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So, you’ve read our full launch report, you’ve read our comprehensive review, and you’ve pored over every little difference between the 2012 and 2013 Toyota Vios. What else is left to know, short of us going out to buy one ourselves to tell you what the latest iteration of Malaysia’s best-selling non-national passenger car is like to own?

Well, two of Toyota’s claims for the new Vios kept eating away at us long after last week’s launch: that the car was quieter as well as 5% more fuel-efficient than its predecessor. Had all the relevant figures been officially given, we might just have taken Toyota’s word for it and gone home.

But they weren’t, and being the four curious cats that we were; armed with the old and new car, a sound level meter, a little money and an afternoon to kill, we took the opportunity to find some numbers that would prove (or disprove) those claims.

So we planned a route that would take us to Rawang and back through a good mix of highway-, trunk road- and city-driving conditions. Roughly halfway, we’d stop for coffee and then swap cars between the two drivers (Danny and I) for the return leg.

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The cars were to keep in close convoy for as much as possible throughout to establish a degree of consistency in their behaviour and movements – any slip-streaming or drafting effects would be cancelled out as best as possible by each car taking a turn to lead. We were to drive ‘normally’, without coasting in neutral or turning the air-con off.

The day began at a petrol station in Section 17, PJ, where we brimmed the cars’ tanks to the first click (using the same fuel nozzle), zero-ed our trip meters as well as the new car’s average fuel consumption reading, and began our journey north. Each car carried two people, including the driver. Danny first led the way in the new car with Anthony, and I followed in the old car with Hafriz.

The outgoing leg was done via the Sprint Highway, Jalan Semantan, Jalan Parlimen, Jalan Kuching and then Federal Route 1 to Rawang, past Selayang and Templer’s Park. There was a fair bit of traffic at the start, particularly on Jalan Parlimen and Jalan Duta, where we spent nearly 15 minutes in stop-and-go conditions. The rest of the way was mostly smooth-going, although it wasn’t without its traffic light stops and sudden braking.

After a short coffee break at Anggun Rawang, we found a quiet stretch of road where we could do a test of the in-cabin sound levels for both cars.

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The subject of logging the in-car noise level measurements of both old and new Vios came up during a discussion on the matter – Toyota says the new car is quieter, but by how much? Curious as to that, we decided to set out to measure the differences in an objective fashion – we’re not in the business of measuring in-car noise levels for a living, but a scientific approach always helps some.

Now, a better sound level meter (essentially, a true Class 2 IEC-standard device) than the Radio Shack 33-0099 – or the older, bulkier 33-2055 – would have been ideal, but the little RS SLM, intended for hobbyists, is a cheap, efficient beater to have. Despite a +/-2.0 dB-sound pressure level (SPL) overall accuracy, the unit provided us with a very usable impression of the differences in relative SPLs between the cars in a number of states.

All in-car logging was done with the SLM set to A-weighting (filtered range of 500 Hz to 10,000 Hz, effectively the human ear’s most sensitive range), set mid-forward in the cabin, with both fast and slow response measurements taken.

The logging was done over double runs over the same stretch of road, with four people in the car. Primarily, the idea was to find out what the noise levels were at idle, full bore and up to intermediate speeds, so we picked both 50 km/h and 80 km/h as speed markers.

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Not much difference at a constant 50 km/h, the two dBA difference being minor in actual psycho-acoustic perception terms, but moving to the 80 km/h mark, the pick up in differences were audible subjectively; objectively, this translated to the new Vios being six dBA quieter. A level change of around six to 10 dB translates to a doubling of the sensed volume, so the differences were definitely noticeable to the ear.

Because we were pressed for time – and with the primary aim being to do the fuel consumption evaluation – a 110 km/h pass wasn’t done, but given that from the intermediate speed measurement, the quieter nature of the new car would have continued to shine, because at the national speed limit the differences were again audible. Under full throttle acceleration, both cars returned identical readings.

Likewise at idle, or nearly, with a one dBA difference, but this with the air-con off. With the air-con blower set to position two in each car, the surprise was how the new Vios had a three dBA higher level than the old car, until one of the guys mentioned that the new car’s air-con blower was stronger at the same position. Guess you can’t have something without sacrificing something else.

The return leg was done through Kundang, Sungai Buloh, the North-South Highway and the NKVE, with Danny and Anthony in the old car following Hafriz and I in the new car this time, the driver change to facilitate an even spread of driver-related behaviour.

While the new car’s multi-info display showed an average fuel consumption hovering around 12 km per litre on the outgoing leg, the decibel test, with its full-throttle blasts, four of us in both cars and many about-turns, had worsened the reading to around 11 km per litre. Again, we were faced with more moderately heavy traffic on the way back, especially on the trunk roads of Rawang, on the approach to the Damansara NKVE exit and the Sprint Highway thereafter.

Upon returning to our point of origin in Section 17, we once again filled up both cars to the first click (with the same fuel nozzle we used earlier), with the amount of fuel going in taken to be the amount of fuel used since the first fill-up, to yield the following results:

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Of course, had we more time with the cars, we could have driven a longer distance for a potentially even more accurate representation – but, as it turned out, even a sub-100 km trip was enough to more than substantiate the claimed 5% improvement in fuel economy.

The ‘2012 update‘ Vios used in this test was in fact delivered earlier this year, and had less than 5,000 km on the clock. The 2013 Vios was of course brand spanking new and its engine had not been thoroughly run-in, which means it could have the potential to get even better mileage than tested.

Some brief driving notes on both cars to bring us to a close – both do about 2,750 rpm at 110 km/h in top gear, but the new Toyota Vios is altogether noticeably more refined, with better road manners than the 2012 car. Those redesigned, more widely-adjustable seats do wonders for comfort.

As noted earlier, the new car’s air-con blower is stronger, and while it is louder than the old car’s from the second speed onwards, it does cool the cabin faster, upon which you can switch to the first speed, which is significantly quieter than the second speed. From outside, the new car’s air-con compressor is quieter in its operation than the old car’s – unless you’re really paying attention, you won’t notice it turning on or off.

The old car has a tendency to leap forward rather uncomfortably even if you so much as feather the accelerator after it slips into first gear at low speeds (after a speed hump or a slow right-angled bend, for instance, or when moving off from rest). The new car solves that – its throttle action is much more gradual, and the uptake lighter and more linear. The steering also feels a little more precise and better isolated from road surface undulations.

It’s so much more intuitive (for me at least) to look at the instrument panel through the steering wheel rather than having to steal a leftwards glance at the middle of the dash. Because the steering wheel isn’t telescopically adjustable, the dials are huge and in your face, displaying clear, bold number fonts that are very legible indeed.

But above all, we liked the upscale impression that the new cabin gives off. Yes, the hard plastics and pseudo-stitching mean the interior is better to look at than to touch, but it’s still rather a pleasant place to step into after a long day at work. The piano black dimple grain on the centre stack, coupled with the G variant’s ivory-coloured dash and upholstery, contribute towards making the car look more expensive than it actually is, which can’t be a bad thing outright.

 

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