Japanese giant Toyota is preparing to launch its Vios sedan in India by mid-2018. The company has given itself a target of Diwali 2018 and is working hard to localise it to be able to price the car competitively and take on its natural rival, the extremely successful Honda City.
It won’t be easy. And Toyota knows this. The company has two blockbusters on its hands, the Innova and the Fortuner that on average sell 6,000 and 2,000 units a month, but it has almost never had success with sedans or hatchbacks in India. The original Corolla, with its extremely comfortable back seat and upmarket interior, was something of a sensation when it was launched. And the strong 1.8 engine won it a lot of fans too. But post that, real success in cars has eluded them.
The Vios, however, could change all that. A car that is available in several Southeast Asian markets like Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, the Vios is often positioned competitively vis-à-vis the City. And it is this ‘slightly down on the City position’ that Toyota is likely to adopt here in India as well. But does the Vios have what it takes to impress the Indian car buying public?
First impressions are certainly positive. There’s an up-to-the-minute vibe to the car. The nose, especially the headlight and grille combo are extremely modern and are in line with Toyota’s global models. Under the high-mounted grille is a very aggressive and sporty large anvil-shaped intake, finished in black. Full of slats that give it a unique look, this recently facelifted car also gets vertically aligned daylight running LEDs.
The stance of the car and the rest of the detailing isn’t as aggressive. A prominent crease line runs all the way from the front wheel to the rear of the car, the side skirt is hitched up over the rear wheel, and at the rear, there are inserts at the bottom of the bumper. The boot itself is large and practical, but not big enough to make it look disproportionate. The tail-lights, however, do look a touch oversized.
Dimensionally, the Vios is shorter than the Honda City with a length of 4,420mm as against the latter’s 4,442mm, and the City has the longer wheelbase too. But like its sister car, the Etios, the Vios is wider at 1,700mm, and that gives it an advantage.
The big challenge for Toyota, however, will be to get interior quality up to that of the Honda City. While the design is quite modern with the curved dash, integrated doorpads, the deep dish instrument cluster, many of the plastics are still quite hard, and details like the touchscreen and possibly climate control system have to be updated. Space and comfort, however, are quite impressive. The cabin is wide and the front seats are big. And there’s plenty of legroom and width at the rear as well.
The Vios will come powered by a 108hp version of the 1.5-litre petrol it currently sells in India. This DOHC 16-valve engine will get dual VVT-I or Toyota’s continuously variable valve timing, higher compression pistons and a more aggressive fuel delivery system. This should allow the Vios to enjoy strong performance, the muscular responses of the engine; something to look forward to.
With automatics selling well in the segment, Toyota has also decided to launch the car with a CVT variant. The unit can be used in manual mode as well, with seven steps pre-selected.
The diesel version, however, hasn’t been signed off for India yet. Toyota could introduce the car with its 88hp 1.4 D4D engine, currently under the hood of the Corolla. And to spice things up, and charge a bit of a premium, it could also launch a TRD or sportier version of the car.