Toyota has had a penchant for slowly bringing their products upmarket; they did it with the Innova, which now feels more of a Mommy minivan than the multi-purpose vehicle it was before, and they’re now doing it to the Avanza.
Late last year, Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) launched the highest trim of the Avanza called the Veloz. I take it out for a 7-day spin to see if it lives up to its name.
The Veloz, as how I’ll refer to it here, isn’t all that different outside than the plain Avanza. It does come with a deep hue of what TMP calls Red Mica Metallic, but what really distinguishes it from the pack is the blacked-out and rather large honeycomb grille that’s just under the familiar ‘keen look’ façade.
Wheel size and style is the same 15-inchers found on the G trim while around back, it’s fitted with a smoked chrome strip on the tailgate, and a new bumper with new round reflectors. These minor upgrades as a package, and with some tint on it, should allow the Veloz to stand out more prominently than the average Avanza.
The keyless remote system is straightforward and plain, built straight into bow of the key, which is a two-button unit — one to lock and the other to unlock. Instead of a two-tone interior, the Veloz is almost all-black inside save for the blue streaks on the seats and the shiny strip on the dashboard, door panels and center stack. While it’s not a straight-up ‘wow’, it does set itself apart.
It still looks plain to the naked eye but the infotainment system does come with some neat surprises. First, the 6.2-inch monitor has touchscreen capability so the number of buttons you need to manage the radio and other media are greatly reduced. Second, it has Bluetooth! Pairing is simpler than in more hi-tech vehicles, which basically means it’s easier to do. When a call comes it, the buttons to click are all on the touchscreen as the steering wheel only comes with controls for audio volume and modes (like FM, AM, etc.). There’s a single USB port in front so you’ll have to use an adapter if you’ve got more than one device to charge.
When it comes to cooling the cabin, there’s more than just the front vents. The second row has three extra ceiling vents with its own fan switch. As a plus, the air conditiong system in the Veloz, and I guess in the Avanza for that matter, is pretty efficient. It was able to cool the relatively large cabin at half of the thermostat setting and the fan speed at two.
Powering the Veloz is the same 1.5L engine with 103-HP and 136-Nm of torque, mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. I know it’s almost subcompact in size and output but it surprisingly does the job, albeit with a little audible grunt from the engine.
Accelerating from first gear is snappy but it does stay a little longer there than I’d want to, unless I ease off the pedal to allow it to shift to second right at 2,000 RPM. Otherwise, the upshift happens at some 2,500 rpm, which isn’t really fuel efficient. Fuel economy is at a very acceptable nine kilometers per liter in pure city driving.
The four-speed AT really isn’t doing the small engine any favors as the engine will rev high on the highway to maintain high speeds. I do expect the next iteration of the Avanza to sport a more advanced transmission.
As a fairly tall and rather slim vehicle, rollover resistance is understandably low around corners compared to sedans. Suspension doesn’t do much to mask uneven road surfaces unless the vehicle is laden.
Its trim name comes from a Portugese word which translates in English to fast or quick and it is exactly that in the city. It’s punchy — which is all you need it to be in metro traffic — and small enough to fit into tight and narrow streets. A Filipino family of five can fit comfortably so long as no one is on plus-sized and it will save you some gas money with its fuel economy.
Price is a little tricky as it breaches the million-peso mark at P1.065 million. If you value efficiency over looks and features, the Toyota Avanza Veloz is for you.
Text and photos by Eric Tipan