Toyota Motor Philippines first introduced the Vios here in 2003. After 17 years and three generations of Vios models, there are now more than 320,000 units of Toyota’s small sedan running around on the streets of our 7,000-plus islands. 

Today, the Vios commands almost 40 percent of the subcompact car segment in the country. Despite having over a dozen competitors, one out of four subcompact cars that roll off showrooms is a Vios. 

So what is a Toyota Vios for you? For some, be they a teenager, a fresh grad, or a newlywed couple, it’s their first car. For some families, it’s their second, third, or even fourth car. Businesses swear by the reliability and durability of the Vios, be it for taxi or TNVS use, or as a small shuttle service. 

Private owners love to personalize their Vioses — the sheer number of the cars on the road practically oblige those who desire individuality to customize their ride. It’s not uncommon to see a Vios with aerodynamic body kits or aftermarket alloy wheels, or even unique custom paint jobs.      

Of course, countless more are perfectly happy tooling around in a completely stock Vios in its original White, Silver Metallic, or Red Mica Metallic paint job straight from 2003. 

I’ve never owned a Vios, but I do have a special and very memorable experience with one over one summer six years ago. It was the very first year of what would become the annual Toyota Vios Cup (now called the Vios Racing Festival). 

The Vios Racing Festival is a one-make race series wherein amateur racecar drivers and several celebrities dice it out on track in identical manual transmission-equipped Vios racecars using stock engines and body work, modified only with aftermarket dampers, brake pads, alloy wheels and safety-related equipment. 

But in that inaugural year, Toyota also played host to the media — and I was one of the lucky five journalists invited to train under the TRS Racing School for a month and then race with the whole grid of Vios racecars wheel to wheel with amateur and celebrity racers (but, thankfully, categorized in our respective classes). 

It was an incredible summer driving every weekend to Clark International Speedway to practice laptimes in the Vios. Of course the thrill of hurtling at high speed solo down Clark’s front straight—the cars reach 170-180 km/h before braking hard for the left-hand uphill Turn 1—was nothing compared to doing it with 29 other cars in front, behind, and on either side of you. It was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.  

With 30 cars on the starting line, that first season of the Toyota Vios Cup marked the biggest ever racing grid in Philippine motorsports history. I qualified 26th and finished 21st – hardly impressive results, even if making up five positions over 30 laps (the race was split into two heats of 15 laps each) is a lot more challenging than it sounds. And hey, I was the third oldest driver on the grid and one of just five who were in our late 40s. Most other racers were in their 20s and 30s, with a couple of super-fast hotshots in their teens. Okay, enough excuses.  

More than anything, it allowed me to bond with the Vios in a way that transcends the traditional car-and-driver experience and elevates it to an intimate horse-and-rider relationship. It’s that instinct of self-preservation when you’re hurtling at 175 km/h approaching a bend that you can only take at 90 km/h and every human instinct is yelling at you to hit the brakes. But doing so a split second early will mean that the two cars on either side of you will zoom past — so you trust that your limited skill and the car’s handling, braking, and traction will get you through that corner once, twice, 15 times, without letting you down. 

On every lap, on every turn, on every straightaway, the Vios performed, limited only by my skills. The car’s performance, reliability, dependability, and safety — in the heat of battle — underscored those very same qualities people always expect from a Toyota.  Remove the racy red and black decals outside the car, replace the front passenger and the back seats (the A/C wasn’t removed for racing), and I could’ve driven the family to church in a plain white Vios without the car grabbing attention.       

The Vios is that kind of car — a seemingly conventional sedan but with abilities far above most motorists’ expectations. And now Toyota has upgraded it even further. Debuting via public livestream last Saturday, the new-for-2020 Vios looks sharper than ever with a new glossy black grille on all models plus luxury car-inspired 3-tier headlamps with daytime running lights (DRLs) that blend very well with the new LED foglamps on the top-of-the-line G variants (E and XLE variants also get LED foglamps). New biggest-in-class 16-inch polished alloy wheels and LED rear taillamps with line guide also grace G variants.  

Access is quick and easy with the keys-in-your-pocket smart entry feature and push start button for G variants. Sporting drivers will enjoy more control and involvement with the paddle shifters and available drive modes (Eco Mode and Sport Mode) for the G CVT variant.

On the safety front, the new Vios offers SRS airbags, Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake Distribution + Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Control and Hill-Start Assist Control. Highly commendable is that all these features are standard on all Vios variants. A back camera is available on G variants, while three SRS airbags are standard on all variants. Seven-airbag variants are available by indent order.

The new Vios lineup is spread across five grades and nine variants, with prices starting at a very affordable P671,000 for the Base M/T and topping out at an eminently reasonable P1,071,000 for the “all options” flagship G CVT in White Pearl. There’s a new Vios for every need and budget — and with nine available exterior colors — for every taste.  

The new Vios comes with free periodic maintenance up to 20,000 kms, 5-year warranty, and 1-year comprehensive insurance. It will also be available through the recently introduced car-leasing program, Kinto One. TMP will also be introducing a new financing scheme offering low monthly plans inclusive of periodic maintenance and other Toyota value chain products.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, the Vios Racing Festival is set to return in 2021.

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