REVIEW: Toyota Vios GR Sport in Malaysia – RM95k

REVIEW: Toyota Vios GR Sport in Malaysia – RM95k

Malaysia’s obsession with speed and sporty looks is both fascinating and perplexing at the same time. Kilometres per hour is talked about in the same breath as kilometres per litre, a legacy of our long, smooth highways and lack of speed limit enforcement. But despite a faster vehicle being naturally more capable of higher velocities, our market is simply not interested in sports cars or performance parts.

Perhaps high taxes and price creep have pushed even mildly hot hatches beyond the reach of most Malaysians. Or maybe we’re too in love with our sedans and SUVs to trade them in for something smaller but quicker. But the most plausible reason is that the average local car buyer just wants the most flash for their cash. Why buy a fast car or tune a normal one up when you can look the part with less effort?

That’s why a bodykit is de rigueur these days. Spend just ten minutes observing vehicles on the road and you’ll find an assortment of plastic or fibreglass appendages in varying levels of quality and obscenity. And I’d argue that the car that started the trend was not the king-of-the-road Perodua Myvi, but the progenitor of the all-mouth-no-trousers mobile for young upstarts – the Toyota Vios TRD Sportivo. The three letters may stand for Toyota Racing Development, but in our world they might as well be short for Taipan Racing Design.

Nowadays, practically every Vios leaves the factory with an aerokit attached, so there’s a new sheriff in town – the Vios GR Sport. It carries a Le Mans-winning name and even features some “performance upgrades”, but in true Malaysian fashion the engine has been left well alone. Will it capture hearts and minds once again? Of course it will. Does it have the bite to match its bark? Now you’re asking the right questions.

REVIEW: Toyota Vios GR Sport in Malaysia – RM95k

Le Mans-winning name, local mods

After some initial difficulty, Toyota’s Gazoo Racing arm is earning some serious kudos, thanks to a brace of consecutive Le Mans wins and back-to-back WRC titles. The reverence surrounding the brand is being bolstered by proper high-performance road cars like the GR Supra, GR 86 and, most impressively, the GR Yaris – the latter proving that the company can build its own world-beating über hatch in-house.

All three will be sold in Malaysia at some point (two of them already are), but even though more and more GR Yarises are popping up in places like Telawi, the fact of the matter is that these cars will only ever be available in limited units and are priced well beyond what the typical Malaysian buyer is able to stomach.

That’s where the GR Sport badge comes in, fitted to cars that look the business but still perform like the standard versions. Think of its as BMW’s M Sport package but for mainstream Toyotas. The moniker has also been green-lighted for regional use, which is why UMW Toyota Motor has been able to create its own version for the Vios with unique styling, drivetrain and suspension tweaks.

All this makes the GR Sport the most expensive Vios on sale in Malaysia. At RM95,294, the car is nearly RM8,000 more expensive than the regular 1.5G, which shares almost exactly the same specs (and, if you ask your dealer nicely, can probably be had with a bodykit for free). You’re paying for the badge, a slightly sportier driving experience and looks that will draw those eyeballs at a kopitiam.

Race-inspired garnish on an already sporty-looking dish

And let’s be honest – looks are what you’re here for. A standard Vios with a bodykit is already an assertive-looking machine, but the GR Sport turns it up to 11. The large fake corner air intakes and jutting chin spoiler go well with the new downturned lower grille (replacing the hideously massive grin of the pre-facelifted model) and standard-fit LED headlights, offering more than a passing resemblance to the GR Yaris.

The dark chrome bar between the upper and lower grilles is a curious addition, but it weirdly ties the car together, adding a hint of premium-ness to the design. I’m not a fan of the black door handles, however, preferring the cleaner look of the body-coloured versions. The deep side skirts continue the sporty theme and carry the all-important “10 Speed” badges – more on that later.

If the front and sides are a (mostly) attractive affair, the rear end disappoints. I’ve never liked the Vios’ large taillights; combine them with the black bootlid spoiler and comically-oversized bumper “moustache” and the result is some serious visual clutter, making the car look very heavy from the back. Still, I do like the smattering of GR badges around the car, even if the links to Toyota’s motorsport efforts are tenuous at best.

Despite measuring a massive 17 inches in diameter, the GR Sport’s multi-spoke wheels don’t look much larger than the E- and G-spec’s 16s and look a little lost under the Vios’ relatively tall body. Perhaps it’s the full black finish, which at the very least adds to the car’s aggressive aesthetic, although a machined two-tone look would’ve worked a little better to my eyes. But to each their own, I suppose.

REVIEW: Toyota Vios GR Sport in Malaysia – RM95k

Dated interior, minor frustrations

Step inside and you can really tell that Toyota is using a near-decade-old design for the Vios. Although the cabin has changed massively in the intervening years, the basic layout remains identical, and truth be told, it’s starting to look a little tired. Mind you, this is still a solid interior – it’s all hard plastics, sure, but they are of a higher quality than you’d find in a Honda City and feel better screwed together.

But the B-segment is of a different caliber to what it was nine years ago. Aside from the new City, you also have the impressive new Nissan Almera and even an SUV alternative, the likeable Proton X50. All of them come with sleeker, more modern interiors, large screens and some soft-touch dashboard trim, complete with real stitching – the Vios’ fake stitching on hard plastic looks especially foul in comparison.

The car also suffers from a number of usability issues, such as the lack of a passenger-side door unlock button for the keyless entry system and the doors themselves that are too heavy for their stays (they can swing right into the side of another car if you’re not careful). You’ve also got a tilt-only steering wheel that sits too low and too far forward, an overly-reflective instrument cluster lens and a slightly flimsy armrest cover.

Most annoying is the (admittedly useful) 360-degree camera system, which at low speeds pops up a forward-facing (not rearwards like on Honda’s LaneWatch) view of the car’s sides when the indicators are on, completely hogging the infotainment display. To be fair, this list, while long, is fairly minor and most drivers – especially new ones – will either not notice these faults or won’t be too fussed.

Ample toys, impressive safety

There are, of course, some good bits. The seats are very comfortable and are upholstered in plush leather-and-suede upholstery on the GR Sport, and while the displays are a little small by today’s standards, the seven-inch central touchscreen does support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The 4.2-inch multi-info display, meanwhile, fits a wealth of useful info into its relatively dinky frame.

The GR Sport also comes with all the toys that buyers will love, such as automatic air-conditioning, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and a front dash cam. You also get a bunch of GR logos on the seats, carpets, start button and multi-info display, lest you or your friends forget exactly what kind of corner carver you’re in.

In terms of cabin roominess, the Vios feels a little snug at the front, although it’s by no means cramped. The big, comfy seats take up a lot of room and the centre console is tight as a result, so storage space is at a premium here. The rear, however, does offer a generous (if not outstanding) amount of legroom, although headroom is a little lacking due to the sloping roof.

There’s also no rear air vents here, but you do get twin USB charging ports that will stop kids from fighting over a power bank. The boot measures an entirely useable 506 litres, but while you can fold the rear seats down, they won’t go completely flat, leaving a step that makes inserting longer items a pain.

Safety-wise, the GR Sport comes with autonomous emergency braking, lane departure braking and blind spot monitoring. No, you don’t get the more advanced features like adaptive cruise control and lane centring assist that the City e:HEV RS offers, but then that car is over RM10,000 more expensive. By contrast, the Toyota’s full suite of safety functions are available starting from the mid-range RM82,593 1.5E variant. The Vios is also fitted with seven airbags and stability control across the range, which is nice.

No added power to match the looks

As mentioned earlier, the angry Fast and Furious-style redesign hides a power plant that has not changed one bit. Under the bonnet lies a 2NR-FE 1.5 litre naturally-aspirated Dual VVT-i four-cylinder engine, churning out the same 107 PS at 6,000 rpm and 140 Nm of torque at 4,200 rpm as the standard Vios.

Those aren’t stellar numbers on paper, especially when for the same money you can either get a more powerful NA engine (City), a torquier 1.0 litre turbocharged mill (Almera) or a 1.5 litre turbo unit that beats the Vios in pretty much every metric (X50).

Sure enough, out on the open road, the Toyota isn’t quite as punchy as its rivals. It feels like it has to work a bit harder and you have to dig deeper into its reserves to get up to speed. But it never feels like hard graft because this is a very smooth and easygoing engine.

REVIEW: Toyota Vios GR Sport in Malaysia – RM95k

There’s a decent amount of mid-range torque (the Vios makes almost as much of the stuff as the City) for an NA engine, so the car has no issue keeping up with Kuala Lumpur traffic or overtaking on the highway. It’s only when you’re driving up a hill that it struggles a little, but that’s nothing a bootful of throttle won’t fix.

Ratio overkill

Also decent is the CVT, which in normal mode has the same tune as the base Vios. This means it responds quickly to throttle inputs without being too jumpy, although you can occasionally catch it flat-footed when you call for more power. Again, any slight hesitancy can be immediately addressed by flooring the accelerator, but it does mean that the Toyota is not quite as effortless to drive as the competition.

It’s in Sport mode where the GR Sport differentiates itself from lesser siblings. Just like in those cars, the transmission reacts noticeably quicker, but it’s also been tuned to hold onto a lower ratio for longer off-throttle, providing increased engine braking and letting you accelerate out of a corner with greater urgency. You should really only use this setting if you want to attack a twisty road, such is its aggressiveness.

Then there’s the GR Sport’s headline feature – the “ten-speed” mode, accessible by flicking the gearlever to the right. As the name suggests, the number of virtual ratios has gone up from seven to ten, but they’re all compressed into the same ratio spread as the standard Vios. The engine still registers around 2,000 rpm at 110 km/h, so this isn’t a super-leggy transmission that suddenly turns this car into a high-speed cruiser.

REVIEW: Toyota Vios GR Sport in Malaysia – RM95k

What this does mean is that there is a lot of shifting using the steering wheel paddles. To be fair, the shifts themselves are pretty good – upshifts are very smooth (and quicker than they are in the petrol City), while downshifts give you a kick in the back just like a racing sequential gearbox.

It’s just that you go through the “gears” so fast that you don’t really get to enjoy the way the car accelerates. Seven speeds is already quite a lot to handle on the regular Vios and increasing the number to ten just feels like a complete overkill – especially when the car itself is no faster.

In fact, it may actually be slower. Stacking the ratios so closely together keeps the engine in the upper reaches of the rev band. That’s great when you’re talking about a high-revving screamer like the NA V8 in the Lexus LC 500 (which, incidentally, has the same amount of speeds in its torque converter automatic), not so great when the 2NR-FE’s mid-range is the name of the game. The mill is always just outside of its sweet spot, so it never pulls quite as strong as it does at lower revs.

Well-judged suspension tuning spoiled by inert steering

While the CVT’s modifications are perhaps a little superfluous, there’s plenty to like about the retuned suspension. The MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear setup remains unchanged but the springs and dampers are now 20% stiffer and are accompanied by the aforementioned larger wheels.

REVIEW: Toyota Vios GR Sport in Malaysia – RM95k

The changes have the potential to absolutely ruin the Vios’ ride, so I’m happy to report that the GR Sport remains eminently comfortable. Sure, the car does get jostled about a bit more over bumps, but it still absorbs much of the road’s harshness. In return, you get greater composure over larger undulations, leading to a more stable and less bouncy ride at higher speeds.

The improved primary ride is matched with the Vios’ impressive refinement. Thanks to the acoustic glass windscreen, outside noise is kept to a minimum, including wind noise. However, because the GR Sport rides on high-performance Toyo Proxes TR1 tyres, there’s a bit more road roar at higher speeds.

As you can imagine, the stickier rubber pays dividends when it comes to handling, providing imperious grip that goes hand-in-hand with the reduced roll and better mid-corner bump absorption. The GR Sport is able to keep a tight line through the corners, but there’s one issue that has stopped me from truly enjoying it.

That would be the steering, which is unchanged over the standard car. As expected from an electrically-assisted system, it’s a little lacking in feel, but its real flaw is the slow ratio, which forces you to add more lock than you’d expect to get around a bend. It makes the GR Sport feel more cumbersome than it is and robs it of any sense of agility afforded by the tyres and suspension.

REVIEW: Toyota Vios GR Sport in Malaysia – RM95k

The steering also remains light throughout and doesn’t add any weight when you turn the wheel. All this means you have no real idea of what the front wheels are going to do, so you end up feeling disconnected from the driving experience. That’s not such an issue for an everyday family car, but it’s a different story when the vehicle is geared towards an enthusiast crowd.

Verdict: Great improvements, middling execution

No, I’m not saying that the GR Sport needs to handle like a sports car, and indeed the step up in body control is probably enough for most people. But while the ride and handling balance is genuinely impressive, the car never feels particularly engaging to drive because of the steering.

Which brings us to the ultimate question – should you spend the extra money on these mods? Certainly, RM8,000 is a not-insignificant chunk of change, but you do get a lot in return. And for the vast majority of buyers, the looks alone are worth the price of admission. Me? I’d pocket the change and get the standard Vios, which is handsome enough as is.

Perhaps I’m a little biased. I prefer my regular everyday cars and my performance cars to be distinctly separate vehicles and the GR Sport falls somewhere in the middle. But I am not a typical Vios buyer and those who are actually in the market for a B-segment sedan want something that is practical, comfortable and reliable, yet looks sporty and aggressive. That’s exactly what this car is.

The Toyota Vios GR Sport is priced at RM95,294 on-the-road without insurance, inclusive of the sales and service tax (SST) rebate that’s valid until December 31. A five-year, unlimited-mileage warranty is included in the price. Browse full specifications and equipment of the Vios range on

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Jonathan Lee

After trying to pursue a career in product design, Jonathan Lee decided to make the sideways jump into the world of car journalism instead. He therefore appreciates the aesthetic appeal of a car, but for him, the driving experience is still second to none.



  • And most reliable engine is naturally aspirated engines and engine maintenance cost cheaper

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 0
    • Albert Einstein Senior on Oct 13, 2021 at 9:02 pm

      For an extra Rm20,OOO for this version,I might as well get a basic version…go to the best car spa in town and spruce it up kaw kaw according to my taste.
      The front view looks like an angry black crow,omg.
      Cant Toyota give the diehard fanboys a better frontal look?
      At almost a 100 grand,cant UMW do better?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 18
      • But this is more beautiful than hideous ikan keli, even with GR bodykit. While the power is more different between basic and top sport version.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0
      • Think logically. G basic version is RM87,000 and GRS is RM95,000. It is RM8,000 difference. Your calculation is incorrect, and where you get RM20,000 difference between extra version and G basic version?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1
  • Huck Phin on Oct 13, 2021 at 5:03 pm

    Liking the car park pictures

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1
  • Adoi. Dah berapa banyak kali this car want to review? Or is it that every PT writer need to take turn to post up their review of this car?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 28
    • Jonathan Lee (Member) on Oct 13, 2021 at 5:30 pm

      Those were gallery posts. This is the proper review.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1
        These are more than just gallery posts bruh.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 23
        • Jonathan Lee (Member) on Oct 14, 2021 at 11:22 am

          Perhaps, but this is the only one that has actual driving impressions. We also have a video review coming up.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1
    • Hong Yee Hong on Oct 13, 2021 at 9:45 pm

      Bro, if you’re talking about banyak kali review, tengok la Persona Iriz dgn dia punya CVT. Malaysian auto journalists tsunami-ed the Internet with that! Mindblowing…

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2
      • Sick & Tired on Oct 14, 2021 at 10:25 am

        Lets see the facts, Persona & Iriz 2022 had changed the CVT and PaulTan only reported ONCE on that. This Vios how many times posting? Then zoom down GR Vios how many times posting? Are these amount justified, hell NO!

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 8
  • Apple on Oct 13, 2021 at 5:24 pm

    Sporty seat Sporty Ride.

    10speed is collectible.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0
  • Impian on Oct 13, 2021 at 5:30 pm

    Why rear air-cond vent? Front is cool enough for back. Rear air cond is extremely cold and doesn’t gain much

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 7
  • matjava on Oct 13, 2021 at 5:45 pm

    if Toyota want to upgrade with 1.6l Yaris GR turbo engine will be good, but the price bom…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3
  • Homie on Oct 13, 2021 at 6:14 pm

    Same feelings in terms on handling, power, quietness and ride

    Happy Vios Gr-s owner here

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1
  • Seribu on Oct 13, 2021 at 7:10 pm

    Umw, how about yaris gr-s

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
  • Looks on Oct 13, 2021 at 7:22 pm

    Ricer design

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0
  • Haidi on Oct 13, 2021 at 8:22 pm

    This looks interesting to me, since the introduction last year. Wonder how’s its sales figure?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1
  • Comfort car = sporty comfortarble car

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
  • Aku tak tau dekat mana yg cantiknya GR ni

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 23
  • Henry on Oct 14, 2021 at 10:43 am

    95k for this car? Pitiful.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 11
    • This is just top spec. G and GRS specs are same but only difference for no. of gears, engine tuning, sport kit and pricing.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
  • stranger on Oct 14, 2021 at 11:46 am

    just merely 8k from vios G its really worth it. tuned suspension & transmission, bigger wheels, nice seat i must say, sportier kit compared to G.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0
  • alldisc on Oct 14, 2021 at 11:48 am

    i remember 20 years ago it was kedai abang’s, among the earliest promoting body kits for various popular models like saga iswara and wira. myself? yes.. included.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2
  • Levin on Oct 14, 2021 at 12:29 pm

    Tbvh, Toyota ricer boys thinking that paying RM95k to get a Vios with “GR” badge will make them “feel” like owning a GR Supra, GR Yaris or even the new GR86. Truth be told, those are “real” GR cars made from ground up unlike this pimped up GR Vios. Yes, it does has some fancy “GR” stuff and upgrades but mostly are cosmetics stuff. The sports tuned suspension physically looks the same as base spec Vios, it doesn’t have any special “GR” stamping on it. Wheels look nice, but I’m pretty sure most buyers will upgrade to other 17″ aftermarket wheels with better offset. Otherwise, pop the hood and you won’t even find a chassis strut bar and that silver colored engine cover is lame. Surely the “10 Speed” emblem on the side skirt will make the drivers feel like racers, but you could have 100 speed with a CVT.. LOL!

    As for the interior, the semi leather-alcantara fabic seats does look & feel good but the moment you try adjusting the seat height you will notice that the lever will start to rub against the seat. In long run, I’m sure that rubbing will cause the sides to wear out prematurely. Otherwise, the dashboard looks a little dated with faux stitching and the steering wheel material doesn’t feel quite nice to hold (faux stitching on the airbag cover too). The gauge cluster’s size is a little small and looks “Myvi-ish” but you do get a cool “GR” display during boot up. For 95k, Toyota could have done with a better infotainment system or at least with a bigger screen.

    In case you haven’t noticed, you could top up another 10k (or less with discounts) and upgrade to the best selling import sedan: Honda Civic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 29
    • Coz this engine is for fuel economy. If upgrading to better engine, it is not cheap. So they did some power upgrades with ten stimulated CVT. This is better than nothing. If with extra size for infotainment screen, it is difficult to fit or will be more like aftermarket. This infotainment screen is big size enough for them to see and also fully matches with interior. For interior is a bit dated, but still acceptable without OCD.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0
      • Levin on Oct 15, 2021 at 4:01 pm

        The 10 speed simulated CVT is not a “power upgrade” as the power figures remain the same between ordinary Vios and GR Vios. Obviously at this price point we don’t expect a different engine but at least UMW could have done better with “GR” DNA in the engine tuning such as ECU mapping, throttle response and better flowing exhaust. Well, I guess they spent more time on aesthetics, emblems all around and fancy marketing.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 9
        • UMW did ECU mapping that affects throttle response to make better coz ECU mapping makes speed range higher and hold higher range for better throttle response. With ten simulated CVT, this also gives sportier acceleration and maximise the potential of the higher rpm range.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
    • Ethan on Mar 13, 2022 at 2:34 am

      Wholeheartedly agree with you. Engine no power increase. Cvt is unlimited gear ratios so whether it is 7 simulated gears or 10 simulated gears makes no difference. Just paying more for cosmetics. UMW Toyota should actually make the engine more powerful instead of these cosmetic stuff only. No one is going to be fooled by that. People pay money to go faster. All these excuses talking about fuel economy might as well just stick with the regular vios variants. Supercharged? Turbocharged? Bigger NA engine? Manual version? Even a torque converter automatic will feel better than a cvt transmission.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

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