Sep 16, 2009
In this day and age of economic difficulty, you can’t help but be practical with just about everything. You try to minimize costs, and you try to stretch each and every Peso as much as you can. The same idea trickles down to just about anything from grocery shopping, eating out, buying clothes, and even buying cars.
If you’re on a tight budget, going for a second hand auto might be one option, with a lot of five to ten year old cars going for PhP 200 thousand to PhP 350 thousand and so forth. But when you think of maintenance costs, nothing beats a brand new car. You might be better off putting that money into the down payment. Paying the monthly dues would probably be better (and sometimes cheaper) than monthly repair and maintenance expenses you would be shelling out regularly with an older car.
In terms of practicality, there are three things you would usually look for: utility, ease of maintenance and fuel consumption. In the local market, there are usually two main competitors, which are the Honda City and the Toyota Vios. They are in the same price range (although the City retails a bit higher), have similar fuel consumption ranges, and similar carrying capacity. Both are offered in 1.3 and 1.5 liter displacement engines: VTEC engine for the City and VVT-i engine for the Vios. What’s great is that both brands carry high resale value in the local market.
The past few weeks, I’ve been able to review the E variant Toyota Vios. Featured in review photos is the “Azure” Blue variant. The E variant in the Philippine market is basically similar to the entry-level J variant in that they both run on a 2NZ-FE 1.3 liter engine, but unlike its spartan sibling, the E variant has the following features:
- power windows,
- central door locks,
- 14″ alloy wheels,
- Anti-lock braking system,
- protective side mouldings,
- driver’s-side airbag,
- Toyota Vehicle Security System,
- a different stereo head-unit.
The higher-end G variant gives you 15″ alloy wheels, foglamps, side-mirror turn signal lamps, rear disc brakes, and leather-bound steering-wheel with stereo remote-control. And of course, the G variant comes in manual and automatic transmission. You also have a choice of leather vs. fabric seats in the A/T variant. The Vios also comes in the S variant, which comes stock with
sporty body kits ducktail spoilers, ten-spoke 17″ wheels and HID headlamps.
Now as with most reviews here, I won’t focus too much on the technical aspects of the car. Perhaps I can leave that to the more experienced auto reviewers (such as this review on Big Big Car). But let’s focus on the review from an everyday driver’s point of view.
From someone used to a bigger ride, the Vios might at first be a jarring experience. With a shorter wheelbase than most compact cars, you tend to feel road bumps and humps more. Furthermore, the Vios’ suspension is a bit stiffer, compared to, say, the Corolla Altis, especially owing to the non-independent torsion beam rear suspension. I hear, though, that the Vios’ suspension is built for durability, and so I have no qualms against that. Also, the 2nd generation suspension is said to be softer than the 1st generation. So even if it doesn’t have the dampening capabilities of bigger vehicles (such as the recently test-driven Ford Everest or the Nissan Grand Livina, for instance), it’s good enough for a subcompact sedan, in my opinion.
If you’re used to riding the 1st generation (and also the facelifted 1.5 generation) Vios, you would appreciate the added comfort level of the 2nd generation Vios, which is said to have been upgraded in terms of ride comfort. While the 1st gen Vios was built for handling, the 2nd gen is better at comfort. The 2nd gen is heavier by about 100 kilograms, so you won’t win at drag races against the 1st gen, but you will have a more comfortable ride.
Judging from personal experience and from comments from other Toyota users, the 2nd generation Vios offers ample amount of space, which is good enough for a small family. The Vios is said to have bigger cabin space than the previous-generation Corolla Altis and the 1st and 1.5th generation Vios, and almost the same space as the current Corolla Altis. This is achieved through a cab-forward design, and the flat rear floor, which is really a boon for anyone sitting at the middle at the back.
My wife and I have two elementary school aged kids and a new baby, and we comfortably fit in the car. The trunk space is shorter than our Corolla, but this doesn’t stop us from fitting in our MacLaren Techno XLR stroller (umbrella-type) in the trunk, plus the kids’ bags and other accessories. The trunk is shorter and narrower (as compared to a Corolla’s, for instance) but a bit taller. It’s not as big as the latest generation Honda City‘s trunk, though (which is, to say, very big!).
Being used to a bigger car, I noticed, though, that the seats are a bit smaller than what I’d been used to. They call the seats “body hugging” but it’s only now that I realized this meant “smaller!” It needs a bit getting used to, but once you do get used to the smaller seat dimensions, you would be comfortable enough with it. Driver’s side seating position is good enough–the height is adjustable, but I doubt anyone would want to increase seat height, as this might reduce driving comfort (a higher center of gravity might increase the likelihood of carsickness).
Build quality and creature comforts
The solid thud when closing doors seems to be indicative of good build quality. That’s quite a feat from a “made in the Philippines” car (as printed out in a label inside the trunk). One thing I notice, though, which is also evident in Toyota’s other Asian-market vehicles like the IMV Innova, Fortuner and Hi-Lux is the prevalence of hard, cheap-feeling plastic. My old Corolla had some luxury feel to it–at least the plastic is soft and padded!
Still, I don’t think one can complain, given the affordability of the car. It’s not totally a utilitarian affair. The 2nd generation Vios does offer a host of creature comforts. First is the presence of a handful of cup holders and bottle holders. The front cup holders are situated right under the air conditioning vents, which is obviously meant to help keep drinks cool (if you’re drinking hot coffee, then perhaps you can just close the vents). Each front door pocket also has a bottle holder. Even the pockets at the front of the gearshift on both driver and passenger side has bottle holders. The rear only has one cup holder, though, and this has sometimes proved to be troublesome when my two older kids are seated at the back.
Under the steering column, I was surprised to find another small cubby hole, which is probably meant for sunglasses, ID cards, and the like. And what’s a car without a ticket holder for those gas receipts, toll booth coupons and bills for paying the parking. Only one of the sunvisors has a mirror, though, and it’s situated at the driver’s side! Hmm. Maybe the car is designed for the ladies, after all!
In car entertainment
The Vios E comes with a 2DIN integrated-type stereo system, which means it’s built-into the instrument panel. The Vios E’s stereo can play MP3 files (unlike the J, which only has a CD player), which means you can burn your compilation playlists, which is what I did. What’s great with MP3 playback is that you see the ID3 tag details right on the stereo’s screen–perfect for finding that right song. Since starting this review, I haven’t used my iPod much, as I mostly play our favorite iTunes playlists burned onto CD-R.
Security and Safety
The Vios 1.3 E comes with Toyota Vehicle Security System (TVSS), which is basically just your keyless entry system. It’s not as sophisticated as third party systems, because it will only sound the alarm when the doors and trunk are opened, and not when glass is broken, or cut, or when the body is tapped or hit. Other Asian market Vioses comes with immobilizer keys (meaning the car will only start if the key inserted has the correct transmitter chip), but our local variants don’t.
TVSS will be adequate if you’re not too security conscious. But if you are, I suggest you upgrade your alarm system (having an upgrade installed at the casa will not void your electrical warranty as long as you have them note this in the service booklet). It’s also not a good idea to leave valuables in the car when parking in public places. And do buy those steering wheel locks that can discourage theft.
The alarm buttons are situated on the key itself, which is a nice touch. You feel like the Vios is one of those more expensive cars with key-integrated alarm buttons.
Another note about they key–the Vios features alarm buzzer for various scenarios:
- They key is inserted, the engine is off, and the driver’s side door is open
- The car is traveling at greater than 25 Kph and the driver’s side seatbelt is not engaged.
Also, the driver’s side door will not lock from the outside without the key. This would help those who are forgetful about their keys by minimizing the possibility of your leaving the keys inside the car or in the ignition. A few other safety features include the “door” lamp staying on a few seconds after doors have closed. So until you turn on the ignition or lock the car thru TVSS, the light will be turned on.
The car will also not start without the clutch fully depressed. This will help avoid scenarios in which you start the car in gear, which could be dangerous. One problem here though–if you forget you’re in gear, you might suddenly release the clutch after starting, thus jolting the car forward (or backward). It happened to me once.
The E variant comes with a 1300 cc VVT-i engine, which provides just 85 horses under the hood. This is hardly racetrack material, but if you consider the power-to-weight ratio, you would be amazed at what the car can do. The 1.3 variant Vios has been known to reach 190 Kph at clear NLEX, SCTEX and SLEX stretches. I haven’t personally tried this, but I can say I can personally attest to the less-than-10 seconds zero to 100 acceleration.
The Vios E variant does have a relatively short 1st and 2nd gears, though, compared to the 1.5 G variant. This would aid in climbing steep inclines while carrying heavy loads. This can get you easier stop-go acceleration, but might not be as good for those who want quick speed offs when the stoplight turns green.
The new Vios is also equipped with a Drive-by-Wire (DBW) throttle, so those used to cable-type throttles will need getting used to this system. Whenever you step on the gas, you don’t actually pull a lever on the engine. Wires send a signal to the computer box (ECU), which then adjusts the throttle on the engine electronically. This is a boon, in terms of fuel consumption (and the ECU actually adapts to your driving habits), but some users might experience that dreaded acceleration lag.
The car’s small size makes it easy to drive in city streets. It’s unbelievably easy to park, too, with a small turning radius (4.9 m). The electric power steering (EPS) also makes turning very light, but with adequate feedback. This is great when parking in tight spots. But when you’re cruising at 120 Kph, the EPS loses its feather-lightedness, for added safety.
Driver seating position is also good enough for me, but someone taller (I’m 5’3″) might have issues, especially with legroom. The cab-forward design means shorter legroom at the front. So those used to longer cars might find issue with this. Also, the steering wheel is tilt-adjusting only, and not telescoping (unlike with the new Corolla Altis and even the new Honda City), which limits usability a bit, if you’re particular with driving position. I like my steering wheel at the lowest position with the Vios. My only complaint is the limited rear visibiltiy, owing to the tall trunk.
As with the 1st generation, the Vios’ instrument panel is situated to the center. This will take getting used to. But the advantage here is that positioning the instrument cluster at this level reduces the need for vertical eye movement. Therefore, you can focus on the road. Yes, it will require horizontal eye movement, but at least your field of vision is still mostly on the road.
The E variant doesn’t have the Optitron gauges, which mostly just means your tachometer and speedometer are brighter. Still, with the E (and with the J variant), you can adjust the brightness of the instrument panel at night, when your headlamps or parking lamps are turned on. The instrument cluster also includes a digital fuel meter, which is right beside the clock. This is excellent for hypermilers out there–it looks like a cellphone battery meter. Each bar is equivalent to about 5 liters of gasoline. The Vios E doens’t have a real-time fuel consumption meter, though, like on the Honda City.
Probably the best Vios feature is its fuel consumption. Reviews at Vios Club Philippines peg it at about 12-14 Km/L city driving and up to 18-20 Km/L highway. Now when it comes to 1.3 vs. 1.5 L, it’s a mixed bag. If you’re mostly driving alone or with just one passenger, then you get the best combination of power and fuel economy with the 1.3 L. But when you’re always fully loaded, you might want to consider the more powerful G variant.
Also, all new Vios owners would probably be appalled at the puny-sounding horn. It’s more like “mit-mit” rather than “beep beep.” Heck, my old car has a stronger horn than the Vios. I read that new cars have puny horns because brands and dealers are trying to contribute to reducing noise pollution.
It’s not as spirited as other sportier cars out there, but I can say the Vios is a fun ride–especially with the high power-to-weight ratio!
The Toyota Vios 1.3 E is a practical choice as a daily commuter. It’s good enough for a bachelor, bachelorette, or a small family just starting out in life. Sure, it’s not as high tech and sophisticated as higher-end vehicles out there, but you get a solid, reliable car from a reputable, reliable brand. It’s also a great vehicle for the green-minded individual, because of its fuel efficiency.
Priced at PhP 664,000, you won’t go wrong with the Vios. Toyota Philippines even has an ongoing low-downpayment and easy terms promo (up to September 30th) for the Vios (and Innova). You can get the Vios E for 15% or even 10% downpayment–that’s about PhP 80k++ down payment, and at PhP 13k++ monthly installments for the five-year plan. Most dealers would even give you cash discounts, free registration and/or insurance, and free chattel mortgage for lease-to-own plans (which amounts to about PhP 30k).
If you’re looking for a great deal, I would recommend Toyota Makati. Look for Ms. Maya Generoso at +632 897-3333. Thanks to Toyota Makati for this Azure Blue Vios 1.3E.
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