The new Toyota Vios, just launched recently in time for 2017 looks pretty much the same as the 2013 model it replaces, except for some cosmetic changes to the front end and the fitment of new wheels – the old shape was pretty good looking to start with, and considering that it has been so successful, it was perhaps a wise move to keep exterior changes to a minimum.
However this “Don’t fix what ain’t broke” philosophy stops just there – there are some important changes to the specifications that have a huge impact on the performance, which Toyota is counting on to carry the Vios to its FMC (Full Model Change), due in a couple of years.
There are two major changes that are noteworthy – the engine remains at 1.5 litre capacity, (2NR-FE) which now has dual VVTi (meaning that it has variable valve timing (with intelligence) on both the inlet and exhaust camshafts). Translated to day to day usage, it implies that the engine is now more flexible and able to deliver good power both in the low and high engine RPM range, and is more fuel efficient. Just as an aside, this engine is the very same engine that is found in the newly-launched Toyota Sienta.
Just as it is with the Sienta, the new Vios also gets a CVT (Constantly Variable Transmission), which is the second most notable change in specifications. From a ‘standardization’ point of view, there are obvious benefits in sharing drive trains, but I think the main benefit would be in fuel efficiency.
Think of it as putting an improved engine together with a transmission known for promoting fuel efficiency – UMW Toyota claims as much as 18 percent improvements in fuel consumption. This very combination of engine and CVT has garnered the Toyota Vios EEV status – which means a reduction in some of the duties payable, enabling UMW Toyota to maintain competitive pricing despite the addition of many new features.
A CVT, as the name suggests, with its constantly variable ratios offers an almost infinite range drive/driven gear ratios to enable ‘matching’ of engine torque to load for best efficiency. To top it off, the CVT will automatically adopt the highest gear ratio whenever the load slackens – this means that the car can maintain high speeds at relatively low engine revolutions, this saving fuel. This particular CVT in the Vios is a later version, and comes with a torque converter to reduce shift shock. For the sporty types, there is a 7-speed Sport Sequential Shiftmatic mode for UP/DOWN shifting using the gear shift lever.
Meanwhile, on the engine side, the new engine features dual VVTi, which means variable valve timing is available both on the inlet and exhaust camshafts – this provides greater flexibility in engine tuning, thus improving fuel efficiency and power delivery. The engine now uses Iridium spark plugs and a re-designed combustion chamber improves the combustion process. Other improvements include oil jets for piston lubrication to reduce friction.
VSC (Vehicle Stability Control) is now standard across all variants, together with ABS, EBD, and BA. For the higher spec versions, (Vios TRD Sportivo, 1.5 GX, and 1.5G), rear disc brakes are fitted as standard. Other safety items include dual SRS airbags for driver and front passenger, seat belts with pre-tensioners, a collapsible steering column with breakaway feature, and a knee brace for the driver. For the rear, there are three 3-point belts, and ISOFIX points. The top 4 variants are also fitted with a reverse camera.
From the exterior, there are small visual differences, but possibly not enough to distinguish the new from the not-so new – the main items are new 15-inch alloys, an aero-kit fitted to the Vios 1.5 GX, which is available as an option for the 1.5E and the 1.5J; Daytime Running Lights (DRL) are now incorporated into the front bumper.
Keyless entry and keyless start are now standard features across all variants. The top four variants, (1.5 TRD Sportivo, 1.5 GX, 1.5G and 1.5E) get a 2-DIN head unit with a 6.8 inch touch-screen and DVD player, with AUX, USB ports and Voice recognition, plus leather upholstery.
On the road, the Vios behaved very much as expected. Power delivery is good, and the CVT delivered as promised. Acceleration with the CVT is seamless, and as long as you are reasonably gentle with the acceleration (as 85 to 90 percent of normal drivers are) you will get along just fine. Driven normally, you will enjoy the benefit of smooth motoring, and you will love it when you experience the improved fuel economy. However, if you are in a hurry, and push pedal to the metal, the CVT will spend more time in the lower gears and your engine will be pushing its limits as the CVT senses your need for power and keeps it in a lower gear to give you maximum acceleration. Having said that, in a conventional 4-speed automatic, if you did the same thing, the engine would also be spending a lot of time in 3rd gear instead of in 4th gear, and you would hear the engine screaming in much the same tone too. Thus, given the choice of a 4-speed automatic or a CVT, the CVT wins, simply because it can provide a smoother drive and give more fuel economy.
Engine power is adequate for the 1.1 tonne kerb weight (weight varies slightly across variants), and the new Vios, just like all the Vios before it, has no problem moving this mass. It is not the most powerful car in its class, nor is it the slowest – there is just enough, with nothing lacking, and the Toyota Vios is reputed to be one of the most reliable cars around, like a faithful servant, never demanding much attention, but ever ready to serve.
The Toyota designers have pretty much sorted out the suspension throughout the years – the Vios was always a good handler – it is well sprung, on the firm side of comfortable, which is what a car of this size and weight should be sprung – so that it can still carry another 30 to 35 percent in weight and still behave with dignity on the road. Throughout our test drive session, handling was never a problem.
At the end of the test drive, here is our verdict – the new Toyota Vios, despite being an upgrade, has turned out to be a better car than the one it replaces – it doesn’t look very different, but it will perform its designated tasks better with its new engine and transmission. With VSC and other safety features across all variants, the Vios is now safer than ever. A Total of six variants are available, including a base model with CVT, and a base model with a 5-speed manual.