Since its introduction in 2003, the Toyota Vios has proved to be as popular as its then-endorser (pop singer Britney Spears), grabbing almost 48% of its market by December 2005. Even with Britney no longer a Toyota endorser by the start of 2006, the Vios is still wildly popular in the country.

This strong performance is due to the car being fun to drive, having a high fuel economy, toting a spacious and functional interior and an attractive exterior - attributes crucial to transport required by today's young, preppy professional (yuppie). The subcompact car that wowed the yuppie two years ago is made better than ever - catering to a dynamic new generation of forward-thinking yuppie car owners (and decision-makers) who are fast moving up in life and work, and ready to take it to the next professional level.

One week with a silver steel 2006 Vios 1.5L G automatic transmission (a/t) showed that youth was, is and is still being served with Toyota.

Gotta look good

The yuppie prefers that he or she look good always, whether at work or at play. It is no different with his or her daily driver; the vehicle that one uses as a daily commute must bring one to his/her intended destination quickly while simultaneously look good doing it.

This is where the Vios steps in and leaves everyone agog. Whether from afar or at pointblank range, the new Vios' appears sportier thanks to stylish upgrades that make it look more youth-oriented. The front end features a grille with a new flat-mesh design that accents the sporty front bumper with newly designed, blacked-out air intake panels. Toyota also saw fit to retain the foglights, but redesigned them in a circular manner to avoid taking the light (both literally and figuratively) away from both the front bumper design and the newly designed headlights. Further highlighting the sporty character of the Vios are new seven-spoke 5.5x15-inch wheels and rear combination lamps (with 3D Reflex Reflectors that reflect light better at all angles) that are pleasing aesthetically.

Crucial to serving the youth in terms of entry-level private transport is a spacious and well-appointed cabin, and here the new Vios doesn't disappoint. The plush moquette seats are very comfortable, but the driver's seat lacks a backrest adjuster. Surprisingly (despite the lack of driver's side backrest adjustment), the seats never gave this writer discomfort. Seating in the new Vios is comfortable for four, tight for five and extremely tight for six. An unusual feature of the car is three rear seatbelts, which goes without saying that the Vios can fit in two adults and a toddler at the car's rear section.

The steering wheel looks and feels small (great for a subcompact car), but the horn area felt flimsy when the horn was used. The aircon knobs and switches are reminiscent of its IMV (Innovative International Multipurpose Vehicles) brethren, and deliver the same Arctic cold blasts - even at the blower one setting - as its IMV siblings.

Storage is either a like-or-dislike matter. Part of the driver's side storage canal (under the steering wheel column) is rather narrow, making coin storage dangerous because of the steering wheel column's proximity to the said canal. The console box lid (found above the glovebox) is useful, but could be bigger in terms of volume. The front cupholders (located in front of the a/t stick) are terribly intrusive to the storage area in front of the cupholders and the a/t column proper, making it useful only for holding canned drinks. There are no storage bins within the rear doors, and the rear seats don't fold down to accommodate odd-shaped cargo. But then again, the yuppie doesn't need to bring a lot of stuff to work or to one's favorite gimmick spots.

But there are good news to the Vios' storage areas. A front passenger seat undertray stores small and flat bric-a-brac without intrusion into the floor, while the trunk proper swallows a golf bag and a small piece of travel luggage. The front doors' storage areas can handle a 120-150 page Cosmopolitan magazine, while the rear cupholders (located at the rear passenger footwell base) can handle two one-liter bottles.

For the techie audiophile, the Vios comes with a Fujitsu-Ten 2-DIN CD/MP3 head unit and a new Euro-style short-mast antenna that provides crystal-clear reception for FM and AM radio stations. FM/AM reception is clear and interference-free, but the Vios' front speakers tend to sound tinny, especially when trying to replicate bass heavy tracks such as Nelly's Air Force Ones.

Walking the walk

Today's youth knows that in order to talk the talk, one must walk the walk. The Vios brings to the table a bevy of performance amenities, all capable of satisfying - or in some cases, disappointing - the driver.

Get behind the Vios' wheel and one will discover that the driver ergonomics are pleasing and within instant reach or eyesight of the driver. The side mirrors are wide and the dashboard retains the central location of the car's vital signs, but uses an entirely new layout. The speedometer is a digital readout, the tachometer reads like a Formula One gauge (it's like a flat linear graph, with rpm speed increasing to the right), the a/t indicator features only three gears (park, reverse, and neutral/drive/second gear/low gear) and the backlit display is all in a green hue. Sadly, there is no temperature gauge, which can be scary because in case the car overheats, you may just find your radiator cap on the road and your engine block cooked to a pulp.

This Vios test unit came with a 1NZ-FE 1.5L VVT-i inline-four (cylinder) engine, putting 107hp and 142 NMs of torque and mated to a four-speed a/t. Acceleration from rest can be fun and ingratiating at the same time, for the a/t tends to linger awhile in any particular gear before upshifting or downshifting and wastes the 1NZ-FE's horsepower/torque potential. It's like your right foot and the gas pedal say "Go!", but the a/t says "Gimme a minute!" In fact, this writer and BUSINESS MIRROR motoring editor Popong Andolong discovered that the best way to launch the car is to floor the gas, releasing the throttle when the tachometer reaches 3000-plus rpm.

The Vios' front suspension features Macpherson struts with stabilizers, crucial to the roadholding of this front wheel drive car because the subcompact tends to display understeer in five or six different ways. The overall ride is a bit harsh due to the bigger wheels (previous models toted 14-inchers), but is comfortable enough to not disturb passengers while they sleep. The 185/55R15 Bridgestone Potenza RE030s are grippy, but they warn you when to stop pushing (approximately 67-plus kph on hard turns and hairpins). The said tires also tends to turn understeer into oversteer on hard turns if one gets too ambitious with the throttle; the good news is that the brakes are strong enough to provide stopping/slowing power.

Just because the Vios totes an a/t and a 1500cc engine doesn't mean that it guzzles gas, nor does it mean that the car is slow. In five days of mixed driving, this writer recorded 13 kilometers per liter and hit 160kph on the straights leading to Mt. Famy (Laguna).

Youth got served

The Vios was wildly popular during its 2003 release because of a good combination of frills and thrills. Three years and nearly five figures in sales later, the Vios still remains a great car for the youth, albeit one that is more city slicker, yuppie or metrosexual.
  • Make:Toyota
  • Model:Vios 1.5G
  • Engine:1NZ-FE VVT-i 1.5-liter DOHC 16V, 2NZ-FE VVT-i 1.3-liter DOHC 16V
  • Max Power:[email protected]
  • Max Torque:[email protected]
  • Transmission:4-Speed A/T
  • Price as Tested: