Vios- To help Toyota move forward
Toyota's Vios targets younger buyers Cute and perky: despite the high equipment level, the Vios, to be launched next week, will still be priced generally lower than the Corolla

THE name Vios is supposedly derived from Latin, meaning 'to move forward', and Toyota certainly hopes to accomplish that in terms of market share.

Made in Thailand as part of its globalisation strategy, the four-door sedan shares the same Yaris/Echo platform. And like the car it is based on, it looks cute and perky.

It also comes in a variety of breezy colours, as seen at a test-drive this week in the grounds of the sprawling Toyota Motor Thailand factory some 100 km east of Bangkok in Chachoengsao province. From burnt orange to periwinkle blue, the rows of Vios looked similar to the Corolla but with snazzier head and tail lamps 

 The Vios is actually slightly smaller than the Corolla but uses the same 1.5-litre VVT-i engine as the Corolla 1.5 XL and LXi. This unit with variable valve-timing produces 109 horsepower and is fairly enthusiastic, if somewhat loud.

On the two-km test course, it propels the Vios easily to 120 kmh and beyond. The steering gives good feedback although it may feel a little heavy to some. But it's a fun car to drive as it can be thrown into corners happily. As with a car in this class, ride comfort is only adequate with the requisite amount of road noise present.

It is, however, the build quality of the Vios that is particularly impressive. The car feels solidly made and with good materials. Body panels are put together well and the door trim panels and dashboard - with its centrally-located instrument binnacle - feel robust. (General manager Kitti Simapornchai proudly declares that his plant makes the best Corolla of all the Toyota plants in the world.)

In Singapore, the Vios will 'cater to a new and younger group of buyers who like Toyota's quality and reliability but prefer a new and more modern design', according to distributor Borneo Motors' director of marketing Peh Hock Chuan, who expects the car to help 'expand our market share further'.

Although there are three Vios variants made at the Thai plant, Borneo Motors will bring in only the top two. The top-of-the-line car is the S-grade (S for sport) and comes with only four-speed automatic transmission. It has a digital speedometer and other electronic instrumentation, plus aluminium trim for its centre console and door trim.

The other model is called the E-grade (E for executive), with conventional meters and no aluminium trim. It is available with either manual or automatic gearbox. Both models will have leather seats, plus twin airbags and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution.

Despite the high equipment level, the Vios will still be priced generally lower than the Corolla. The car will be launched next week and the first units will be on the road by mid-February.