In this Toyota Avanza review, let me go a bit nostalgic and remember the good ol’ 1990s, the era I grew up in. Back in the day, compact sedans were all the rage. From the default Corolla to the sporty Civic, it’s almost safe to assume that those who were alive back then were able to drive or ride in one. However, not everyone’s fond of these low-riding sedans. Families during that time opted for a more practical choice, and that’s when AUVs enter the scene, led by the tough and reliable Toyota Tamaraw FX.
But as the automotive industry progressed, AUVs were pushed out of the limelight to give way for more comfortable successors in the form of MPVs. The Tamaraw FX got replaced by the Revo, still an AUV, which then got replaced by the Innova. However, the introduction of the Innova came with a price, literally. Hence, the birth of the smaller and much-affordable Avanza MPV.
Now, on its second-generation model, the 2019 Avanza gets a bit of flair with its recent facelift this year. Does it still possess the Toyota charm that Filipinos love? Let’s find out.
It’s no secret that the Toyota Avanza is nearing its 10th year. The current-generation model was introduced in 2012 and got facelifted in 2015. While the new version that we have right now might strike you as an all-new model, it really isn’t, and the shared body panels with the pre-facelift version are a proof of that.
Nevertheless, the Avanza’s new grille and lighting configuration are enough to let people know that there’s a new small MPV in town. The split-type headlights are a nod to the current trend, while the horizontally-extended taillights give the car a bit of a character when tailing it on the road.
Personally, the overall change isn’t bad but they’re not my cup of tea, except for the redesigned 15-inch two-tone alloys that look surprisingly good. Plus, what I love about the recent update is that all Avanza variants, sans the base J trim, get LED headlamps. That’s a huge plus considering the Avanza's price tag.
The Avanza’s interior may be changed subtly, but the updates are enough for the aging MPV to keep up with the times. The instrument cluster gets blue accents instead of red, while the electronic air-conditioning controls replace the basic dials of the old one. There’s a new infotainment system, as well, plus the fabric seats are now in black and accented with red stitches and prints. Overall, the interior deviations aren’t night and day but substantial, nonetheless.
Don’t expect high-quality materials inside the Avanza, though. They gear towards durability rather than exciting your senses in order to maintain its price point. Plus, practicality is this MPV’s key selling-point, armed with flexible seat configuration and 17 cup/bottle-holders – yes, 17. The Avanza has more cup/bottle-holders than the total number of athletes playing on a basketball court. With a seven-seat capacity, the setup is like Lea Salonga competing in The Voice or a prime Michael Jordan trying his luck in a Chinese basketball league.
Surprisingly, having seven seats in this small MPV isn’t a stretch in terms of space. Sure, the third row is best for small adults and kids but the room is at par, if not better, than bigger 7-seater SUVs and crossovers. This is partly because of the thinly-padded seats. Can’t say the same for the trunk, though, as it defaults to a measly volume that won’t fit a two-fold child stroller (if you keep the third-row backrests inclined). Fold and tumble the seats and you get a lot but in exchange for fewer passengers.
As there aren’t any mechanical updates in the 2019 Avanza, its suspension remains the same. When empty or with only three passengers on board, it would be rattling and unnerving. A small pothole would echo the effect in the cabin. The story is different when the car’s loaded. It’s more stable but still a tad too reactive against road imperfections. As a silver lining, the stiff suspension setup felt like it could take several years of abuse.
Also, don’t expect too much when seated behind the wheel. The driving position’s a bit odd plus without a seat height adjuster and telescopic steering wheel adjustment, it’s challenging to find a comfortable driving position. There isn’t any footrest, as well.
The Avanza is an entry-level MPV – that should tell you that you shouldn’t be expecting too much in terms of tech conveniences. But the basics, you’re pretty much covered, except again for the base J variant. You have a centralized door locking, albeit, there’s no separate button for the locks. Windows are motorized, as well as the side mirror adjustments. It doesn’t have speed-sensing door locks, though.
The tech saving grace would be the Avanza’s touchscreen head unit. It looks great and is easy to play around with, although you will need to familiarize yourself with it further in order to integrate your connect your smartphone for music and handsfree calls. The four speakers lack depth but for normal listening habits, it’s fine.
With only two airbags in place upfront for this seven-seater, you may say that the Avanza seems a bit lacking in terms of safety. It does come standard with side door impact beams, ABS with EBD, ISOFIX child seat tethers, and seatbelt reminder for the front occupants.
Of note, all occupants – even those at the last row – get three-point seatbelts.
Driving & Handling
You’ll still find the trusty 1.5-liter 2NR-VE engine under the hood of the top-tier Avanza G and Veloz, carried over from its predecessor. This gasoline mill is good for 103 hp and 136 Nm of torque. On the actual drive, the performance depends on the number of passengers and cargo on board.
With minimal load, the engine produced enough power to pull the MPV in daily driving duties. It was what I expected from the Avanza – responsive but not sporty. The dated 4-speed transmission definitely needs to be modernized but it still gets the job done, I reckon. The gearing allowed me to get a marginally satisfying pull when fully pressed, albeit, a bit delayed. That ends when the car’s filled with seven passengers, however. Nearing its laden weight capacity, the engine needed to work harder in order to comply with demands.
Handling-wise, the Avanza’s electric power-assisted steering felt really light, to the point that it’s numb at the center. Combined with ample driving visibility, the MPV was a cinch to maneuver within the city and tight alleys. With that said, you will need to be careful and decisive with your steering inputs when driving at speeds – add the fact that the brakes weren’t its best trait, especially with trailing drums at the back. Body roll’s prominent, too, because of the car’s body-on-frame construction and 200mm ground clearance.
Among the things not found in the Avanza is an average fuel consumption meter, so I won’t be able to give you an exact number in this section.
But at the end of the lendout, I was only able to consume half of the Avanza’s 45L fuel tank for a total distance of 204 kilometers. That would be an average of 9.06 km/L with 80 percent driven on heavy traffic and the other 20 on open roads.
The Toyota Avanza keeps faith with what it was initially made for – a basic mover that will haul people or cargo from point A to point B without any fuzz. It doesn’t fancy itself as a sporty MPV or an elegant family car. It’s as honest as it can be, even with the added pizzazz on its second facelift.
Then again, P1,000,000 for the range-topping G AT variantmight sound too much for a small MPV that doesn’t bleed in interior amenities. If you’re in the market for a 7-seater Avanza, you can get one for as low as P864,000 for the E MT. That comes with a 5-speed manual stick, fewer features, and a smaller engine, though.