We Filipinos dwell in the safety of familiarity. That’s the reason why Toyota has been the number one car brand in the Philippines for almost two decades – to nobody’s fault, mind you.
In this regard, the Vios is probably the most familiar vehicle you’ll see around. It’s the perennial vehicle for public transport and ride-sharing platforms, a top choice among fleet buyers, and even private car owners. So much so that Toyota Motor Philippines has sold over 25,000 units of the small sedan amid the coronavirus-riddled 2020, making it the bestselling nameplate in the country.
With the facelifted model arriving last year for the 2021 model year, and the recent P86,000 price cut that came with the arrival of the GR-S, what can you expect from the former range-topping Vios G? Is it still competitive given the resurgence of fresh contenders from China? Here’s a full review.
The biggest and frankly the most welcome change in the 2021 Toyota Vios G is the revamped front fascia. The spindle-ish shiny black grille blends well with the restyled accents near the LED fog lamps, a Vios design staple, trading the Joker grin for a more aggressive and serious aura. The execution is nowhere near a Lexus, though, so don’t push it.
The refreshed 2021 Vios also drops the Prime designation, which gives the lineup a unified look. That’s looking beyond the new Vios GR-S, but that’s another story.
Standard across the G range are three-tier LED headlamps that look expensive, akin to how it was executed on the bigger Corolla Altis sedan. They look good as they’re functional, giving the familiar Vios a competitive edge in terms of design.
Everything else that comes with the Vios G styling is pretty much carried over from its predecessor, which means chromes, better albeit unexceptional two-tone 16-inch alloys, shark fin antenna, and the G badge.
Again, everything’s familiar in the cabin, meaning there isn’t much change from the previous pre-facelift model. That isn’t entirely a bad thing as the Vios G’s amenities are good enough, but not the best in its range.
With that said, still expect some hard plastics on most areas (except for the leather steering wheel and gear lever knob), comfortable fabric upholstery, and a huge piano black real estate positioned on several touch points. It’s obvious that the cabin banks on durability rather than finesse, sans maybe the scratch-prone shiny blacks. Just maybe trim your fingernails regularly, okay?
As with the previous versions, the 2021 Vios builds on the advantage of its creature space. The cabin has an ample cozy room for four average-sized people – five is possible but with limitations to comfort. Trunk space is arguably one of the most spacious in the subcompact sedan class, so yes, five overnighters are a cinch plus a bit more room for extras.
Then again, I wish Toyota could give the Vios telescopic steering wheel adjustment and an accessible place to securely store smartphones in the next-generation model.
Tech & Safety
You shouldn’t expect much from a small sedan but as a range-topper, the Vios G delivers adequate features in terms of tech. It has speed-sensing door locks, power-folding side mirrors, and automatic climate control. While some people might be looking for cruise control on the Vios, its new price point is enough to justify the lack of it – though I wish I could say the same for the lack of one-touch lane change signal in this model.
The biggest surprise that comes with the price decrease of the 2021 Vios is the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on the touchscreen head unit. It might be late to the party, but we’ll take that as a win considering this age of connectivity.
Safety-wise, there’s nothing to complain about the Vios. Toyota made sure that its bestselling model is filled to the brim with safety features even down to the base variant. With that said, the Vios range comes equipped with 7 airbags (lower variants can come with a full set of airbags at an additional cost), vehicle stability control, hill start assist, ABS with EBD, five seatbelts, and ISOFIX tethers. The top G variant gets a reverse camera but proximity sensors are limited to the new GR-S trim.
Driving & handling
The Vios G is still powered by a bigger 1.5-liter 2NR-FE Dual VVT-i gasoline engine – one of the perks of moving up the sedan’s range. It makes more power at 106hp and 140Nm of torque. In a stale setting amid the city, this engine has more than enough for a confident drive but a run towards provinces and mountain passes tells a different story.
If you’re looking for spirited sprints, you’ll feel the limitations of the CVT. You’ll find yourself pushing the pedal to the metal during overtakes and speed changes. The addition of paddle shifters somehow helps in conquering mountain passes – a bit of an essential, really, if you frequent these roads for the longevity of your disc brakes. Of course, that comes with few knowhows in proper “downshifting” considering that CVT and paddle shifters aren’t exactly a match made in heaven.
Handling, on the other hand, is one of the Vios’s strengths (hello, Vios cup) and that’s carried over to the facelifted unit. The steering wheel has a nice weight to it, which inspires driving on both straight and winding thoroughfares. Meanwhile, forward visibility’s superb, while the McPherson strut/torsion beam setup seems like a sweet spot for this consumer vehicle. There’s a bit of body roll and there are some of the road’s harshness creeping through the cabin but overall, they’re expected and not something to be concerned about.
Despite being powered by the bigger engine choice, the Vios G still registered notable fuel efficiency figures during my test. In mixed driving conditions (city and highway), the Vios returned 12.2 km/L. A 30-minute sprint on SLEX at an average speed of 90 km/h, I was able to clock in 19.9 km/L. Of note, there were two people on board during the fuel efficiency testing.
Familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt. In the case of the Vios, the current-generation model may have been lingering for quite some time but the bevy of facelifts don’t always just improve upon the vehicle’s aesthetics. I commend Toyota for always improving the vehicle in each update, catering more to the needs to its wide scope of buyers.
More importantly, with the price decrease for the top-spec G (from P1,056,000 to P970,000) in March, the Vios undercuts its competitors in the small sedan segment – and that’s without sacrificing anything.
With that said, I won’t be surprised if the Vios retains its status as a bestseller for this year. Then again, it goes without saying that a solid contention exists.