Story by Harvinder Singh Sidhu
The Toyota Vios is doing well in placing itself among the best in terms of sales in Malaysia’s B-Segment vehicle class, even with strong opposition from the Honda City, as well as from the much cheaper Proton GEN2.
To help maintain the Vios’ strong stance in the segment especially that the new City is here, and to prove that Vios can also be used to take you from point A to point B swiftly, UMW Toyota Motor has been working around the clock to come up with an official TRD (Toyota Racing Development) performance and styling package to offer Vios drivers the option to make their city movers look a little more aggressive, and perform a little better in the engine performance and suspension departments.
The auto maker has transformed two standard Vios’ (Automatic S and manual J). Although still in the development stage, Toyota has decided to pass on both these cars to us to find out what we think. Before we move on to these upgraded rides, lets first check out the standard Toyota Vios S.
Continue reading after the jump.
Toyota Vios S Automatic
The current Vios features an “organic” design style, with more curves and a more “roundish” look. Personally, I prefer the previous Vios, as it looks a little more “solid” and aggressive, over the current design language. With a design that, to me, is more suited to the opposite gender, the top of the line Vios S comes with a few more additional fitments over the base models that help improve its rather modest looks.
These include 15 inch 5-spoke alloy wheels, and an Aerokit which comprises of a front bumper spoiler, side skirting, and a trunk spoiler that helps the Vios feature a wider stance which is a good thing. The Vios S also comes with a chrome package can be seen on the rear license plate garnish and on the body side moulding.
There are also wing mirrors (power adjustable & retractable) with integrated signal lamps. Although the opinion on the exterior design is very much subjective, and that the large number of Vios’ on the road is a clear indication of how most of us feel about the car, I just wished that the exhaust tail pipe is straightened, instead of featuring a visible tip that points downwards.
The first thing I noticed as I got into the Vios S, is the very much noticeable finish quality of the dashboard, in terms of visible gaps that are not consistent. It looks as though its put together better, especially compared to the base Vios J series, which can be justified by the lower price tag. But wouldn’t it be good if both car models offer the same finish quality?
To me, with a height of 178 cm, sitting on the driver’s seat isn’t much of a problem, with decent legroom and headroom, but I feel that the steering angle can be further improved. Although the steering angle is adjustable, but I feel that the Vios can offer a better seating position if the steering can be tilted upwards a little more, perhaps by an inch.
With even an inch, it would give a person with an average height a more comfortable and sporty seating position. Even at maximum setting, the steering wheel is mounted rather too low, and it should prove to be a little difficult for a plus sized individual to feel completely comfortable behind the wheel.
The other thing about the Vios seating position is it’s rather high, more towards the typical sitting position of a car like the Honda Jazz rather than of a sedan. I know most women like this but it feels odd, like you’re sitting on a stool rather than nicely cosseted in a chair.
Apart from the above, the Toyota Vios is pretty much a decent place to be in, with easily reachable switches and buttons. The Vios S and G comes with a dashboard integrated audio system with steering mounted controls that features MP3 and WMA playback with a CD player, tuner as well as 6 speakers and a printed antenna. The Vios S also comes with a Multi Information Display (MID). To me, the centre mounted instrument panel isn’t much of a problem, and I did not find any difficulty getting used to it.
With a generous use of plastic that is justified by a rather affordable price tag, the Vios also features a comfortable rear cabin with adequate legroom and head clearance. The practicality of the interior is also enhanced with a total of three cup/bottle holders, excluding two bottle holders featured on the front door cards. The Vios also has a number of compartments, such as the ones both sides of the lower part centre console, as well as a storage compartment on the right side of steering wheel. The rear seat back rest can also be folded down via a 60:40 split (for all models expect J) to help increase its 400 litres trunk space.
The front wheel drive Toyota Vios features an inline 4-cylinder DOHC 16-valve 1.5 litre powerplant with VVT-i and, in the case of the Vios S, is mated to a 4 speed automatic with Super ECT and a gate shifter with ratios set at 2.847 for first,1.552 for second, 1.000 for third and 0.700 for fourth, and with reverse set at 2.343.
The Vios offers reasonable performance, especially when accelerating from a standstill. With a 1.5 litre engine what is tuned to produce the most amount of performance it can while consuming little fuel, the powerplant does its job pretty well overall.
During acceleration, there is no noticeable torque dip, while gear change, although not that quick, is rather smooth. The more I spend time with it, the more I notice that the gear ratios are tuned to offer better acceleration from speeds that are less then 100 km/h. On the highway, the revs on the engine settles at about 3,100 rpm, while traveling at 120 km/h in top gear, with reasonable wind noise. This feels rather high, but proves the shorter city-tuned gearing. It is at such speeds, acceleration proved to be a little on the heavy side of things. It drops a gear when you floor it, and acceleration also becomes highly depended on the gradient of the road. But end of the day, its a B-Segment people mover and at such a price, so I don’t expect it to act like a sports car.
Overall, engine performance is very decent, and considering my experience with the latest Honda City, I must say, that Toyota has done a slightly better job in this department. Although the City has 125HP and 145Nm of torque, while the Vios has 107HP and 141Nm of torque, the Vios has an upper hand. This may also be due to the lower kerb weight of the Vios. Compared to the City’s 1,140 kilograms weight, the Vios is lighter by 90 kilograms, at 1,050 kilograms. While driving on a downhill, the transmission kicks down a gear to make sure that the Vios is at its optimal gear position at such a condition.
Suspension wise, the Vios comes fitted with a MacPherson strut setup with stabilizer up front while the rear features a standard torsion beam. With its electric power steering, that isn’t too light (which is a good thing), the Vios also features good handling. Although it has hints of understeer and body roll, but I only noticed it when I pushed the car closer to its limits at sharper bends. Even on a long distance drive, the bump absorption is pretty good, leaving the car to go over certain road irregularities unnoticed.
Stopping power is up to expectations as well, with ventilated discs up front and solid discs at the back for Vios S and G while the Vios E and J features drum brakes at the rear end. With decent NVH, the Vios performs very well as a city car, and it can even be taken for long distance journeys without a fuss.
Getting in and out of heavy traffic as well as parking spots is something the Vios is very good at. Overall in my opinion, the Vios S is a nice city car, with its RM 88,325 (with insurance) price tag. Other models include Vios G Automatic, which does not come with the Aerokit that goes for RM 85,025 while the Vios E Automatic which comes with a 2-DIN Head Unit with MP3 and WMA compatible CD Player as well as 14 inch alloy wheels can be fetched for RM 79,425.
The base J range, that comes with a 1 DIN head unit with CD Player and steel wheels can be taken home for RM 73,525 for the automatic variant and a very affordable RM 69,825 for the 5 speed manual version. All models also come with warranty for 3 years, or for 100,000 kilometers, whichever comes first.
Other fitments the come with the Toyota Vios, among others include; dual SRS airbags (for Vios S and G, only driver’s airbag for E, and no air bags for J), ABS, EBD (Electronic Brake-force Distribution), Brake Assist, reverse sensor, collapsable steering column as well as Whiplash Injury Lessening (WIL) for the front seats.
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Toyota Vios S TRD (Automatic) and Toyota Vios J TRD (Manual)
Toyota would be offering a number of styling and performance upgrades with its TRD package, but at the moment, it is still at the development stage, so expect additions (less likely) and omissions of certain features. As mentioned earlier, the auto maker has made available two variants, based on a Vios S and a Vios J. Both cars are finished with a number of TRD fitments including, TRD front and rear bumper spoilers as well as TRD side skirts, a TRD trunk lid spoiler, TRD fuel tank cap, 15 inch sports wheels, door visors (for the Vios S TRD) and the TRD Sportivo logo mounted on the trunk lid that make up the exterior upgrade.
On the inside, these cars feature different seats, TRD gear knobs as well as TRD pedal sets. The Vios S TRD is fitted with seats that are covered with TRD designed seat covers while the Vios J TRD is fitted with FIA full bucket seats. To help improve performance, Toyota has added a TRD radiator cap with 1.3 bar of pressure resistance, a TRD oil filler cap, a TRD air filter as well as sports suspension, that includes the TRD Sportivo suspension on the Vios S TRD that lowers the car by 15 mm and TIEN suspension that brings the Vios J closer to the ground by 45 mm. The springs on the Sportivo suspension is a little hard than the standard springs, while the TIES suspension features even harder springs and tuned dampers.
Among the above mentioned performance enhancing features, the only ones that really make the difference include the new suspension and the TRD air filter, which should bump up the horsepower by about 3 to 5hp (speculation only).
Driving: Toyota Vios S TRD (Automatic)
Visually, the Vios S TRD with the TRD bodykit treatment looks a little better than the Vios S with the Aerokit. Just like the Aerokit, it makes the Vios S TRD look a little more aggressive thanks to its wider and lower stance, at a higher level compared to the Aerokit. Inside, the Vios also looks sportier with the TRD gear knob, TRD pedals and TRD seat covers which I quite fancy.
All this aesthetic features help bring out some sportiness from the Vios. The driving experience is also improved, offering a sportier drive. The first thing I noticed is the slightly hardened suspension, compared the Vios S. Being stiffer, I had more confidence negotiating curves, thanks to reduced understeer and bodyroll at its limits. However, ride comfort is slightly compromised.
Although I did not notice much of it while driving it in the city, except when I went over potholes, I did definitely feel the difference when I got onto the highway, as every single bump on the road can be felt. But don’t get me wrong, it is not excessively stiff, just a little, which is tolerable. If Toyota plans to offer a sporty suspension option, this setting is perfect as its offers a very good balance between good ride quality and improved handling.
The next thing I noticed is the slight improvement in power delivery and a more engine note, thanks to TRD’s sports air filter. Especially while accelerating, I felt a slight improvement, with the needles on both on the rev meter as well as on the speedometer moving upwards that much quicker. Sound coming out of the engine is more noticeable, but it isn’t intrusive at all. Overall, I like what they have done with the Vios S TRD. It features a good trade off between comfort and performance, while looking better at the same time.
The only thing I have to complain, is about the lip on the front bumper. It is mounted a little too low, causing it to scrape the road surface if I go slightly faster over speed bumps. Although I can go slower, it still doesn’t change the fact that it scraps the cement surface while I made my way down the elevated parking lot of Gardens MidValley, no matter how slow I was driving. I feel there has to be at least an inch more in terms of ground clearance. Other than that, its perfect!
Driving: Toyota Vios J TRD (Manual)
The Vios J TRD, compared to the Vios S with the TRD treatment features racing bucket seats, as well as a suspension that is further tuned to offer race like handling and a MOMO sports steering wheel that is removable, with just a push of a button. The TEIN suspension, as mentioned earlier, is fitted with stiffer springs and dampers, while it brings the car lower to the ground by 45 mm. It is really quite low, in fact so low that Toyota had to remove the front lip from the original bodykit because it kept scraping the irregularities on the road. Other upgrades such as the TRD radiator cap and TRD air filter are retained.
With the manual, the acceleration performance is slightly better compared to the automatic transmission. As opposed to what I mentioned earlier during my initial test drive at the Sepang F1 Circuit, the gear lever now offers better tactility. Toyota has probably fine tuned it or probably the gear lever saw better days during the test Sepang. The lever offers a slick and precise feeling when shifting gears. The lever feels more properly weighted which is a very good thing.
The bucket seats are fixed and conform to FIA specifications, meaning they hug you like they never want to let you go, which is great when you take the car to the track, but not very practical for daily driving which involves frequent access and egress. The problem I faced with the Vios S TRD regarding the front bumper spoiler that is too low was not evident with the J TRD, as it was removed since this version is significantly lower than the S TRD, which would make it almost impossible to go over speed bumps, no matter how slow you drive. The fact that the suspension is so much stiffer than the Vios S TRD’s is really noticeable.
If I were to compare it with another car, It would be the Honda Civic Type R! It is very stiff, and too stiff for daily use. Unlike the Civic Type R, which is justified by it having a powerful motivator, the “super hard” and race like suspension would serve no purpose with a 107h powerplant. However, it does enable the Vios to offer excellent handling characteristics with understeer and bodyroll that is almost unnoticeable.
It gave me the confidence of pushing it harder, and it allowed me to do so. The TEIN suspension would be excellent for track driving, although I would not say the same for daily use. Toyota may also offer official TRD exterior decals, like the ones which are visible both these cars, but as mentioned earlier it is still in the development stage.
Overall, comparing both the Vios S and J TRD, I reckon that the upgrades performed on the Vios S, minus the front bumper spoiler, would be preferable for daily use, while offering a sportier ride compared to the standard Vios. It is more balanced, with a just “perfect” sports suspension that is easy to live with, compared to the more vigorous TIEN setup on the Vios J TRD. I also like Toyota’s take on the meaning of performance upgrades, that includes upgrades for improving engine output and handling of the car, unlike just esthetic or visual upgrades.
I will also prefer if Toyota can further improve the engine’s power output, via the package, by another 10HP perhaps? But that may prove to be heavy on the wallets of the buyers, as development cost may drive up the price tag of the upgrade package. On the other hand, buyers can also perform upgrades to hike up the horsepower via the aftermarket scene. We will update you as soon as Toyota launches the official TRD upgrade package for the Vios. Stay tuned!
Story by Harvinder Singh Sidhu
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