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Test Drive: Toyota Avanza 1.5S — Who you calling errand boy?

POSTED BY Vishal Bhaskaran ON 15 December 2015

Avanza’s new powertrain reinstates its relevance among affordable MPVs

Toyota Avanza 1.5S-27

Before the Perodua Alza, this was your entry point into owning a seven-seater MPV. The Toyota Avanza was, and has always been, unapologetically basic.

It was a travel appliance for fitting seven people in adequate comfort with just enough power to get it going, and found itself being used primarily for the school run or trips to the supermarket.

This new one is much the same as its predecessor; itself on the market for a fairly long eight years, but a big change has gone on under the hood.

Across the range the Avanza now has Dual VVT-i timing control on both intake an exhaust valves of its NR-series engines, claimed to deliver better performance at lower noise levels while returning increased fuel efficiency.

Toyota Avanza 1.5S-13

So far so good then.

Interior

There is nothing on the inside that doesn’t absolutely need to be there, the dashboard especially a lesson in functional simplicity. The air-conditioning controls, for example, are huge knobs, likened to those on washing machines by an amused colleague.

Toyota Avanza 1.5S-19

Spacious and completely devoid of anything not strictly needed for driver and passenger, there isn’t even a leather option for the seats even in this range-topper.

You can, however, spec some pretty serious head units. There is a DVD-AVN 7-inch touchscreen which has voice recognition, Wifi, internet browsing and even guide lines for the reverse camera but we would go for the 6.1-inch DVD-AVX instead which packs all the necessary inputs without those unnecessary luxuries.

The DVD-AVN head unit. If you're trying to reduce cost, you definitely don't need this one.

The DVD-AVN head unit. If you’re trying to reduce cost, you definitely don’t need this one.

There is of course a time when going traditional has its drawbacks. The Avanza sports an old-school and fairly long wire antenna sticking out of the driver’s side roof which got itself scraped and stuck on basement ceiling piping. Something shorter and more discreet would definitely have been better despite costing more.

Strangely, on the outside, this range-topping 1.5S lacks LED daytime running lights which can be specced on the optional Aerokit for lesser variants.

Performance

Highway-merging acceleration is surprisingly brisk, of course our expectations of power were never high to begin with but its reassuring to know that the Avanza can pull when necessary.

Toyota Avanza 1.5S-00

This Dual VVT-i business seems to have had a positive effect on fuel consumption, as it should given that now small capacity turbos are easily doing 15km/litre on combined duty — urban and highway. In our four days with this test Avanza we managed a not-too-shabby 12.4km/litre, given that it’s rear-wheel drive.

Once up to fast lane speeds however, the Avanza tends to give up some body control and outside noise starts to intrude its way into the cabin. The car is well-behaved up until this point, so keep it within legal limits for best results.

Of note also is the Avanza’s commendable turning radius of 4.7m, a boon to manoeuvrability in the tight spaces it will undoubtedly find itself in through an electrically assisted steering wheel that’s not too heavy.

Toyota Avanza 1.5S-01

Even the 1.3-litre Avanza — only available with a manual transmission — is Dual VVT-i equipped, so if all you need is four wheels and an engine in an Avanza body, you’re not compromising much if you go for that one instead as the power and torque deficit is only about 8hp and 15Nm respectively.

Verdict

We have to go back again to the Alza to pass judgement, for the very simple reason that it is the Avanza’s closest competitor.

On price the range-topping Alza Advanced undercuts the Avanza by about RM15,000, not an insignificant amount considering both come with 1.5-litre mills churning out almost exactly the same power and torque figures. More than this, the Alza is actually longer — both in overall length and wheelbase — and wider.

Toyota Avanza 1.5S-02

So why bother with an Avanza? In a word, reputation. If this Avanza is anything like the old one you can bet on it surviving the test of time and years of hard use and abuse.

A difficult assertion to make considering the limitations of a test drive period as opposed to living with a car for a few years of course, but from the Unser to the airport-taxi favourite Innova and this, these hardy Toyota MPVs are no-nonsense and built to last.

Consider this, with most cars that sport the Toyota badge, consistency is usually why you put your money down in the first place.

Specifications of the Toyota Avanza 1.5S:

Engine: 2NR-VE 1.5-litre chain drive in-line four cylinder with Dual VVT-i

Transmission: Four-speed automatic

Max Power: 103hp at 6,000rpm

Max Torque: 136Nm at 4,200rpm

Fuel Consumption (combined): 12.4km/litre (as tested)

Safety features: ABS with EBD, dual front airbags, GOA body, Isofix child seat mounts,

Price: RM80,810.00 OTR with insurance

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