Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Vios - a 25km driving impression

Today is the day that I am acquainted with my car. The first Vios I saw was silver, however in my opinion I thought it looked very narrow. Perhaps the color helped with the perspective. I think Black and the Marine Blue I saw were good color choices. This is just a quick review based on comparison with the previous cars I have driven for a period of more than 3 months, Toyota Camry 2.4V, Daihatsu Feroza, Volkswagen Beetle, and Proton Satria 1.6. This is also to provide a slightly more unbiased write up.

Anyway I was brought to the back of the showroom where they were polishing my new car. It looked great and ready to go. I checked the V-Kool and it was done quite professionally, pity though, I can’t use my power windows or my demister for a good 48 hours and 2 weeks for the demister. But hey, if you buy a Vios you will know that good things will come to those who wait.

I stepped into the car for a quick preview, to drive to the front entrance. Started the car slowly…and then applied brakes on the first corner – me and my sales agent jerked forward slightly coz of the momentum. ‘Good brakes’, I commented. He agreed.

So after that was the routine engine number checking, chassis number, paint work, et cetera while he explained to me the things I had already knew about the car. I listened anyway. So as I was in a hurry to go (office calling me to come back), so I left.

The keys, some of you might want to know, are not like the Camry or even the Wajas with the integrated remote on the key, its a separate unit, and the remote with the label(Cobra: Delta Elettronica), opens the car and releases the trunk. A separate code key is also provided to disarm the immobilizer and lastly a engine start key. So that's 3 keys just for your Vios compared to 1 for the Camry.

Handling 3/5
The first couple of potholes were just minor craters. I found that the Vios goes over them with ease, however on uneven roads I found the car to have a ‘springy’ effect. I don’t know if anyone’s experienced this but I have a feeling it’s due to the lightness of the car. Now the thing is I’m not that thin, right…so any imperfections can be, how’d you say…’felt’. Cornering seems to be fine as the car has a small turning radius and the steering feels weighted. I would have preferred a lighter feel. However there is the ‘springy’ effect again and this might contribute to some body roll. I don’t know if this body roll is actual or psychological due to the high seats. I wasn’t in high-speed driving conditions so this is not tested yet. But I must admit that the ride quality is quite good. And I’m sure the passengers will appreciate the ride. Ride quality is better than Satria, but not as refined as the Camry. But I preferred the handling of my Satria. Perhaps this can be fixed with some lowering springs.

The air-conditioning 4/5
The air conditioning, as opposed to what I have read, was good. They are comparable to my Denso from the Proton Satria. Meaning, it can get pretty cold, pretty fast. I had no complaints. But this might have been due to the V-Kool? I am not sure about that but I was comfortable under the sun. However, the air-con blowing at left hand is a really an issue because frozen fingers are not my thing, plus I like to drive with both hands on the wheel(perhaps since it is a new car I really want to be careful), so I have to reposition the blower to the left – way left. Then I realized that the lack of air-con creates a slightly warmer sensation in the steering area, so I have to push the direction to the right, cool down, then push it to the left. I would have preferred the air con where the stereo is, and the stereo where the air con is. So for the positioning of the air vent, I minus 1 point.

The brakes 5/5
With 4-disc brakes, and as I mentioned earlier, braking is very good. Perhaps some might not like it, but I do. I am driving more confidently now. Brakes are comparable to the Feroza, which stops where you want, when you want. You might need to get used to it, and I think the brakes are better than the Camry just because the Camry is heavier.

Compartments 4/5
I haven’t used all the compartments yet, but the cup holders are indeed quite shallow, compared to the Camry. I personally would prefer less BIG compartments rather than many SMALL compartments. The one under the air-con vent which is reportedly too small, IS indeed too small. My phone doesn’t go in completely, however, it managed to secure the phone in place without any problems. As I am using Bluetooth, the phone being there isn’t a problem. For wired handsfree, putting anything there might be a problem. Other spaces I have not explored yet, but they don’t seem to be a problem, as it is something you adapt to, I suppose. Definitely more spaces to put things compared to the Satria. However, the glove box seems to be quite small, and the quality is only average, however it closes nicely unlike the Waja I tested at a showroom.

Interior 2/5
I personally don’t like the centred meters even though I thought I could live with it. You read reports saying you need to focus less, but I find myself turning my head to the left, and back to the right to see the meter properly. The font size is also too small, and cluttered so you don’t see your actual speed as quickly as you wish. This may be due to the fact that they used circles instead of the usual lines and the color coordination is off. But I seem to stare at the meter longer than necessary, and that creates eyestrain. I also tried looking behind the steering, and wished the meters were there. Perhaps this has got a little getting used to. But I turned on the lights in a dark carpark, and was pleasantly surprised at the green text from the digital tripmeter, and the pleasant light green meters. I suppose I will have more fun driving at night than in the day.

The quality of the interior is generally good, fitting parts have no protrusions, nor imperfections. However the dull gray interior could have used a bit of life with the use of a lighter color tone. Stepping out of the car though, the interior looked fine with the grey on grey as opposed to my previous thoughts that it was too drab. Perhaps the new-ness gleaming in the sun made it look okay?

The fabric seats were quite okay, and the seats were quite comfortable on my ride home. However I do feel that the use of some leather would enhance the experience, and the smell. The new car smell seemed to be absent. Perhaps I will get that once I remove the plastic wrappers when I get off work. I don’t expect the interior to match the Camry, and the quality is a notch better than my Satria, but its design and color coordination earns it the lowest points.

Engine 3/5
The 1NZ-FE engine seemed good on paper, and with the VVT-i badge on the left side of the car, you might eventually believe that you have a car so good, you want to spend the night with it. The first few kilometers were fine at cruising speeds, but the moment I tried to accelerate the moment I cut into the right lane, it felt as if the car was just a caffeine injected tortoise. It takes quite a few seconds to bring the car to speed. But as soon as it’s moving the acceleration feels more intact. I have to say that I expected more of this engine. But for my needs, this is more than adequate. The acceleration falls behind the Camry and my Satria even, as my previous Satria seemed just that bit more responsive.

Noise 5/5
Noise from outside is reduced to a slight muffling, something I like, making the stereo seems better than actual. In fact I actually thought that the 6 speaker 2 din unit will suffice for now. Of course this is not comparable to my 2 amp – 7 speaker unit in my beetle. But riding on the highway would be a joy as without the motorcyclists weaving in and out and around your car.

Total 4/5
Pros: Good handling, NVH levels, stereo, quality, looks
Cons: Centred meter, slightly lazy engine, aircon positioning