Text and photos by Chris Van Hoven
Serving as the transportation backbone for families (and commuters) throughout the Philippines, the MPV, or Multi-Purpose Vehicle segment is arguably one of the most important automotive segments in the country. Toyota has consistently enjoyed the top spot in this regard throughout the decades, with their incredibly successful Tamaraw FX and Revo models used as the de facto people-mover of choice for countless families across the nation.
Once the Toyota Innova entered the picture, it gladly took the reins as its successor, and currently holds the title as the country’s best-selling MPV. But as the Toyota Innova grew and evolved to accommodate a more up-scale market, a segment gap was left open for those looking for more affordable, utilitarian options. Enter the Toyota Avanza.
As far as exterior styling is concerned, the Toyota Avanza is arguably one of the better-looking cars in its class. The latest update introduced in 2015has provided the Avanza with modern styling cues that keep it fresh enough to compete in a segment where exterior styling takes a back seat to practicality. The Avanza features a well-proportioned shape, with a gaping chrome grille that complements sporty side skirts, new alloy wheels and large combination tail lights. It’s a look that has managed to stay relevant since its refresh three years ago, and looks capable of staying that way for a few years longer.
To their credit, Toyota has attempted to give the Avanza’s interior a more premium feel, though it hasn’t retained the same longevity as its exterior styling. The top spec G variant does come with a touchscreen infotainment system that supports AM/FM/CD/MP3/Aux and USB connections, and the two-tone black and tan color combination with aluminum touches is certainly attractive, but overall fit and finish has fallen behind its competitors. Hard plastics comprise most of the interior, from the dash to the door panels, with almost comically large manual air-conditioning controls dominating the center console. The instrument cluster, while slightly busy,still manages to remain highly legible, with a digital monochrome LCD display on the right side for fuel and odometer readings.
The driver and passenger seats are comfortable and are adequately supportive, though finding a comfortable driving position may take a while since the Avanza offers a naturally high and upright seating configuration that takes some getting used to. The second row is equally comfortable for three adults, and slides back and forth to allow more room to third row passengers. Despite this, the third row is best left for smaller occupants, or stowed away altogether, as the 50/50 split folding third row reveals large room for cargo when folded up.
Moving a full complement of seven passengers is no easy task, and the Avanza’s 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine with 102 hp and 136 Nm is just enough to get the job done. Paired to a four-speed automatic transmission, the engine shines during city driving, where small inputs reveal a lot of pep at low RPM. Its light steering and smaller frame, combined with excellent visibility allows it to dart in and out of traffic with ease. Highway jaunts are a little more taxing for the engine, sometimes struggling to overtake at high speed. As an urban city slicker however, the engine does just fine, returning an average of 8-9 kilometers per liter in mixed city and highway conditions. The Avanza is also reasonably adept at handling potholes and road irregularities without much drama, though the ride improves tremendously with more passengers on board.
Still the practical choice
The Avanza 1.5 G A/T manages to stay right at the magic number – P1,000,000. At this price range, you get power adjustable side mirrors, power windows, and wireless door locks. On the safety side, ABS with EBD is standard, and both driver and passenger receive SRS airbags. While the Avanza manages to remain competitive in the segment, its classmates have managed to overtake it in terms of comfort and overall refinement.
What the Avanza does offer however, is the trustworthiness and serviceability that comes with the Toyota badge. This makes the Avanza the ultimate practical choice for those looking for an affordable, no-frills, easy-to-maintain and dependable MPV that needs to get the job done. For that, the Toyota Avanza can be relied on for years to come.