Toyota Motor is certainly no slave to introductions, as this Japanese car maker has proven its mettle time and time again with their iconic fleet of cars. Sure their ever changing design dynamics have prevented them from bringing out timeless models such as the Volkswagen Beetle or Shelby Cobra. But that clearly doesn’t stop them from being the global market leaders when it comes to sales figures. The high demand for Toyota brand cars has been yet again exemplified in the Philippines, as seen in the automotive sales report published by the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. (Phew that’s a long title!). According to this report, Toyota have managed to secure the top spot with a 39.92% market share.
Although they have at least one car in every segment for the Philippine market, the model that fetched them most sales is their B-Segment sedan, the Toyota Vios. The Vios is currently present in its 2015 incarnation and is offered with a choice of two engines namely the 1.3-litre VVT-i and 1.5-litre VVT-i. Both engines come with either a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic transmission. While the majority of sales are attributed to the entry level 1.3-litre manual, we chose to test out the highest trim in the 1.3-litre series with the automatic transmission. So let’s take a look at how it feels like driving the Toyota Vios 1.3 E A/T.
I must admit that I’m not a personal fan of sedan styled cars, simply because of the fact that they’re a mess to maneuver in heavy traffic. But since I drove a larger sized Innova last week, I certainly feel a little more confidant as the vehicle was a breeze to drive even in the narrowest and busiest of Manila streets. So I am pretty sure that the Vios too will be a fun to drive car.
As the Vios was presented to me for testing, I was actually impressed by its simplistic yet elegant design. Plus the management at Toyota Motor Philippines was kind enough to provide me with the Red-Mica body color for the test car. Although most colors look great on the Vios, the red-mica particularly highlights all the design details in my opinion. The 2015 Vios closely follows the same design aesthetics as displayed on the Corolla Altis and certainly looked much posh than any other model in the B-Segment. Yes one can argue that the City looks a little better but the Philippine buyers clearly don’t give a damn about that. The Vios’ front has been chromed up and looks pretty aggressive with the sleek wraparound headlights, thinner yet more pronounced shoulder lines and wraparound taillights. The radiator grille on the Vios sits seamlessly with the black colored front bumper that matches the color on the foglamp housing.
Other than the nicely designed tail lights, the Vios’ rear looks pretty standard with its 3-box design. The manufacturers have now scrapped the 3-box layout with the 2017 model that was unveiled recently, but that still remains to be seen in the Philippines. The A/T variant for the 1.3 E has also been supplied with 14-inch alloys, making it look pretty upmarket, while shedding excess weight from the car. Yes the Vios looks pretty simple as compared to the Honda City’s more appealing design but looking at the higher demand for Vios, looks certainly do not matter this time.
Being the higher variant, 1.3 E’ interiors feel far more premium and upmarket as compared to the base model. The dash looks absolutely stunning with silver accents and tan/black colored panels. The 3-spoke multifunction electric steering feels solid to hold and has built in audio controls for ease of operation while driving. The wide gap between the steering spokes ensures a highly visible instrument cluster placed traditionally behind the steering wheel. This model also comes with climate control that does a great job in enhancing the interior comfort while keeping you chilled even in the most dreaded heat waves outside.
Owners might particularly enjoy the car’s audio system, which unlike the base variant comes equipped with a 7-inch touch screen panel. It can easily play multiple media formats and CDs along with support for external devices such as smartphones and iPods along with bluetooth and voice commands. The speakers sound really nice and provide a healthy mix of high and low frequencies that would suit most musical genres. I particularly enjoyed listening to some classic heavy metal while taking it for a drive and the speakers sounded really great. The A/C vents have also been neatly positioned that cools the vehicle quickly for both front and rear occupants. The seats for the 1.3 E have also been wrapped in premium leather upholstery, which further pushes the luxury quotient in the vehicle almost in tandem with C-Segment cars.
The rear seats too, look pretty comfortable with plenty of leg space and headroom and have been provided with seat belts for safety. The boot space in the trunk is also pretty decent and can easily fit heavy luggage with ease.
Now finally coming to how the vehicle actually feels while driving. As we tested out the 1.3 E variant it was certainly a great experience that I had never felt while driving a B-segment vehicle. The Honda City also drives great with its CVT transmission, but the Vios’ 4-speed ECT feels far more organic and does a great job while driving in busy areas. I had already mentioned how I wasn’t very comfortable with larger sized vehicles, especially sedans as I live in the city area and owning such a vehicle isn’t a very smart choice considering the heavy traffic. But to my surprise the Vios was even better than the Innova when we talk about ease of driving. The steering felt as light a breeze with a really good response from the automatic transmission.
Although I am still certain that the 1.5-litre variant will be a much more fun to drive vehicle, with or without the automatic transmission, but even the 1.3 litre variant does the trick for me (and I drive a Brio to work everyday). Before I drove the Vios, I wondered why such a simplistic looking vehicle could out sell the better looking Honda City.
Driving the Vios not only re-instilled my faith in sedans but also how Toyota Motors have reached the position that they’re currently at. The ride felt extremely smooth even though I encountered a number of potholes and the steering was far more responsive than any vehicle in its class. The Vios’ weight does an excellent job at muffing most vibrations from the road along with a remarkable suspension that provides a highly comfortable drive. The braking is also far more reliable with all 4 wheels fitted with ventilated disc brakes that effectively brings the vehicle to a standstill in matter of seconds. The braking has been further enhanced with the inclusion of anti-lock braking system with electronic brakeforce distribution adding more safety to the Vios. Fuel economy on the other hand remained a special concern as I have already mentioned that I drive a Brio and compared to that, the Vios is pretty much a gas guzzler especially with the automatic transmission. But the automatic gearbox certainly does a great job at keeping fuel consumption to a down low in slow moving traffic, while maintaining driving comfort. The 1.3-litre engine provides a max output of 85 hp with 122 nm of torque that can easily help the vehicle achieve speeds up to 180 kmph, which sounds really good considering its engine size.
The 2015 Vios is offered in a total of 7 variants for the Philippine market, with 4 models underpinning the 1.3-litre mill and 3 models with the 1.5-litre mill. The models for the 1.3-litre engine are 1.3 J Base, 1.3 J MT, 1.3 E MT and 1.3 E AT. The remaining trims are the 1.5 G MT, 1.5 G AT and an Exclusive 1.5-litre engine powered variant.
Being one of the few times that I actually loved driving a sedan, the Vios totally deserves the special position it has achieved in the Philippine market. Do not expect a sports car like handling with this vehicle but it would certainly not disappoint the average buyer who’s looking for a great vehicle at an affordable price.