This is it... the one model many of you have been waiting for: the Vios.
For the better part of a decade, the Vios has emerged as one of Toyota's most important models, dislodging even the venerable Toyota Corolla/Corolla Altis from its perch as the brand's prime mover and shaker in the passenger car segment.
Now that the hype has settled down, let's see what the all new 2013 Toyota Vios is really like... and in 1.3E guise as well.
If you think it looks really good, well, I can say you're not the only one. In terms of design, the all new Vios is leaps and bounds above the previous model, a car that we consider to be too conservatively designed. This new model simply looks ambitious... and that's a very good thing.
For starters, the front fascia is more futuristic than ever, utilizing design details that makes the car look as young and as active as its target market suggests. The stretched headlamps and grille blend together to form a continuous line around the front, accented by the aggressive main intake/grille below.
Of particular interest are the character lines that run along the side of the car just above the grip-type door handles (much better than latch-type handles) and below from the front wheel well to the back. The stretched headlamps are matched by taillights that extend to the rear quarter panels, and the car is finished off by a squared up rear end and a neat set of alloy wheels.
One obvious change is the size of the Vios. The new model measures in at 4410mm long (previous: 4300mm), 1700mm wide (previous: 1700mm) and 1475mm tall (previous: 1460mm). Unusually, the wheelbase remains the same, which means the new car has an extra 110mm (more or less) of overhang; how that will affect handling, we'll find out. Also, one big change is the much more spacious trunk which, at 476 liters (81L bigger than the previous model), is able to swallow larger cargo and bags.
Inside, again, the change is profound. The dashboard looks far more impressive than what the class expects. The predominant material used on the interior panels is still plastic, which means it'll be hard to the knuckle-rappers out there, but it does look to be of high quality with the faux 'stitching' and texturing. Also interesting is how the center console for the stereo mimics the 'floating' designs of more expensive brands; pretty cool.
The cabin layout, ergonomics, and controls are also much better than before, especially with the nice new gauges back to where they're supposed to be: behind the steering wheel in front of the driver. The feel of the buttons, the steering wheel and shifter are far better than before, and same goes for the driving position too; not too upright like the previous model. The cupholders are particularly interesting too, as the Vios now has pull out cupholders up front (as opposed to the flip-out type in the previous Vios) in front of the side A/C vents. The cupholder on the center console no longer has a cover as well. Ladies, especially those who have mastered the art of putting make up on while driving in traffic, you'll love that this Vios still has the driver-side vanity mirror. Still, we wouldn't advise make-upping and driving.
One thing I really noticed is how seating comfort has really improved. Up front, the seats are great to be on, quite a step up from the previous Vios. The big change is in the rear seats, as the incline of the backrest and knee/legroom have really improved; if the Vios is destined to be in taxi fleets in the near future, I wouldn't mind riding in the back seat anymore.
For features, this 1.3 E gets a good balance of what you need for convenience and pricing. Windows are all powered, you've got an automatic transmission, a defogger for the rear glass and a manual (yet powerful) A/C system; even after spending a few hours in noontime tropical sun, the A/C cools the cabin quickly. The audio system is all you need, with AM, FM, CD, MP3 playback as well as an aux port and iPod/iPhone compatibility. There's no Bluetooth, but you do get steering wheel controls for the audio unit. Overall, the Vios is a good package for the price.
Powering the Vios range are a pair of engines: a 1.3-liter and a 1.5-liter, both of which have twin cams, 16 valves and 4 cylinders with VVT-i. The engines are actually retained from the previous generation, and have not undergone an upgrade much like the interior and exterior. As it stands, this 1.3 E gets 86 PS of power and 122 Newton-meters of torque, all of which are coursed through the same 4-speed automatic. After driving in the metro and beyond, the new Vios 1.3 E delivered 10.2 kilometers per liter in the city (moderate traffic) and 12.9 kilometers to the liter on the highway; slightly less than the previous 1.3 E that we drove.
In terms of acceleration or speed, the Vios is not impressive... but it was never supposed to be. One thing Toyota really worked on is the smoothness of how the new Vios drives, as it's far better refined in terms of noise-vibration-harshness lessening. Also, the suspension has been tweaked to deliver a better ride as well.
There are a few little quirks with the new Vios that I noticed after driving a few hours around town. First off: the surface in front of the automatic gate type shifter. The way it's shaped makes it practically useless for most objects like your phone or sunglasses, and the way it's angled means anything you put there will slide off at the slightest acceleration. The other thing I noticed is how the center channel inside the car (the hump that runs from the engine to the back, making space for the exhaust pipe) tends to get significantly hotter. Perhaps a little more thermal insulation is needed to prevent the heat of the exhaust from permeating into the cabin.
Out of city limits and onto a handling-intensive road, the Vios is surprisingly better. Now the model line was never known for great cornering (unlike the Ford Fiesta or Suzuki Swift), but the new one seems to be significantly better, even though it got a little softer and has extended overhangs. If anything it's a bit more predictable at the limit and the steering seems more accurate. Just point and squirt... though this being a 1.3L, it'll take a bit more squirting on the throttle to get going.
So how do we stand on the new Vios 1.3E? I'd say it gets top marks for the exterior, very good marks for the cabin, much better riding and driving comfort, decent performance and economy given the lack of updates to the engine.
The Vios line really wasn't one of those things that needed actual fixing, but it did need a bit of fixing up. Judging by how it drives, how comfortable it has become and how great it looks, the new Toyota Vios is absolutely spot on.