Yes or no? Left or right? Up or down? Simple choices like this are already hard, imagine if there are more options at hand. It’s the same thing with cars. Every price point already has a slew of choices but within each model are different variants which complicates things even more.
The Vios belongs in the big Toyota family where multiple trims and variants are the norm for the popular cars. But even in their lineup, the Vios stands out for having 10 variants to choose from (the Hilux has 7 while the Fortuner has 6). All eyes might be on the recently added GR-S trim but the Vios in its XLE form is unfazed.
My unit was still the 2020 model but Toyota improved the XLE for 2021 adding a call button on the steering wheel, a new seat pattern, new set of two-tone alloy wheels, and the infotainment now has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
At first glance, it’s easy to see the difference between the XE and XLE, since the XE only has steelies, black side mirrors, and no fog light. But between the XLE and higher E variant which is P50,000 more expensive, there’s virtually no difference. That’s because they’re twins, so to speak. The only advantage of the E variant is having a full suite of 7 airbags compared to the 2 found in the XLE. Everything else, from the halogen headlights to other safety bits like Stability Control and Hill-Start Assist are the same.
I’ll admit, I’ve always wondered why people choose the Vios when it’s not the most feature-packed sedan at its price point, but I get it now. It’s such an easy car to drive. Steering is weighted nicely. It resists tired hands from unintentional lane changes while still being easy to maneuver. The cabin is nicely insulated, blocking the noise of the trucks and motorcycles zipping past you. The ergonomics of the seats are also good that even on long drives inside the city I wasn’t bummed at all.
There’s only two things to point out with this form of the Vios. First is, having driven the G CVT first before this, I noticed the aircon of the XLE is noticeably weaker. Sure you can adjust it, but I was putting it in fan-3 just to combat the noontime heat, compared to the fan-2 I used with the G.
Second was the engine. Prepare to cruise and take advantage of momentum with the 1.3 engine since it tends to heave a lot. What I mean is whenever I try to speed up or overtake, the Vios takes deep breaths before acting on it. It’s not exactly underpowered with 98 horsepower and 123 Nm of torque. It’s just that instead of burning more fuel to reach your desired speed quicker, it was tuned for fuel efficiency so it takes more time. It depends on you if it’s good or bad but for me, I like that behavior since it returned 8km/l in city driving during this pandemic, with 14km/l on Sundays.
Another good thing about it is it felt solid in most city roads. Apart from the great cabin isolation, the Vios XLE isn’t bouncy and takes road bumps really well. It can even have a bit more speed when crossing through the railroad portion of España boulevard and your soul won’t pop out when you do so.
I must say that this Vios XLE changed my perception of the model. Why would anyone choose a sedan with less features than the competition? Apparently, because it feels good to drive on a daily basis. It doesn’t have resing-resing driving dynamics nor the most advanced features, but it has everything you need for a comfortable and easy drive. Add to that its fuel efficiency and admirable NVH; it would be hard to say no to this middle child in the Vios lineup. For P851,000, the Vios XLE CVT is a no-brainer choice.