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2021 Toyota Vios 1.3 XLE CVT: The Beauty of Simplicity and Ubiquity

Merriam-Webster defines the word “ubiquitous” as “existing or being everywhere at the same time; constantly encountered; widespread”. Ubiquitous is an accurate word to describe Toyota Motor Philippines‘ front-wheel drive (FWD) four-door subcompact sedan, the Toyota Vios. Now on its third generation, the Vios is one of the most popular and best-selling nameplates in the local automotive market. Everywhere you look, you’ll always spot a Vios – from the first-generation XP40 that was introduced in 2002, to the second-generation XP90 that was launched in 2007, and up to the current XP150 generation that was unveiled in 2013 and facelifted in 2018.

Toyota Vios base models with thrifty and dependable 1.3-liter engines and 5-speed manual transmissions became the choice vehicles of taxi cab operators, corporate fleet users, and local police forces. Meanwhile the upmarket Vios models with 1.3- or 1.5-liter engines and stick shifts or automatic transmissions became the daily drivers, family cars, or first vehicles of a large number of Filipinos. Everywhere you look, it’s likely that you’ll see a Vios being driven on the road or parked on the side. They are literally everywhere, even on the race track. They are actually that ubiquitous.

The Beauty of Ubiquity

We saw the beauty of simplicity and ubiquity recently when we were lent a 2021 Toyota Vios XLE CVT for a weeklong test drive. Around Metro Manila, our car quickly blended into the traffic along with several thousand other Vios models of different generations. We felt an odd sense of calm and quiet comfort about being invisible in a sea of moving traffic. There was no one craning their neck or turning their head to take a look at our car or its occupants. There were no inquisitive eyes peeking into our vehicle at a stoplight or when it’s parked. Not standing out in our Grayish Blue Mica Metallic subcompact sedan allowed us to drive comfortably and free of  any stress. It felt so liberating!

During the weekend, we drove our Vios 258 kilometers north to Mangaldan, Pangasinan for an assignment and appreciated its ubiquity even more. We took the toll ways – North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) and Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) – and, because of the very light traffic on the highways due to the pandemic travel restrictions, we inadvertently exceeded the speed limits without arousing any suspicion from the Highway Patrol. Without a racy color or any “boy racer” appendages and accessories, the enforcers simply dismissed our Vios as just a sedate family car cruising comfortably to its northern destination.

Far From Being Plain

While our little blue Toyota may be ubiquitous on the road, it’s far from being just a plain-vanilla Japanese sedan. Our Vios XLE is fitted with 15-inch 12-spoke alloy wheels shod in Yokohama Decibel E70B 185/60R15 tires, body-colored power side mirrors and door handles, multi-lens halogen headlamps, and LED foglamps. However, it lacks the daytime running lamps (DRL) of higher trim Vios models, which is now standard feature among the competitors in this price range. On the plus side, it comes standard with three SRS airbags (driver, passenger, knee), vehicle stability control (VSC), hill-start assist control (HAC), and remote door locks.

Under the hood is a transverse-mounted 1.3-liter 1NR-FE inline 4-cylinder engine with electronic fuel injection (EFI), dual intelligent variable valve timing (Dual VVT-i), double overhead camshafts (DOHC) and 4 valves per cylinder (16V) that churns out a modest 98 horsepower (100PS) at 6,000 rpm. and 123 Newton-meters of torque at 4,200 rpm. Power is coursed through a 6-speed continuous variable automatic transmission (CVT) before being delivered to the front wheels. Ventilated front disc brakes and rear drum brakes work together to provide stable and fade-free stopping power.

Simplicity in Operation

As a mid-range trim model, our Vios XLE dispensed with modern electronic conveniences such as engine start/stop button, automatic climate control with digital display, and paddle shifters. Instead, it stuck to the simpler but intuitive controls such as the rotary mechanical ignition key start system, three rotary knobs for the air-conditioning system, and manual shift knob to sequentially control the CVT. The thick-rimmed 3-spoke urethane steering wheel features remote switches for the infotainment system, which is comprised of a touch screen 7-inch display with CD/MP3, IOS/Android Weblink with Bluetooth, USB and AUX connectivity. Four speakers fill the cabin with great tunes.

The simplicity of our Vios’ interior is complemented by comfort, room and safety. The comfortable fabric-covered front and rear seats are all fitted with 3-point ELR seatbelts and adjustable headrests. The steering column is likewise adjustable for tilt and, in keeping with the car’s overall simplicity, the handbrake is a mechanical lever instead of electronic. Despite being an economy subcompact model, you can feel the car’s high quality with the operation of the controls, the serenity inside the interior, and the ride quality. Even the trunk is unexpectedly cavernous for such a small 5-passenger, 4-door sedan.

We thoroughly enjoyed our quick trip to Pangasinan, where we dropped off our small donation of several books for the library of the Talogtog-Bateng Elementary School. On the way back, we realized that we averaged around 12.5 kilometers per liter, even with our highly spirited driving on the highway. Best of all, we arrived home after a 500-plus kilometer long drive unperturbed and stress-free. Perhaps, driving around unnoticed in an economical and ubiquitous 2021 Toyota Vios 1.3 XLE CVT may be the key in having a life that is simple, fun and carefree.


Vehicle Type: Front-engine, FWD, 4-door subcompact sedan

Price: P851,000.00

Engine: 1NR-FE liquid-cooled horizontally-opposed 4-cylinder Dual VVT-i, DOHC, 16V, EFI

Displacement: 1329cc

Transmission: 6-speed CVT

Power: 98hp @ 6000 rpm

Torque: 123Nm @ 4200 rpm

Wheelbase: 2550 mm

Length: 4425 mm

Width: 1730 mm

Height: 1475 mm

Curb Weight: 1075 kg

Fuel Tank Capacity: 50 liters

Front Suspension: Independent, McPherson Struts

Rear Suspension: Independent, Torsion Beam

Front Brakes: Ventilated discs

Rear Brakes: Drums

Steering System: Power-assisted rack and pinion

Wheels: 12-spoke 15-inch alloys

Tires: Yokohama Decibel E70B 185/60R15