Toyota launched recently the penultimate model in its IMV line-up. The Avanza, as it is known, is Toyota's attempt in taking a slice at the entry-level passenger car market.

The Avanza was launched in Indonesia sometime in 2004 as a response to public clamor for a versatile yet affordable MPV. Since then, as of September 2006, 210,000 Avanza units had been sold in ASEAN regions and in Mexico. In the Philippines, the Avanza is destined to be the vehicle of choice for budding entrepreneurs, young couples on the go, and as replacement vehicle for the taxi business.

The Avanza's name is taken from the Italian word "Avanzato" which means "advanced". Ironically, Avanzato is the moniker given to the aftermarket equipment company of Daihatsu, which had a hand too in designing the Avanza, given the latter's expertise in designing compact cars.

The Avanza is an entry-level MPV from Toyota that could seat seven people in 2-3-2 configuration. Engines available are 1.3 liter and 1.5 liter DOHC VVT-i models, both boasts ample power and torque. The 1.3 liter engine is the one behind the base model J variant while the 1.5 is standard on the G variants, which is available in both manual and automatic transmission.

For the G variants, power amenities like windows, door locks, and side mirrors are present, as well as a 2-DIN Kenwood CD/MP3 head unit. The J variant, on the other hand, has a 1-DIN CD radio as standard equipment; all other else being manually-operated except for the default power-assisted steering in all variants. Distinguishing itself further from its base model stable mates, exterior features on the Avanza G variant are multi-reflector headlamps, fog lamps, chrome grille, color-keyed bumpers, rear spoiler with stop lamp, window defogger, and 15-inch alloy wheels.

Being rear-wheel drive, the Toyota Avanza is obviously tougher than its sleek and refreshing sheet metal suggests, having a high ground clearance of 200 mm, amidst other features that make it more rugged compared to passenger sedans. Inside, true to IMV tradition, a total of 17 storage points are available for the use of the passengers. Comfort for all seven passengers is assured via a dual air-conditioning system. This is aside from the spacious and accommodating interior that is the envy of vehicles within its price segment. Despite its very compact design featuring short overhangs, Toyota still came up with an interior and cargo capacity that is definitely small van's territory. Being tough doesn't mean that the ride must be terrible as well, so Toyota equipped the Avanza with McPherson struts with stabilizer up front, and coil springs at the rear. This, coupled with plush seating, should give a better ride.

The Avanza's safety features are highlighted by the Toyota GOA body, door side impact beams, seat belts for all passengers, and, for the G variant, a driver's side airbag.

The very affordable Avanza is now available at all Toyota showrooms, with three variants to choose from. SRP for the base model 1.3 J variant is at PHP 582,000, while the G-variant with manual transmission fetches a price of PHP 738,000 while the automatic transmission variant is at PHP 773,000.

Again, as with all other Toyota vehicles, this one is definitely another winner. With the introduction of the Avanza, Toyota has all bases covered. From the entry-level market to the luxury car market, Toyota has now a reliable, powerful and durable vehicle to offer. - Raymond D. Young