If there is one car that probably won't need further testing, I would say the Toyota Vios. Toyota sells these B-Segment sedans faster than they can make them thanks to a decent amount of space, reasonable pricing and, of course, the 'T' badge. The third generation model was first released mid-2013, continuing the success of the Vios line.
This year, the Vios gets a major update but you have to take a look under the skin to know what these are. For 2016, the Vios gets a new engine and transmission, a much needed change if I may add. Will the new powertrain combo impress? We drive the top-spec 1.5 G for a week to find out.
I know what you're thinking, it looks exactly like the car that was first released in 2013. As far as facelifts go, it's like playing the most difficult game of 'Spot the Difference' which you're guaranteed to lose. No extra chrome trim, reshaped bumpers or headlights, not even a new set of wheels. This year does mean the addition of two new colors to the lineup, namely Blackish Red Mica and Alumina Jade Metallic as you see on the tester. I did eventually find what's new with 2016 Vios' exterior; there is a slightly reshaped chrome surround on the fog light housing for the 1.5 G models.
Inside, there are more visible changes. First, interior gets a black/grey finish and the seats get new trimmings. The AVT touchscreen gets silver highlights, so does the gear selector shroud. Also, the silver trim has been given an aluminum look and it now gets the brushed metal look dials which was first seen in the TRD Vios. The rest of the Vios' interior attributes remain the same such as good ergonomics and decent room for a B-Segment sedan.
One thing I do wish Toyota added would be a telescopic steering wheel as I had a difficult time finding the ideal driving position thanks to my short arms. While the Vios does come with clever cupholders, it needs more storage spaces and bigger pockets.
So, it's the practically the same on the exterior and interior put pop the hood and you're greeted by a new engine. After over a decade of service, the NZ engine has now been retired in favor of the new NR series block. For the 1.5 G, it gets the 1NR-FE mill with an output of 108 PS and 140 Nm of torque. If you're curious, it gains 1 PS and loses 2 Nm of peak torque when compared to the old NZ-series unit. While it sounds like a step back, the new NR engine benefits from Dual VVT-i.
Start up the 2016 Vios and it sounds like the 2015 model. Driving it around the metro and I do feel that they did recalibrate the electronic power steering system as it now has a touch more (artificial) weight. It rides the same way too and that's not necessarily a bad thing, the pre-update models rode just fine, perhaps one of the softer riding cars in its segment. As for performance, the new engine feels the same as the old one although the CVT isn't the most responsive unit I've tested. It does eliminate the mild 'shift shock' I felt with the 4-speed automatic.
Some may say that CVT takes away driver involvement but I do have to say that it makes sense in a car like this. With fuel economy being one of the priorities of buyers in the segment, Toyota's CVT emphasizes fuel economy over outright performance. Driving along a relatively free stretch of road, the RPMs were kept low, allowing it to burn less fuel than the old 4-speed unit. It no longer needs to rev high to get moving, staying steady at around 2,000 RPM to pick up pace at a decent rate. Let off the pedal and cruise at 60 km/h and it practically idles. Kudos to Toyota for switching to this transmission.
On the highway, the CVT also keeps noise at a minimum. However, you do have to stick it in manual mode to gain extra confidence in overtaking. It's much like the old engine when it comes to performance and the 2 Nm deficit is barely felt. Overall, the new powertrain combo helps the Vios to be a more refined and comfortable package, not that the old one was lacking in that department.
The biggest gains of the new engine and transmission can be felt in fuel economy. Looking back at our archives, we only managed 8.2 kilometers per liter in the city and 12 kilometers per liter on the highway which was hardly class-leading figures. Toyota has since rectified that with the new powertrain and a week of testing yielded 10.2 kilometers per liter in the city with an average speed of 15 km/h. On the highway, fuel economy jumps to 15.1 kilometers per liter at an average speed of 96 km/h. The worst figure I saw from the 2016 Vios was 8.1 kilometers per liter at gridlocked traffic. If people were put off by the old engine's drinking habits, perhaps its now time to consider the new Vios with its thriftier mill.
Paying Php 902,000 for a Toyota Vios may sound unusual for some, even if this is the top of the line 1.5 G CVT model. The old one was already priced at Php 880,000, marking an increase of Php 18,000. It lacks some features like reverse sensors, a telescopic steering wheel and safety assists like traction control and stability control which some of its contemporaries offer standard at a lower price. For value then, the Vios is about average but you can think of it this way; you get an engine and transmission swap for Php 18,000.
Think of this model as a test bed for the next-gen Vios. The much needed engine and transmission transplant offers an impressive and enticing package for those put off by the rather thirsty pre-update model. If this is the direction the Vios is taking, it may have just set the bar high for future models. All it needs now is more safety equipment and features to make it a more value-packed sedan.