As AUTOWORLD.COM.MY reported earlier, UMW Toyota Motor is adding a third variant of the Toyota Unser to the range, the addition having automatic transmission. The new variant is now officially available at all Toyota showrooms with an on-the-road price of RM82,000, inclusive of insurance premium.
The addition of this variant, says the company, is in response to customer feedback and also the ever-improving state of the car market. “When we launched the Toyota Unser in mid-1998, Malaysia had a severe economic crisis and although customers asked for an automatic transmission variant, we deferred its introduction due to unfavourable market conditions,” said Wong Lup Hang, General Manager of the Marketing Division.
“In the first quarter of this year, the total industry volume is about 20% higher than for the same period in 1999, and Toyota’s volume has also improved by some 71%. So we feel the time is right to introduce this latest variant of the Toyota Unser,” he said.
“Given today’s congested traffic conditions in many towns and cities, more and more motorists, especially women, prefer the convenience of automatic transmission, so we expect that this variant will account for a significant proportion of Unser sales,” he added.
The automatic transmission fitted to the new Toyota Unser 1.8 GLi Automatic is a 4-speed unit which is specially designed for the well-proven and reliable 1.8-litre Toyota 7K-E petrol engine. Electronic controls in the automatic transmission make shifting smoother and more efficient through the spread of four gear ratios. An overdrive ratio for the top gear brings the engine speed down when cruising to reduce fuel consumption and noise.
The 7K-E engine has advanced features that enable it to produce a high output for this type of engine. Notable among these is the use of EFI with an integrated timing control valve for more precise delivery of fuel. With EFI, which is computer-managed, the fuel is well mixed with the air for better combustion which makes for better fuel economy, stable performance and low toxic exhaust emissions.
The engine also has, as part of its maintenance-free electronic ignition system, Electronic Spark Advance (EAS). This ensures that the most appropriate ignition timing is used not only to maximise output and promote combustion efficiency but also to reduce the chances of damage to the engine due to poor fuel quality causing knocking. Contributing to fuel economy is the inclusion of an Idle Speed Control (ISC) system which automatically sets the idling speed to the lowest rpm possible. This is determined by various operating conditions.
The air intake entry point is positioned higher than normal to avoid problems of water entering the engine. With the higher position, the driver can more confidently drive across stretches of road that are moderately flooded.
Besides having a 3-way catalytic converter to convert the toxic elements in the exhaust gases before release into the atmosphere, the engine is also fitted with an Oxygen Sensor Heater Control. The sensor provides the engine management computer with real-time data on the oxygen content in the exhaust gases so that the best air-fuel ratio can be chosen, optimising output and fuel efficiency while minimising generation of toxic gases.
STYLE WITH SAFETY
The new Unser Automatic retains the familar functional bodystyle which offers lots of seating space and versatility in cabin layout. Its sturdy looks and bright colours reflect one of its popular roles as a ‘lifestyle vehicle’ while generous glass areas all round provide a bright ambience within.
With safety being a top priority in Toyota’s design and engineering philosophy, the new Unser Automatic, like the other Unser variants, offers high levels of protection for the 8 occupants. Structurally, it has a very strong steel bodyshell with a tough reinforced steel chassis.
Unlike a conventional van, the engine bay is mounted ahead of the cabin rather than under the front seats. This provides an extra length of “crumple space” during a frontal collision. Additionally, the front and rear ends of the chassis have extra reinforcement to withstand the brunt of a collision, while pipe-type beams in each side door minimise intrusion during a collision at the side.
Laminated glass is also used for the windscreen (which has an anti-glare strip on the top) and this more expensive type of glass does not shatter into little pieces when hit by a stone. Instead a crack will form (if the impact is very great), reducing the dangers of obscured vision and injuries from broken glass.
Other important Passive Safety features include an energy-absorbing steering wheel pad and seatbelts for every occupant. Those in front and on the sides of each row of seats get easy-to-use 3-point inertia-reel seatbelts while those in the middle have 2-point seatbelts.
Active Safety – which helps the driver avoid accidents – is also of a high standard. The brake system consists of large ventilated front disc brakes (for fade-free performance) and generously-sized rear drum brakes. The rear drum brakes have a Load-Sensing Proportioning Valve which is a “smart device” that adjusts braking pressure at the rear according to the load on board. A lighter load will result in less pressure on the rear brakes so as to prevent wheel lock-up and skidding, especially if the road is wet.
Sharp and responsive steering control is provided by a power-assisted rack and pinion steering system. The amount of assistance provided varies according to the engine speed. At low speeds (eg during parking), maximum assistance is provided for ease of manoeuvring while at cruising speeds, the assistance is less to give the driver a better “feel” of the road.
The versatility of the Unser’s spacious cabin has been among its more impressive features which owners greatly appreciate. The second and third rows of seats can be folded to lengthen the luggage floor while the third row can be completely removed, if necessary, by simply unscrewing the bolts holding it to the floor.
Loading through the large rear door is convenient with its low floor. The door gently swings upwards to a height of 1.94 metres so there will be no bumping of heads. The rear door lock is linked to the central locking system for convenience.
Entry and exit can be done with ease as the seat heights are just right to slip in. For access to the third row, a section of the second row seat can be flipped forward to provide plenty of space for movement while side steps on either side also contribute to the ease of getting in and out.
Because of the stringent quality standards demanded by Toyota, every accessory must be tested and approved in Japan before it can be included in a locally-assembled model. With all Unsers, there’s a generous range of accessories that include a sturdy K-bar in front, dual air-conditioning system (custom-designed for the Unser) and audio system with the new Unser Automatic also having alloy rims and an original Toyota Multi-DIN storage compartment section on the dashboard (with a combination lock).
“From our customer surveys, we have found the Unser being used for many different purposes by both male and female owners. Generally, most have found it ideal for outings with bigger groups of friends and those with many children appreciate the extra space too,” said Mr Wong. “And of course, there are those who buy the Unser for private use and find it also serves them well for business.”