14 October 2013

New Toyota Vios Tested - Polished Gem

Toyota Vios is no stranger when it comes to Malaysian sedan market. Since 2003, some 265,000 units has been sold between the first and second generation model. Despite the relatively young model for Toyota, the four generation (including Vios Soluna from late 90s) is a product which has been massaged over the years to meet the expectation of ever more demanding customer group. Over the years, Toyota Vios has grown from somewhat a recycled-old-Corolla (1st gen Soluna Vios) to a better product for the last generation which is more refined and lack the cheapskate look of the older model. The 2013 Toyota Vios is a further finesse of these, whereby Toyota has deployed in engineering and design prowess to come up with a better entry level sedan. MMN drive impression and lengthy observation on the car detail design yield a conclusion : This is a very polished product with full of high perceived quality and refinement way beyond the previous generation ever achieved.

First is the look. Gone is bulbous look of the previous generation, and in comes a more angular design that wears more intricate detailing for that pricier look. The headlamp, particularly the top two model, is a projector unit with inner detailing that extended from the grille. Expansive chromed bars has been used for the grille treatment, which is further helped by the angular bumper with textured central insert. Toyota tries here, it has not relaxed contrary to people's perception about Toyota stylist. The exterior panel is more chiseled with sharp character line and gives a sharper look to the new Vios. The side profile is also garnished with stronger character which more angular towards the back. The rear end has a mini Toyota Camry look with its chromed garnish and tail light with fancy lens detailing. In terms of dimension, the new Toyota Vios is 110mm longer than its forebear at 4,410mm and slightly taller at 1,475mm. Although the wheelbase is retained from previous car at 2,550mm, a newfound spaciousness can be attributed to cleverer packaging given the the increased in length. 
Second major upgrades over the current car is the interior. It is as if the old bunch of the senior designer/engineer has either retired, died or has been given the bottom 10% position of their appraisal and subsequently been given "Career Transfer Out" option and in comes a more enthusiastic and artistic bunch of motivated designer/engineer who is keen to produce a winner at a given cost constraint. First one to go is the central mounted meter binnacle, now repositioned in front of the driver. 

There is much more flair to the design. The meter is cowled while the centre console is mounted high up with the airconditioning vent and audio system encased in silver trimmed housing and trimmed with creative texturing. As can be seen above the dashboard is multi tiered, with the top surface adopt a simulated stitching edge, lend by Toyota Camry. Silver strip separates this part from the lower dash (G and E trim, black on TRD and unpainted on J trim), the same finish extend the the door trim as well (except for E which terminates at the vent). 
Despite having similar wheelbase to the current Vios, the new cabin is roomier thanks to a re-positioned A and C-pillar. Leg, head and shoulder room is class competitive, with comfort further aided by an enlarged seat surface. Seating position is great, and all control surfaces are within the ergonomics bound. Feel good factor is high. The chunky steering wheel has a fat rim, and the button feels substantial. Audio button and aircond vent feel solid, while the rotary dials for the manual aircond has a tactile rotation inertia. The gear knob is palm-full to grab, however it is too light in its movement for my liking.
Storage space is abundance. There's a slot in front of the gear console, sizable glovebox with partition and this is where the increased in length is justified. The boot volume has grown tremendously to 506L from 470L previously. This puts Toyota Vios boot space on part with Proton Preve (Read all about Proton Preve here) and Honda City which just 2L separates them. More juicy discussion after the jump.

As aforementioned, Toyota has widely applied the artificial (or fake simply put) stitching sprinkled throughout the car. One can found it on the top surface of the dashboard where Toyota want to imply a leather wrapped dashboard with is nicely jointed near the edge. They even make the surface uneven, much is leather slight weaving. I used to be anti-Toyota when it comes to cheapskate finishing, but credit to them this time around. It is not clever to do it on Camry, but it does light-up Vios cabin quite dramatically.
The same method can be found garnishing the door trim too. It is applied in two fashion here. The top of the door trim is as per the dashboard, although what it "stitches" is not clear as Toyota does not put the folded part here. Simply has a stitch is, a bit, unreal Toyota. Beneath this section is the "simulated ribbed" leather section, where you normally find a fabric insert on a cloth upholstered car. On an ivory colored interior on the G trim this application is successful, but less so on the black trim as there is no contrast to make this finishing shine. The only area which could be improve is the mating point of this section with the door armrest/pull cup handle. If some folding can be simulated here it would look better. Of course, there is a cost constraint as this is a cheap car.
The simulated leather highlighted in section

The front door trim design is further accentuated with the silver insert which is an extension from the silver strip on the dashboard. The blend of this section with the stitched upper section is more convincing than the rear door trim. However, please look only, don't touch it expecting leather feel despite the mold maker has try their best in even putting the leather texture on all surfaces. If the finishing is less shiny, more matte, in my opinion it would look better.
We have covered most ground on the new parts on Toyota Vios. Essentially what is needed to impress the customer has been carefully designed to impart high perceived quality. Other improvement that goes unseen is the strengthened body structure which is a lot safer and comply with the latest legislation. The drivetrain unit is the 1NZ-FE 1.5L mill brought over from the older generations, but massaged to yield 5% economy boost. Peak power and torque remain unchanged at 109PS and 141Nm. Drive is channeled via 4 speed autobox on all variant except the bottom model which is available in 5 speeder manual.

The outgoing Toyota Vios feel uncharacteristically like first-gen Perodua Myvi. The engine feel and pull, the steering feel and movement feel exactly like the Malaysian offering. It was weedy even. Not good at all. However, the new Toyota Vios changed all that. First impression is an all rounded solidity unfounded before. The driving environment is comfier with more confidence steering feel. Initial move feel refined, with a well suppressed noise intrusion. The engine sound is much less heard than before. On the move, the wind noise is pretty subdued.

The drivetrain refinement is far better, let say than the global Proton offering. There's a strong chemistry between the pedal, engine note, engine pull, steering feel and the whole dynamics seems to in in tandem which is each other, resulted in what a cohesive ride. The local C segment seems jagged compared to this, rudimentary even.

The ride is too short to derive a long term conclusion. MMN did not have the opportunity to test the car for a few thousand kilometers like the commercial journalist, ours is like that the customer do when they are deciding, albeit a  bit farther, but it is enough to draw a conclusion, just like the buyer do.

Just to recap on the variant and specification, variants available are J, E, G and TRD Sportivo. Vios J is available in either 5 speed manual or 4 speed auto while the rest of the range is auto only. The trims are differentiated by equipment level. Starting with the front, Vios J and E is equipped with halogen headlight, while Vios G and TRD Sportivo comes with projector item. All version bar Vios J gets fog lamp, electrically-folded side mirror with indicator and integrated audio system. The interior is differently colored, with the based J model is an all-black affair, almost similar to E version however the latter comes two tone black and grey fabric. Vios G adopts a two tone black and beige interior color while the TRD Sportivo is black with red accents, in leather no less. Vios G and TRD gets multi-info display, 6 speaker setup (4 for the rest) and the gear knob and steering wheel is leather wrapped ( with audio control button too) which the lower two version is equipped with none of this. Tyre and wheel size is identical across the board, shod with 185/60 R15. Three rims design are available exclusive for each variant (J and E share the design).

Standard equipment across the range is dual airbags, ABS with EBD, Isofix, reverse sensor, door visor, rear fog lamp, remote boot release and speed adjustable intermittent wiper. There's 3 years warranty thrown in capped at 100,000km. The price is RM73,200 for Vios J Manual, RM77,300 for Vios J Auto, RM82,900 for Vios E, RM88,500 for Vios G and RM93,200 for TRD Sportivo.

What can be said here it is a very polished product. It demonstrates the vast experience Toyota has in building car for ages. It knows the right recipe. Lets be honest here, no buyer at this price range is too concern about the compression ratio of their engine, or the peak torque the engine curve, neither England-tuned suspension is appreciable in your normal daily route to makan gaji. What matter is the reliability, refinement, and fuel efficiency. Someone with RM80k budget capability but racy in emotion would opt for a used Honda Civic, or get a personal loan to cash-buy Honda Civic EK and spent on the Spoon suspension. The old days are gone, get this instead....

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