The Avanza is dead, long live the Veloz. At least, that’s the case in Thailand, where Toyota has just launched the “premium” version of its long-serving budget MPV. Budget may no longer be the right word to describe the car, however, as it has grown not only in aspiration but also in sophistication.

An upshot of this is that the seven-seater has received a significant price hike. Whereas the outgoing Avanza retailed starting at 649,000 baht (RM84,000), the Veloz is a whopping 146,000 baht (RM18,900) more expensive at 795,000 baht (RM102,800). And that’s for the basic Smart variant – if you want the Premium version with all the bells and whistles, you’re looking at a bill of 875,000 baht (RM113,100).

You do get plenty more for your considerable sum of money, however. The new Veloz ditches the semi-monocoque chassis for a full unibody construction, built on the same Daihatsu New Global Architecture (DNGA) as the Perodua Ativa. This also means the car switches from a utilitarian rear-wheel-drive layout to a more conventional front-wheel-drive setup.

Moving to the TNGA platform has also allowed the Veloz to grow considerably in size. It’s now 205 mm longer, 70 mm wider and five millimetres taller at 4,395 mm long, 1,730 mm wide and 1,700 mm tall. Its wheelbase is also 95 mm longer at 2,750 mm.

The engine is the same as before – a 2NR-VE 1.5 litre naturally-aspirated Dual VVT-i four-cylinder producing 106 PS at 6,000 rpm and 138 Nm at 4,200 rpm. But the ageing four-speed automatic gearbox it was mated to has been ditched in favour of Daihatsu’s new D-CVT with split belt and gear drive.

In order to match the more modern mechanicals, the Veloz sports a more upmarket design with slim LED head- and taillights, a prominent shoulder crease and squared-off fender bulges. Setting the car apart from the Avanza are the split trapezoidal grille and centre front air intake, triangular fog light surrounds with T-shaped chrome trim, a sportier rear bumper design and a chrome strip that runs around the body.

Inside, the Veloz sports a layered dashboard, lashings of silver trim, large grab handles on the doors and a freestanding centre infotainment system. Taking advantage of the more car-like underpinnings, the two rear rows of seats can now be folded flat for a neater cargo bay.

Standard features include 16-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, push-button start, part-leatherette upholstery, a seven-inch digital instrument display, a Qi wireless charger, a reverse camera and a nine-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. However, you’ll have to step up to the Premium model to get 17-inch two-tone alloys and a 360-degree camera system.

The Premium is also alone in getting the Toyota Safety Sense suite of driver assistance features. These are similar to the Ativa’s Perodua Safety Drive Assist (PSDA) and include autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning and automatic high beam. Six airbags, stability control, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert come standard on both variants.