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Test Drive Review: Toyota Vios 1.5 TRD Sportivo



The popularity of this car is simply staggering. Get this, before this new version was even launched, UMW Toyota had 3,000 bookings in hand, and to date, more than 17,000 have signed the dotted line for one. Those are not typos, it’s just that for some reason the Vios is just phenomenally popular, especially amongst first-time car buyers and those looking for a logical upgrade from something they’ve inherited from a sibling.


Perhaps one of the reasons this car is so popular is the fact that there’s one variant for every car-buying budget out there, because in total there are five different variants of the new Vios to choose from. This one is the top-of-the-line 1.5 TRD Sportivo with all the bells and whistles and it costs RM93,200. For exactly 20k less, there’s the introductory Vios 1.5J 5-speed manual. Yes, manual! This introductory manual variant is then followed by three different 4-speed autos in J, E and G spec, priced at RM77,300, RM82,900 and RM88,500 respectively.


In terms of external looks, and while fully admitting that looks are subjective (I really don’t think the previous one looked anything like a Dugong actually), the new Vios is a lot better looking now. The rear has shades of Altis and Camry in it, while the front bears more than a passing resemblance to the new Estima, while the lower part of the front bumper is very ‘Camry’ indeed. Toyota calls it a ‘Keen Look’ expression, which perhaps contributed to the additional 110mm increase in length over its predecessor. The new Vios is also 15mm taller than the one before.


This variant also gets a different set of sporty looking TRD alloys, along with the full body-kit which comprises full skirts, front bumper spoiler with daytime running lights, rear bumper spoiler and trunk spoiler. Aesthetically though, with the whole kit and caboodle, the 15-inch alloys look a bit too small, and chances are that’s the first thing buyers will opt to change.


In terms of powertrain, while there are five variants, they’re all powered by the same 1,497cc, 1NZ-FE in-line 4-cylinder, DOHC, 16v engine with variable-valve timing. Power is rated at a respectable (for a 1.5L) 109bhp and 141Nm of torque. Sadly though, the new Vios is still utilizing a 4-speed auto w/ECT, and buyers who insist on a 5-speeder will have to buy the manual variant instead.


Over on the inside, the TRD Sportivo is definitely going to please the more ‘spirited’ boy-racer types thanks to some rather sporty accents like the chrome rimmed dials (housing the biggest damn fuel-gauge I’ve ever seen), leather semi-bucket ‘TRD Sportivo’ front seats with red inlays, red stitching on the leather-wrapped steering wheel, carpet mats with red lining, and of course, the obligatory push start/stop button.


One thing that caught my eye though was the ‘stitching’ on the dashboard and doors (above). In an attempt to perhaps make the internal looks of the car a tad more sporty and upmarket, Toyota actually molded the plastics of the aforementioned areas to include actual faux-stitching!


On the move though, the actual drivability of the Vios TRD somewhat belies the external looks of the car. It’s very smooth and composed, with interior NVH levels that could actually put larger and more upmarket cars to shame. The suspension provides a good combination of comfort and decent handling (within reason), while the overall ergonomics are very good.


The engine however, never really voices any protest, except when gunned. The gearbox is quick to kick-down though, but the racket from under the hood can be a bit unsettling as the revs climb to the thick end of the 6500rpm redline. On the plus side, it’s not an unnecessary racket, because for a naturally-aspirated 1.5L, this car is pretty quick, and gets past legal limits very fast. I distinctly recall seeing 140km/h on the speedometer, with the car showing no signs of slowing down, at all. A kerb weight of a mere 1,095kg could have something to do with that. By the way, the 5-speed manual variant weighs 45kg less, so I imagine that will be even quicker.


All in all, and looking at it as a whole (not just this TRD Sportivo variant alone) there’s little to not like about the new Vios. It’s an honest car. It doesn’t over-promise, nor under-deliver in any way. It’s one of those cars that define “you get what you pay for”. It’s comfortable, ergonomically sound, economical to run, well-equipped with dual airbags, ABS, EBD, brake assist and Isofix in all the variants and because it’s a Toyota, it’s a given that it’s going to be reliable. And maybe, just maybe, that’s the biggest psychological draw of all.