The Toyota Vios has always been branded as a youth (or yuppie) car, given its size, features, and entry level pricing. But can it still hold sway in a perpetually highly competitive subcompact market?

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, and this is where the Vios first calls attention. Borrowing design cues from its Yaris sibling (highlighted by 10-spoke 17-inch rims, turn signals within the side mirror housings and a low trunk spoiler), the Vios is now much sportier. Gone is the "me, too" look of its predecessor; in place is a subcompact that presents itself as one that can rival even the Yaris for the youth's notice.

A big consideration for the youth in terms of entry-level private transport is a spacious and well-appointed cabin, and here the P 765,000 08 Vios doesn't disappoint. The layout, aircon vents/controls, audio entertainment controls and dashboard gauges are also borrowed from the Yaris, and convey an easy-to-see-and-reach theme. The ride is comfortable, the audio entertainment is decent (with steering wheel-mounted controls), there's power-assisted folding for the side mirrors, the rear backrests fold down to handle large cargo and storage bins abound. About the only negatives with the insides are the weak aircon and the hard-to-read radio readouts, the latter being very hard to see in daylight.

Pleasing driver ergonomics welcome the driver upon entry into the front left seat. The side mirrors are wide, and the gauges return to the traditional half-circle analog speedometer and rev counter, but with Optitron backlighting similar to the current Hilux pickups. A blue-backlit multi-information display (with a vertical column computer readout-style fuel gauge and digital clock) similar to the Yaris finds itself at the rightmost end of the gauge cluster, and is a welcome sight for the perpetually-on-the-go yuppie due to the large clock and fuel gauge readouts.

Going forward can be frustrating, for those with a performance bent. Much like the previous model, your right foot and the gas pedal say "Go!", but the engine says "Gimme a minute!" As a result powerband entry is high (3,500 rpm), the VVT-i (variable valve timing with intelligence, Toyota's answer to Honda's variable valve timing VTEC technology) takes forever to wake up (around 4,750 rpm) and top speed is just okay (a tested 170 kph), but the tested fuel consumption (on a week of mixed driving) is a whopping 17.62 km/l.

Also frustrating is the five-speed manual, which totes a short second gear and a TALL third gear. The latter is recommended for overtaking on level ground, but for mountain runs staying in second gear is a must. Clutch feel is a tad soft, requiring a little more effort on the gas pedal, but shifter throws are smooth.

Handling is a given considering the 17-inch rims and Yokohama dB Decibel 205/45Z R17 88Ws, but keep in mind that 1.5L G production models tote 15-inch rims and 185/60R15 tires. The test unit provided (with its optional bodykit and luggage tray) presents yuppie racer potential, a big plus for a generation weaned on MTV's Pimp My Ride and The Fast and The Furious. The car is composed (even sharp at times) on turn-in and a tad skittish on apex, but the tires hold the Vios on the road until 85 kph. Steering is light in feel but numbing in feedback, and the small steering wheel is a big plus. Both brakes and handbrake are grippy, but the ABS wakes up in increments instead of in one big push. Exterior lighting is decent, but the horn feels flimsy when pushed. The 4.9-meter turning radius is a big plus, though.

The new Vios represents an upgrade to the youth movement, much aided by its distinct styling, improved inside features and a potential to provide serious handling thrills.