It’s often joked that the typical Filipino family is composed of at least seven people: the parents, the grandparents, two children, and a yaya. This has led to the rise of AUVs or Asian Utility Vehicles, since a 5-seater car can no longer suffice. Even with the phasing out of AUVs in the early 2000’s, the clamor for an affordable family carrier continued and manufacturers have gone through varied routes trying to serve an ever fickle market. The one that has always led the charge is Toyota and their Avanza. Now on its second-generation, it’s become the default choice for those who want seven seats but can’t afford an Innova. But with an increasing number of choices in the small MPV segment, can the big minor change Avanza continue to lead?
While they say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there’s no contest when it comes to the Avanza’s looks. Picking up where the first-generation model left off, the two-box shape is pleasant and well-proportioned. It’s taller than it’s wider, but it hides that very well. The softened contours are now complimented by a 2015 update that introduces a larger maw, new alloy rims, and new tail lights. It successfully modernizes the small MPV flavor without deviating from the formula too much. There’s only one complaint: Toyota should remove the throwback pillar-mounted antenna to something much more modern—a fin-type antenna, perhaps?
Like its body shell, the Avanza’s interior is pretty much straight-forward. Those familiar with a Toyota cabin, particularly the Wigo, would feel welcome because of the parts bin switches, steering wheel, button positioning, and ergonomics. Compared to Toyota’s other Daihatsu-derived vehicle, it feels considerably more solid although there are inconsistent panel gaps and every surface is rock hard. The newest update adds a touch of luxury to an otherwise austere cabin with features such as dark brown fabric seats, piano black and aluminum accents, a touchscreen audio system,and steering wheel controls all present. The seating position isn’t as car-like as photos suggest because it’s high and upright, but it’s quite comfortable despite the flat seat backs. The one unforgiveable thing here is the mirror-image gated shifter which reduces usability and increases confusion (you can actually select the wrong gear at times).
Depending on the quantity of people you need to fit at any given time determines whether or not you’ll consider the Avanza spacious. If five’s the norm and seven the exception, the Avanza’s quite good. The first two rows offer ample comfort even during long rush hour traffic. The second row actually slides forward to accommodate the knees of those in the third row, but even then it’s best left as set of emergency jump seats. That said, at least everyone gets their own headrests—even the often forgotten second row middle seat. ISOFIX anchors are also standard now. The third row folds up in a 50/50 split when not in use revealing a vast loading bay. Securing it requires you to hook them up to the second row’s headrest; this feels very archaic, but the added cargo flexibility it offers is welcome.
With the Avanza looking every inch the people carrier, it’s expected to handle like one. Taking a page from the larger Innova, the Avanza uses a “proper” MPV architecture: body-on-frame structure driving the rear wheels. Engineered to ferry seven people in such a compact footprint, it rides quite stiffly in all but the smoothest of surfaces. With one or two passengers onboard, it’ll crash its way through concrete joints and potholes. It’s only when it’s loaded with four or more people that the ride smoothens out. Despite the tallboy proportions, it feels secure and planted to drive even at speed, although understeer is the norm. The steering is light and requires more turns than usual, but the good visibility means it’s easy to dart this straight out of the box. The brakes though are quite touchy.
Sporting a longitudinally-mounted 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, the Avanza can dream of “sports car-like performance”. In truth though, it’s merely adequate. Having to push 1,100 kilograms, this 102-horsepower, 136 Nm of torque engine shouldn’t feel taxed, but overtaking must be planned with care. From a standstill, there’s good pep and dealing with city traffic is a cinch. As the revs build up though, it starts to lose steam quickly. That initial sense of urgency is replaced by the booming noise from the motor. It also doesn’t help that the gearbox takes a split-second to downshift after flooring the throttle. It feels like you’re hearing the engine first before you feel the power kicking in; as if it takes that long for power to go from the engine to the gearbox to the propeller shaft to the rear wheels. Thankfully, despite having to floor the accelerator to get decent pace in, fuel economy isn’t affected as much: 8.67 km/L.
Going back to the question posted in the beginning: can the big minor change Avanza keep its lead in the small MPV category? That depends. It’s the Avanza that started the trend of giving Filipinos a well-built family carrier with more features than letters in their name. However, with more and more car-based choices coming in, all promising better handling and a cheaper price, Toyota is finding itself in a pinch. If you want a solid and robust 7-seater that won’t complain on rough roads or when full-loaded, the Avanza’s still the best choice. But as far as comfort goes, it’s starting to feel its age and the other choices seem to trump it in terms of value. All in all, despite the new trimmings, it doesn’t hide the fact that this remains a workhorse of an MPV. Whether or not that’s acceptable, depends entirely up to you.
2016 Toyota Avanza 1.5G A/T
|Ownership||2016 Toyota Avanza 1.5G A/T|
|Vehicle Classification||Entry-Level MPV|
|Body Type||5-door MPV|
|Engine / Drive||F/R|
|Under the Hood|
|Aspiration||Normally Aspirated, Dual VVT-i|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||I4|
|BHP @ rpm||102 @ 6,000|
|Nm @ rpm||136 @ 4,400|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / 91~|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,100|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||4-Link with Lateral Control Rod|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Tires||Dunlop Enasave EC300+ 185/65 R 15 S (f & r)|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||No|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt|
|Steering Wheel Material||Urethane|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 50/50 (2nd row), 50/50 (3rd row)|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Climate Control||No, Dual|
|No. of Speakers||4|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|