For the last 6 months, the new generation Vios has been blazing the sales charts for Toyota Motor Philippines.
We've tried out the Vios initially as the mid-range 1.3E automatic and then got to test the Vios as the 1.5G automatic. Needless to say both cars have impressed us with its style, performance, usability and fuel economy. We're even racing it in the exhibition race for the Toyota Vios Cup, a series that uses fully lightened, race-spec 1.5G M/T models.
Up until this point, however, we've tested the automatic transmission variants of the number one selling automotive nameplate in the Philippines. Now we're going to try out the standard showroom stock Vios 1.5G M/T, and we're about to see if it really delivers the goods all around.
Like the 1.5G A/T we tried, this one is finished in orange metallic, a nice shade that the last generation Vios didn't have but the 1st gen (locally) did; I believe they called it 'Ember' back then. The look is quite striking for this class of car, proving that good design need not be expensive.
The Vios has the chrome grille wrapping seamlessly around the front with the headlamps. The lower bumper has a black trapezoidal design element that gives the car that mean, aggressive look. The side profile is the conventional, 3-box design. The 15-inch rims could have been better, but there are plenty of aftermarket choices out there anyway. Some don't like the rear end, but personally it's a fitting finishing touch to the seamlessly modern overall design.
This test car has the same interior as the one we tested before; thoughtful and rather clever. For instance, there's the neat 'floating' console for the audio system, the smart pull-out cupholders on the A/C vents (on the wings of the dashboard) and the faux (but good looking) stitching on the leading edge of the dash. The beige/black color scheme looks good but (for practicality's sake) I prefer the black/gray color combination on the 1.3E we tested earlier; it's easier on the eyes and more importantly, easier to clean.
The seats have good room all around, and the seating position on the rear seats have improved over the previous model as well. The driving position seems to also be better though still quite upright when compared to something like the Ford Fiesta or the Honda City.
The gauges are back in front of the driver, the steering wheel looks and feels good, same goes for the rather sporty, round shift knob. It's definitely a marked improvement over the previous Vios, though there are some very minor issues like the oddly shaped center console recess in front of the shifter; it's good for coins and really small items, but you'd be hard pressed to fit an iPhone on it while charging from the 12V socket. Also, the oddly high position of the radio's USB port makes plugging in an iPod -cable and all- a tricky thing if you're a stickler for keeping cables out of view... like me.
Like we said before, the engine is a carryover from the previous generation; the 1NZ-FE 1.5-liter VVT-i engine that makes 107 PS and 142 Nm of torque. Carrying over engines seems to be a trend in Toyota now, as even the newly-launched Altis also carried over the 1.6 and 2.0 liter motors. The transmission is also the same as the previous gen: a 5-speed gearbox. Honestly, I wish they upgraded the engine a bit (perhaps with Dual VVT-i like the 1.6 liter motor in the Altis), but that could have raised the price a bit more.
Driving it around, there's a feeling of ease by which the 5-speed 'box and the 1.5-liter motor work together. The gearing is good, the clutch is light and every shift feels positive; most cars in economy class tend to have a mushy or notchy gearbox feel. Also, smoothness and noise suppression seem have both improved over the previous generation.
Where the Vios delivers the goods is in fuel economy. Regardless of what a writer of another local website/magazine might have written, the automatic version of the Vios 1.5G was able to deliver good fuel economy as per the fuel computer; easily 8.5 kilometers to the liter in the city (moderate traffic) and cruising steadily yields 12.2 km/l on an open highway. This 1.5G M/T is even better. Driving casually and with no traffic to speak of (i.e. midnight), the Vios 1.5G M/T makes 12.6 km/l in the city. On the highway, that number goes up further to 14.4 km/l.
As any thorough real-world automobile test should, we had to verify the numbers being thrown at us by the computer. As such, on an errand filled Friday (moderate to heavy traffic) and with the tank filled to the brim, the computer readout was at 10.1 km/l with no special 'tricks'. The car logged a total of 53.4 kilometers and consumed 5.42 liters as filled by the same pump right to the brim. Do the math: 9.85 kilometers per liter. The computer seems accurate enough.
The last generation of the Vios was never something that we could call a driver's car... if anything, it's manong driver's car. This one is a little different. Yes, it's still sold to taxi companies but in terms of performance, the all new Vios is a fun little package.
Outright acceleration is good given the close ratio gearbox. The brakes could very well be the best in the class and the spacing of the pedals are good if you really want to get frisky, heel and toeing your way around a mountain road. In terms of feel and handling, cars like the City and Fiesta are better, but the Vios is right up there. Obviously the Cup version is much quicker, but the standard 1.5G M/T is no slouch at all. On any mountain pass, you'll have quite a bit of fun with this car.
Say what you want about the Toyota Vios, but there are plenty of reasons that it's been the number one selling automobile in the Philippines for the good part of the last 10 years. It's practical, efficient, versatile, easy to drive, reliable and cheap to maintain.
But the previous gen lacked a few things. Yes, it thrived getting you from A to B, but it was never a car that was going to stir your emotions. It may win your mind over given its reliability record, fuel economy and the fact that it's a Toyota, but to be perfectly honest it won't win over your heart. Now it just might, especially with a price tag of PhP 812,000.
Overall this new Toyota Vios 1.5G M/T still shares many of the same characteristics but in a far better looking, far more refined and a far more fun little package.