Let me admit something in this Vios review – I have never looked past the Toyota Vios other than a common commuter vehicle. It’s omnipresent in the Philippines and with that, I’ve never bothered to look for its beauty beyond the ludicrous financing deals that it often comes with.
Toyota Motor Philippines tried to give its best-selling model a bit of a character in its latest version. Armed with aesthetic deviations from the regular Vioses, the Prime variants offer more, and you can say that it’s an effort to attract buyers who want something different from a car that’s as common as your favorite tapsilog.
Of course, that distinction comes with a price tag, but is it worth the added pesos? Here’s my take on the range-topping Vios 1.5 G Prime.
When Toyota launched the new Vios, it’s like a newly-released iPhone – people loved or hated the revamped design. But just like all Apple products, fans still found ways to love the small sedan.
Now, honestly, I’m on the fence about the grille-like fog lamp casings of the Prime variants, especially that they’re not as smoothly integrated to the body panels when inspected closely. But beyond that face, the added side, rear, and front skirts, as well as the trunk-integrated spoiler, are nice additions to this Prime variant. I also like the LED taillights on the top G variants and the piano black side mirrors. Headlights may not be LEDs but they’re the projector type so road illumination at night isn’t really an issue.
Overall, the Prime variant is a great way to differ from the rest of the Vios range but that ends with your adoration of that polarizing fascia. And oh, those G-exclusive 16-inch alloys look great in my opinion.
Durable and decently-designed, the Vios G Prime’s interior isn’t any different from the E Prime in terms of materials used, save for some leather bits on the steering wheel and gear-lever shifter. The seats are covered in soft fabric while the majority of the cabin has hard and durable plastics. One glance and you’ll know that the cabin would retain its look for years – except for the piano black plastics that would scratch easily within months of ownership. The faux-stitches aren’t really my thing but to be fair, they marginally elevate the cabin’s aesthetic.
As with the Vios 1.3 E Prime that I reviewed before, things are left to be desired in the Vios G in terms of ergonomics and storage space. The cupholders are too deep (good luck with your short/tall brewed coffee) plus you’re left with a small cavity beside the hand brake lever and the puny center console box if you’re charging your phone while on the road. The rear passengers must make do with the door pockets, which, as a silver lining, are spacious and can probably fit a large Gatorade bottle.
Nevetheless, this Vios’ trunk space is pretty generous but isn’t expandable because the rear seats don’t fold, so there’s that.
Overall interior comfort remains as the Vios’ strong trait, thanks to its soft seats, spacious cabin, and soft suspension that could absorb reasonable road imperfections without inflicting impact to its occupants. The cabin’s quite insulated from outside noise, too, except when reaching legal speeds wherein wind and road noises start to creep in.
As for the driver, the seating position’s okay for short distances but you’ll feel a bit of fatigue during long drives due to the lack of upper back support. For my height, it wasn’t hard to find a comfortable position since the car has a seat height-adjuster, but I really wish the steering column has a telescopic adjustment for a much better driving position.
This is where the Vios 1.5 G has the upper hand against the lower variants. It has speed-sensing door locks, automatic headlights, powered adjustments and retraction for the side mirror, and a push-button ignition system. All these things work like a charm but the lack of one-touch lane changer and cruise control left me scratching my head since that would have been a nice addition to the list of tech toys at this price point.
As for the infotainment, the G gets the same touchscreen 7-inch display that has crisp colors and fairly okay interface. Smartphone integration is okay for the most part but the 6-speaker system’s output is better than the E, albeit, not suitable for playing really loud music. Of course, you also have a remote trunk opener in this Vios top variant.
I was initially surprised to discover that the G variant doesn’t have rear sensors nor a parking camera. Thankfully, at the time of writing this review, TMP has announced that top variants (E Prime, G, and G Prime) get a reverse camera, moving forward.
Seven airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, five 3-point seatbelts, stability control, hill-start assist, ABS with EBD and brake assist, seatbelt reminders, and ISOFIX child seat tethers – these things make the Vios a standout in terms of safety. So much so, in fact, that the Vios gets a high 5-star rating in ASEAN NCAP.
Even better, the whole Vios ranger gets all these safety features, even the most basic taxi trim.
Driving & Handling
Up by almost 200cc of displacement versus the lower variants, the Toyota Vios’ carryover 1.5L 2NR-FE provided ample power to get the small sedan up to speeds. Its CVT, however, stood as this car’s limitation. It worked smooth and faint, but abrupt changes in speed needed patience as the reaction from the engine wasn’t quick. The paddle shifters weren’t much of a help at all since it’s hard to discern the difference between its manual shifts. The Sport mode, on the other hand, would only rev the engine higher but the response was rather stale.
With this, the Vios 1.5 with CVT is a relaxed city car and an alright highway cruiser. If you want a more engaging drive with a Vios 1.5, you’ll have to opt for the stick shift G MT variant. Unfortunately, the G Prime isn’t available with this transmission type.
Handling-wise, the Vios has a nicely weighted steering that’s a joy to have on highway stints. In the city, though, those with weak arms might find it heavy. There’s a considerable amount of understeer when tackling corners at speeds, but it’s understandable for a front-wheel drive. Since its suspension was tuned for comfort, there’s forgivable body roll when on mountain passes but overall, the car feels sturdy and composed in any given situation.
Of course, with a bigger engine, the Vios G was less frugal than its 1.3L counterparts, but it wasn’t bad at all. An hour of crawl through city traffic returned 8.1 km/L while doing Sunday errands at an average speed of 60 km/h clocked in 13.1 km/L. On the highway, I got a good 19.2 km/L while trying to keep the car at a steady pace at 90 km/h for 30 minutes.
The Toyota Vios will always be a top-seller because of its variant lineup that ranges from P662,000 to P1,113,000 at the time of this writing. That positive trait is also this car’s caveat, as the Vios G Prime’s P1,098,000 price tag is only a few thousands short in reaching the bigger Corolla Altis’ SRP, albeit, the latter is on its basic trim level. Now, that’s a dilemma for you, especially since the compact sedan rides on the newer TNGA platform.
At the end of the day, it really depends on your preference. The Vios G Prime trim is perfect for those who want a reliable, no-frills sedan but want a bit of distinction. For those who want to blend in, the lesser-priced variants aren't such a bad choice but expect fewer niceties as well. If you want to be different and you’re okay with tad less power, then the 1.3 E Prime should be your pick.
After all, the Vios will remain a best-seller in the Philippines based on its badge alone. TMP just gave you an added option if you don’t want to dress up your car yourself. It might not have reached its prime with this version, but that makes me all pumped up to see what Toyota has in store for the upcoming all-new, TNGA-underpinned model.