Let's face it, MPVs aren't exactly the biggest head turners out there. It's the type of vehicle that favors function over form with the purpose of carrying passengers, and cargo, on a day-to-day basis. Case in point, the Toyota Avanza.
However, Toyota decided to spuce up the utilitarian Avanza into a mini-premium MPV. The result is the Toyota Avanza Veloz. Essentially an 'upmarket' version of the mini MPV, it comes with a subtly restyled exterior and interior while preserving its multi-purpose role.
But does the Avanza Veloz hit the mark? We find out.
Immediately noticeable on the Avanza Veloz is the redesigned front fascia. While it retains the distinct headlights and upper chrome trim, the Avanza Veloz gets a sportier-looking front grill finished in black. Combined with the new Red Mica Metallic paintjob, it actually makes the MPV look more upscale which was a nice touch.
It also gets a smoked chrome trim piece on the tailgate which gives it a hint of elegance. Rounding everything up is the new rear bumper which now comes with circular reflectors rather than horizontal ones.
All in all, the overall look of the Avanza Veloz is pretty good and the added kit does make for a nicer finish on the mini MPV.
If the exterior came with noticeable changes, the cabin doesn't exactly get the same treatment. There are, however, some minor differences, namely the all-black interior that covers the MPV. It was a welcome change from the standard model's two-tone look. Also, both the steering wheel and gear lever are now wrapped in leather which were both nice touches for the Veloz. Providing contrast against the blacked-out cabin are the neat touches of faux metal finishes on the dashoard and door handles.
What I immediately liked about the Avanza is its high driving position and vast outward visibility thanks to the large windows. However, I wished the front seats were more comfortable as the cushions were a bit on the firm side. Better shoulder support would also make for a more pleasant ride, especially on long journeys. Other than that, there is plenty of rear legroom on the second row seats and the backrests can be reclined as well.
As usual, space on the third row is limited but they can fit teenagers and adults that are of small stature. Beyond that, they're best left for children. Fold down those 50:50 split seats and you have plenty of luggage space at the back good for a weekend getaway or two.
Providing in-car entertainment is 6.2-inch touchscreen display that comes with AM/FM radio, CD, Aux, USB and Bluetooth connectivity. It even gets navigation as standard which will always be a nice addition on any automobile, in my opinion. Sound quality could have been better though, as well as the screen's resolution and dated graphics. Other than that, it does its job to the letter.
While there are changes inside and out, it's pretty much the same under the hood. Powering the Veloz is the familiar 1.5-liter Dual VVT-i four-cylinder engine. Internally known as the 2NR-VE, the engine produces a respectable 103 PS at 6000 rpm along with 136 Nm of torque at 4200 rpm. It then delivers its power to the rear wheels via a four-speed automatic transmission.
So what it is like on the open road? Having already driven the 1.5 G A/T variant a few years ago, the sportier-looking Veloz felt familiar to drive. Power delivery from the engine is good and it is not afraid to make use of all available revs. However, the engine tends to become noisy at high rpms which can be quite bothersome.
There is also the matter of shift shock coming from the four-speed automatic when it switches from first to second gear. Other than that, the four-speed slushbox does its job well of seamlessly going through the other cogs. Overtaking with the Avanza (sorry, Veloz) has to be timed correctly however. Sure it has decent pulling power but there is some delay before the automatic gearbox initiates kicksdown to quicken the pace. On the open road, the Avanza Veloz makes for a surprisingly decent cruiser as the powertrain remain relaxed at cruising speed. Its brakes have good stopping power although I wished they had more feedback as they felt numb which can be counter intuitive for drivers.
Strolling around town and in light city traffic, the Veloz averaged between 7.5 – 8.0 km/l. On the highway, expect the mini MPV to return about 13.0 – 14.0 km/l. While those are acceptable figures, the Avanza could do better if it had two additional gears (six-speed) or made use of a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Here's to hoping that the next-generation model comes with either of those upgrades.
While handing is not exactly the Avanza's strong suit, it was still capable around turns nonetheless. Despite being the tallest in the segment, it was stable along the corners though body roll was quite prominent due to its ride height. On the flipside, the electronic power steering (EPS) assist delivered communicable steering and did not felt numb. It was light in city driving and only became slightly heavy at highway driving. Also worth mentioning is the Avanza's tight turning radius which makes for negotiating tight U-turns and a breeze.
With a body-on-frame construction, ride quality on the Avanza is a little truck-like. While relatively smooth on paved roads, the Avanza becomes bouncy when going over ruttted streets and bumpy roads. Perhaps better dampers or springs could mend that. Also, the Avanza could do with better Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH) deadening. Beside outside and powertrain noise intruding into the cabin, wind noise at highway speeds can also creep inside the Avanza.
So it has a sportier exterior and a relatively more sophisticated cabin than its standard counterparts. But has the Veloz lost its purpose as a mini MPV? No it has not. In spite injecting a bit of pizzaz on the mini MPV, the Avanza Veloz still comes with a spacious interior, a high driving position and a capable powertrain. It can also brave dirt roads and light trails given its tall ride height.
But at Php 1,065,000, the Avanza Veloz is not exactly the most affordable mini MPV in the market. At its current price, the Veloz is Php 65,000 more expensive than the 1.5 G A/T. While Toyota was able to successfully make the Avanza look and feel upmarket, the new upgrades pushed the MPV's price way above its segment.
If the price doesn't bother you, by all means, go ahead and get the Avanza Veloz. It still makes for a practical mini-MPV.