack of steering reach adjustment won't do any favors for those with shorter arms. Also, the "brushed metal" trim in the dials divides opinion and personally, I prefer the standard gauges for a cleaner look. I also find it odd that it gets a tan interior, given the "sporty" look of the TRD. The 12 volt and auxiliary socket are at an odd angle, leaving you with a mess of wires as you drive along. Still, the Vios is a comfortable place to stay with its well cushioned seats. It's also spacious for a subcompact.
In the engine department, the Vios follows the mantra of "If it isn't broke, don't fix it". Pop the hood and you'll be greeted with a familiar sight. Powering the Vios is the 1.5 liter VVT-i four cylinder that has been moving three generations of the B-Segment sedan. Power output has stayed the same since 2003, meaning it still produces 107 PS and 142 Nm of torque. Transmission is a four speed automatic, just like the past Vioses.
Will all the additions from the TRD package enhance the Vios' driving experience? In a nutshell, no, but there's much more than that. Around town, it feels like any standard Vios save for a slightly firmer ride from the 17 inch TRD wheels. It's still pliant though, absorbing bumps with just a slight thump letting you know you're running over minor road imperfections plus the seats are comfortable too with a good amount of bolstering. With the bigger and wider wheels, steering feel is slightly heavier from the standard model but it does mean this particular variant get grippier Bridgestone Adrenalin tires. While the benefits of the tires are not really felt around town, this made the Vios TRD a joy to drive around winding roads. It stops well too, considering the brakes were kept stock. I could have wished for mild suspension tuning though to justify the kit.
Out on the highway, there is a little more tire noise because of the bigger wheels. It pretty much drives like the standard 1.5 G but the platform itself is good, making for a comfortable ride and stress free drive. The engine and transmission combination however is starting to feel its age. It is a little buzzy when doing overtakes and the transmission takes a while to kick down one gear. That aside, the engine still delivers enough power for confident overtaking. Thankfully, an updated model is coming out soon with a CVT and Dual VVT-i for better fuel economy. Speaking of fuel economy, I managed to average 8.2 kilometers per liter in traffic and 12 km/l on the highway. Efficient enough but not class leading, perhaps the updated model will rectify that soon.
As a car, the Vios is a good one but does the TRD kit enhance an otherwise appealing package? Slightly sharper handling aside, the TRD Vios isn't a significant step above the standard models. If Toyota were to make this into a sporty model, I would suggest a few things. First, make it available with a manual transmission. The shift feel on the manuals are pretty good to begin with and it lowers the base price as well. Second, install lower suspension to make good use of the grippy Potenzas. Third, give it a mild tune, perhaps with a chip or with larger headers and exhaust.
At Php 958,000, the TRD Vios is Php 78,000 more than the 1.5 G with an automatic transmission. It's a large bill to take in for some people but seeing several of them on the road perhaps means that people are willing to shell out that much for cosmetics. Don't get me wrong though, the Vios impressed me and I understand why it's such a big seller in the country. The styling is handsome (although the kit may split opinion), the ergonomics are good and the engine and transmission are familiar. It has all the makings of a hassle-free ownership experience and perhaps what most of us are looking for in a car, perhaps with a dash of style with the TRD kit. I just wish it offered more adrenaline with this package.