For so long as I might keep in mind, the B-segment sedan market was the epicentre of the Malaysian automotive business – it was the phase that commanded probably the most consideration and one which had the best impression on our purchasing habits. And whereas loads of phase gamers have come and gone, two titans stay etched in shoppers’ minds – the Honda Metropolis and the Toyota Vios.
Each automobiles battled it out for many years as king of this hotly-contested phase, every taking turns to deal blows with each passing era, and every seemingly unwilling to again down. In recent times, it was the extra trendy, extra competent Metropolis that secured the lead, serving to Honda break Toyota’s stranglehold on the non-national gross sales title, in addition to turning into the second hottest model general.
Not a second too quickly, the brand new Vios was launched simply final month, right here to reclaim the bottom it misplaced. This time, nevertheless, there’s extra to the battle than simply its arch nemesis – in case you haven’t heard, the SUV is the brand new “in” factor, and with the emergence of the ever-popular Honda HR-V and with fashions from Proton and Perodua encroaching into the phase’s worth vary, it’s getting very crowded certainly.
So, seconds out, spherical 4 – is the brand new Vios ok not simply to beat its bitter rival, but in addition fend off the extra fascinating crossovers within the periphery – and make consumers overlook that big entrance grille? Toyota was longing for us to seek out out, so it received us to drive the newest heavyweight contender all the best way to Desaru and again for a correct check.
Toyota might invoice this Vios as all new, however it truly rides on the identical platform as earlier than, courting again to the second-gen mannequin from 2007. It doesn’t also have a new mannequin code – as an alternative, it continues the identical NSP151 designation as its predecessor. To not matter, as a result of just about every part you possibly can see and really feel (besides the engine and transmission, which we’ll get to later) has been revamped in a method or one other.
Not least of that are the seems, and it’s right here that the corporate determined to throw warning to the wind, its Eager Look design language reaching cartoonish ranges. It’s the entrance finish that’s divisive, with a humongous decrease grille giving the automotive a completely large grin, and a slim central inlet appearing as a “moustache”. The impact is amplified by the vertical fog mild surrounds that sit on the far corners of the bumper, flanking the grille.
The remainder of the design is fairly simple, with broader, slimmer and sharper head- and tail lights contributing to a wider look. Alongside the aspect, a brand new shoulder line sweeps upwards aft from the entrance wheels and stretches in the direction of the rear doorways, and there’s additionally a second line that crosses the door handles on its means in the direction of the tail lights. The beltline additionally sweeps up extra elegantly than earlier than.
As an alternative of providing a tarted-up TRD Sportivo mannequin on the prime quality, UMW Toyota Motor is offering a bodykit as a standalone choice on all fashions. I by no means favored these kits as they all the time added loads of visible bulk, however I’ll admit that the entrance grille garnish on this one does disguise the dimensions of that grille considerably.
The inside is extra typical, with the one controversial bit being the Lexus NX-esque protruding centre console. The pretend stitching on the exhausting plastic dashboard is simply as offensive as ever, however the presentation is a minimum of slightly extra tasteful right here, and it’s all screwed collectively in typical Toyota bombproof trend.
A brand new function is the standard-fit automated air-conditioning, which was beforehand solely provided in different markets, though you continue to don’t get rear vents. Corolla Altis house owners will probably be conversant in the redesigned three-spoke steering wheel, which loses the outgoing mannequin’s barely flattened backside however nonetheless has a rim that’s only a contact too thick for my liking, and which nonetheless doesn’t regulate for attain.
Behind it sit a pair of clear, legible dials (considerably obscured by reflections) that do a flowery sweeping movement on startup, in addition to a brand new four.2-inch color multi-info show that has been seen on every part from the Camry to the 86. On the again, the rear cupholders (there at the moment are two of them) have been moved into the rear armrest, and the brand new USB charging ports are a godsend – even when they appear to be full afterthoughts.
Don’t anticipate any miracles when it comes to cabin area, as the outside dimensions stay largely similar. Positive, at four,425 mm lengthy and 1,730 mm large, the brand new automotive is 15 mm longer and 30 mm wider, nevertheless it retains the previous automotive’s 1,475 mm peak and a couple of,550 mm wheelbase, so no packaging breakthroughs right here.
Certainly, you’re not gonna discover rear legroom that may put D-segment sedans to disgrace – that’s nonetheless the Metropolis’s get together trick – and rear headroom can also be slightly tight because of the sloping roofline. Nevertheless it’s not what you’d name cramped by any stretch of the creativeness, and also you’ll nonetheless match 4 adults comfortably.
The boot, which measures the identical 506 litres as earlier than, is likewise not class main nevertheless it’s lots for groceries and baggage. Do keep in mind, nevertheless, that the 60:40-split rear seats don’t fold utterly flat, the ensuing bump making loading longer gadgets a ache; the pews are additionally fastened on the bottom J variant.
One space that sees a much-needed enchancment is security. All fashions now get seven airbags as normal (up from simply two earlier than), becoming a member of stability management that was launched throughout the vary in 2016. What’s extra, the highest G mannequin receives blind spot monitoring, however sadly you continue to don’t get autonomous emergency braking. Come on, Toyota – you will get a Perodua Myvi with this type of know-how!
The engine stays unchanged for 2019, retaining the 2NR-FE 1.5 litre Twin VVT-i naturally-aspirated four-cylinder mill that makes the identical outputs as earlier than – 107 PS at 6,000 rpm and 140 Nm of torque at four,200 rpm. It’s now paired solely to a constantly variable transmission with a seven-speed mode (and new paddle shifters for the G), which means that, for the primary time, there gained’t be a guide choice, not even on the J.
Sure, earlier than you rush into the feedback, it’s yet one more carryover engine and gearbox for the Vios, however at the very least right here they’re each pretty up-to-date, being solely three years previous. Certainly, the powertrain doesn’t really feel in any respect outdated – it’s responsive and creamy clean, and I’m fairly positive it should ship the type of gasoline effectivity that consumers have come to anticipate on this phase.
What it does really feel is underpowered. Positive, a deficit of 13 PS and 5 Nm over the Metropolis might not appear to be a lot, however when each energy and torque outputs are barely into triple figures, you’re going to note the distinction. Particularly should you examine the 2 automobiles back-to-back, like what Toyota allow us to do in the course of the drive.
Whereas the Honda will virtually leap off the road, the Toyota struggles to rise up to freeway speeds, although the engine itself is perky and prepared to rev. It wants all the assistance it may well get, and fortunately the CVT has been retuned to mitigate the relative lack of tempo.
I’ve beforehand criticised the transmission for being sluggish, and the recalibration goes a way in the direction of addressing that, the CVT responding noticeably faster to throttle inputs. The Metropolis is faster nonetheless however at occasions it feels slightly overeager, so it may be a bit troublesome to drive easily. The Vios counters by reacting in additional gradual and progressive method, which is a profit in stop-start visitors.
In fact, you’ll be able to mess around with the brand new Sport mode (conversely, an Eco mode can also be out there), which truly does a commendable job in making the automotive really feel extra sprightly, holding the engine at greater revs and working extra like a stepped automated transmission.
The snappy seven-speed perform additionally does a greater job of mimicking precise gears in comparison with different comparable methods – regardless that the paddles themselves really feel disappointingly low cost. I’d depart it as it’s, nevertheless; that is nonetheless a household automotive, in any case, and there’s solely a lot the CVT can do to masks the shortfall in energy.
It’s simply as nicely, then, that Toyota has not tried to chase a sportier driving expertise, and as an alternative sought to enhance the Vios’ already spectacular experience consolation and refinement. To that finish, torsional rigidity has been elevated because of a larger variety of spot welding factors and using underbody reinforcement, and spring and damper charges have additionally been up to date.
The automotive’s deputy chief engineer Akira Kasamatsu informed us Toyota not solely benchmarked the brand new Vios towards the Metropolis but in addition bigger, extra refined C-segment fashions – and it clearly exhibits. Subsequent to the Honda, this can be a far more enjoyable automotive to cruise in on the freeway, with a lot decrease street and wind noise even at speeds nicely over triple figures – undoubtedly helped by the acoustic windscreen discovered on the E and G fashions.
It additionally has the extra absorbent journey, with smooth springs and affordable damping serving to to iron out a lot of our pockmarked roads, although it could possibly’t fairly shake off a budget, hole really feel of most Japanese B-segment fashions. The result’s a calmer drive, whether or not you’re simply pootling alongside or travelling at a quicker tempo.
Out on the open street, the Metropolis’s sharper steering makes a direct first impression, however a scarcity of physique management additionally signifies that it feels extra nervous as speeds climb, an unlucky Honda trait in recent times. The Vios, in the meantime, is extra composed and secure – however two issues rely towards it.
Firstly, the automotive oddly tends to get affected by crosswinds, even on the nationwide velocity restrict, inflicting it to meander round in its personal lane. Correcting its trajectory isn’t such an easy activity, both, no because of the steering that’s so sluggish and obscure as to offer you no sense of connection to the entrance wheels.
As you’d anticipate, this additionally counts towards the Vios with regards to going round corners, with the numb helm and extreme physique roll discouraging you from driving in a extra spirited method, although the chassis itself is greater than able to coping. Regardless of its sporting pretensions, this can be a automotive whose comfort-oriented character nudges you into taking issues sluggish so as to respect its strengths.
Don’t let the stylistic overhaul idiot you – the brand new Vios isn’t a wholesale revolution. Relatively, it’s a surprisingly nuanced rejuvenation that leans closely on the issues that made this phase stalwart such a favorite for household consumers within the first place. Nevertheless (and this can be a private factor), I’ve all the time felt that UMW Toyota’s follow of providing bodykits and its insistence of turning it into an novice race automotive sends combined alerts.
For that is not the sportiest providing on this phase, neither possessing probably the most highly effective engine nor probably the most dynamic of dealing with traits. For higher or for worse, it’s the Metropolis that will provide you with what little enjoyment that may be had on this worth vary. However then, if efficiency and driver involvement is what you’re on the lookout for, what on earth are you doing looking for a B-segment sedan?
Extra worrying for Toyota is the rising brigade of crossovers trying to steal its lunch cash, and we’ll have to attend and see if the market will shift away from the standard four-door. Be in little question, nevertheless, that the Vios has by no means been higher outfitted to take all of them head on. However you’ll should recover from that huge mouth first.
The brand new Toyota Vios is on sale in Malaysia, priced at RM77,200 for the 1.5J variant, RM81,200 for the 1.5E and and RM87,300 for the 1.5G. Browse full specs and gear on CarBase.my.
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