Subcompact wanderer

In Photo: Five variants of the all-new Vios lined up with other Toyota vehicles

LAST month we have seen the all-new Vios emerged in a completely remodeled exterior figure and interior layout when it was finally revealed by Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP).

Inside the 1.5 G Prime model’s elegant cabin

While the new design didn’t come as a surprise to some of us, considering the vehicle’s numerous shared attributes with the new Yaris, still the anticipation was high among the fanatics to finally witness their favorite subcompact sedan in a renewed form.  With six variants to choose from, the all-new Vios comes with top-notch specifications,  first-rate accessories, and a five-star Asean NCAP (New Car Assessment Program) score in terms of advanced safety features.

In order to assess the new-generation Vios’s performance on the road, TMP recently took select members of the motoring media in a series of long-distance drive to La Union, Baguio, and back to Manila.  Minus the 1.5 G variant, the entire roster of five other models were commissioned along with other top spec Toyota vehicles.  Groups were able to experience different variants during the drive event.  In our case, we were fortunate to have tested both the top-of-the-line and base models. 

The 1.5 G Prime variant in La Union

Experiencing the 1.3 base model on the freeway

Intended for taxi fleet or other form of public transport operations, the 1.3 base model obviously doesn’t possess the embellishments found in the premium variants.  But despite only trimmed with mostly black accents and lacking the rim cover, the innovative look of the new exterior design was still a standout, at least for a base model.  Even the interior is practically built with hard plastics and urethane materials, but easy to maintain, nonetheless. 

Still, the dark-themed interior with fresh dashboard layout and new three-spoke helm contributed to that different driving feel factor.  Moreover, the new Bluetooth-equipped two-din audio head unit not only looks modern, but also has telephony function and a USB outlet.  Even the seats are draped in black leatherette material.  Rear passengers would definitely enjoy the generous legroom and comfy bench along with a comfortable ride.

The 1.3 E five-speed manual variant at Camp John Hay in Baguio

Generating 98 hp and 123 N-m of maximum torque, the 1.3-liter 1NR-FE motor inherited from the previous generation is proven to be reliable for city as well as highway dwellings.  Despite working really hard to haul the vehicle carrying four passengers with luggage and equipment at the trunk, the motor’s performance didn’t disappoint at all.  At least the coupled five-speed manual gearbox aided in squeezing more torque gear after gear.  Behind the wheel, the drive along North Luzon Expressway until Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway was steady with decent noise suppression, except for the tolerable tire resonances.

But operating the gearbox’s final drive was when we observed more interesting elements.  For one, reaching the high speed limit at relatively higher rpm, the engine seemed to be summoning for an extra gear.  Another was the motor’s swift acceleration in between high speed limits in the last gear.  Safe to say that the engine’s relatively higher rpm in the final drive approaching the peak rev range also enabled it to produce better torque output.   

The 1.5-liter 2NR-FE engine of the G grades

Hill climb with the 1.5 G Prime variant

On the following day, our group was assigned to test the top spec 1.5 G Prime model.  More exterior add-ons were evident, complementing the vehicle’s radiant Super Red shade.  From the chrome accents, piano black finishes, projector-type headlamps, to the16-inch alloy wheels. The keen-looking front end has a slightly different bumper design coming from the larger fog lamp frames, plus the daylight running lights just below the headlights.  Even the LED rear combination lamps have line guides.  But adding more form factor are the bumper and side skirts along with the rear spoiler.

The interior, meantime, is absolutely elegant with all the bells and whistles you can find in a premium subcompact sedan.  Even the dashboard has more details from combined silver, piano black and leather trims.  There’s also the 7-inch touch-operated infotainment running on Android platform.  Seats are more snug with enough paddings and bolsters.  While the rear legroom is undoubtedly generous, the extended center console may hinder the third passenger.  But still, the elegant cabin complements more the quiet and comfortable ride.

Powered by the more powerful 1.5-liter 2NR-FE motor, it generates 106 hp with a 140 N-m of maximum torque and mated to a CVT (continuous variable transmission).  The next drive through a 90-plus-kilometer provincial highway with twisties and variable ascents from La Union to Baguio was the ultimate test for the more powerful G Prime variant.  This time with even heavier loads, the engine worked harder as soon as we began tackling the ascents.  While the CVT is seamless on highways and leveled roads, dealing with gradients became otherwise.  There was a need to manually override the gear shifting to stay on optimum range, much more when the situation calls for overtaking.  Good thing that the top spec model is equipped with manual mode, as well as paddle shifters. Downshifting to squeeze more torque was faster and easier.

On zigzags, the vehicle also demonstrated good maneuverability.  Even though there was more weight from the rear, there was still enough steering feedback that made tackling constant turns more controllable.  Also, there was minimal to even zero body roll felt mainly due to the vehicle’s heavy load, which lowered the frame significantly. Operating the paddle shifters also proved to be beneficial on quick downshifting for acceleration or during engine braking prior to entering tight curves.  The Baguio climb only validated that even climbing the ascents with heavy loads, you can still push the all-new Vios to perform and reach your travel destination trouble-free.

 

Image Credits: Randy S. Peregrino

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