Ah yes, the Toyota Vios. If I were allowed to change its tagline, I'd switch it to 'It's Everywhere'.
Since 2003, Toyota's subcompact sedan has been a common sight on our roads. In fact, it was the country's best-selling car from 2006 to 2017, only beaten out by the Fortuner last year. This year, there's a new Vios and you can expect it to be a best-seller. But is it any good?
You see, I've always had a beef with the previous-generation Vios. It felt like a step back from the second-generation which, in my opinion, was one of the best models. The last one felt like a product of complacency, not really offering anything new to the class or having a true unique selling point, which most of its rivals have. Still, it sold well because it has a Toyota badge. I reckon that if it had a different logo on the grill, the thing would just sit on the lot.
Things aren't off to a good start because, while Toyota calls it an all-new model, it's more of a significant refresh. Oh dear. I'm already expecting more of the same to be honest.
Still, you have to give props to Toyota for exerting effort when it comes to exterior design. All the panels are new and the only ones they've retained, at least in my eyes, are the roof and the side mirror. With that new front, it now looks more like a baby Corolla Altis with those upswept headlights, small grill and huge center intake panel. I do wish it had more distinction from the Yaris, which also has the same front end. Nonetheless, I think it looks sharp and a lot less blander than the outgoing model.
They added a bit of flair on the sides too with a more upswept window line and a crease on the doors. Even the door handles are different, which are now thicker and, as a result, felt more solid. Speaking of which, the doors themselves felt heavier too. As for the back, it's rounder and certainly more interesting to look at with those wide tail lights and new trunk lid.
This being the 1.3 E Prime model, it has a body kit. It looked great on the top-spec 1.5 E Prime but it falls a little short in the mid-spec variant. Perhaps its the silver paint or the 15-inch alloys, but the 1.3 E Prime doesn't quite pull it off. Personally, I'd skip the kit if I were to go for the smaller engine option.
Like the exterior, the interior is much better than before. The dash is lifted from the Yaris and thank heavens they finally got rid of the fake stitching. There's still a little of it left, but it's an improvement nonetheless. It looks more dynamic too with sharper curves wrapping around the front occupants. Granted, it still has a hard dashboard but, overall, it's much more pleasing to the eyes. Also new is the instrument cluster, which now has a proper backdrop and not that stickered-on graphic in the old one.
However, there's only so much you can do with a refresh, even if it is a significant one. There's still no telescopic wheel which means short-armed folks (like myself) will have a bit more difficulty in finding the ideal driving position. Also, the front arm rest is so far back that I wish they moved it forward to be a little more useable. And while we're on the subject of arm rests, the back still doesn't have one.
As for space, it's no class leader but the legroom is decent nonetheless, even if a tall person sits in the front or at the back. Tall folks have to slouch at the back though because the headroom seems less than before. I reckon it's because of the addition of curtain airbags which, by the way, are standard even on the base models. In the name of safety, I think it's worth the payoff.
Inside and out, the Vios looks new but pop the hood and you're greeted by the same 1.3-liter engine from the 2015 to 2017 models. It benefits from Dual VVT-i, just like before, and the power is still the same, making 98 PS and 123 Nm of torque. It's then paired to a seven-speed continuously variable transmission.
So, it has the same engine under the hood, but will it be the same on the go? I'll give you the short answer: Sort of.
On first impressions, it feels like the old 1.3 E we tested a few years ago but as the miles roll by, you'll feel a few differences. For instance, the ride is slightly better and the steering having a bit more feel. You hear less of the outside world, possibly down to better noise isolation, and there's less vibration too.
Go over rough patches of asphalt and it doesn't make a loud clunking noise. Instead, you get a softer sounding thump. If anything, the improvements to noise-vibration-harshness isolation are enough to hide the platform's age. As a city runabout, it is quieter, more refined, and more comfortable than its predecessor.
With improved road manners, the new Vios is a decent highway cruiser, although the 1.3-liter engine needs to be worked to get to the posted speed limit. I'm not saying it's underpowered but a little more torque would help acceleration. You can turn off economy mode (buried deep in the digital odometer) to help matters a bit, but at the expense of economy.
There's a fair amount of noise coming in to the cabin because you have to step on the gas a bit deeper, but it's not that bad and, if anything, it's quieter. Once you do get to 100 km/h, it doesn't have much trouble maintaining that speed. It's clear from the start that the engine wasn't aimed towards performance, but more towards efficiency.
And speaking of efficiency, it read 20.1 kilometers per liter on the highway at 89 km/h and with the economy mode on. Around town, it read 9.3 kilometers per liter at 18 km/h, which is still not bad but you'd expect more from a 1.3-liter engine. So yes, it's efficient but the small tank means the fuel gauge needle drops rather rapidly. Either that or the fuel readout is hugely pessimistic than what the average fuel economy meter suggests.
So far, refinement is good, performance is average, efficiency on the highway excellent and city economy could be better. Now, how is it like to drive?
To be honest, it still won't stir the soul but the steering now offers a bit more feel and, with it, more feedback. Out on provincial twisties, handling is best described as safe and secure. Also, the handling was put to the ultimate test when I had to do an emergency maneuver when someone thought it was a good idea to overtake on a blind corner and go straight towards me. The stability control definitely helped there too. No, the Vios isn't exciting to drive, but it sure is safe, and that's what's important to most of its buyers.
At Php 933,000, the Vios 1.3 E Prime with the CVT is a lot of money for a 1300cc car with most of its rivals having 1.5-liter engines with more power. Personally, I think the non-Prime 1.3 E model is better value at Php 878,000. It offers the same fundamentals and safety kit as the Prime, just without the body kit.
All in all, the new Vios is a half step from the previous model, adding small tweaks and refinement to the popular sedan. Like the old one, it doesn't really offer anything new in its segment, but it's a better car than the last one nonetheless. With that, the Vios will most likely remain to be the default choice for many, not because it stands out, but because it's a name that people know and trust.