A new generation of the Toyota Yaris Ativ was unveiled in Thailand this evening and while it is known by that name there, Malaysians know it as the Vios, one of the best-selling sedans in the non-national brand segment. With this new DNGA-based Yaris Ativ, the Vios goes into its fourth generation since 2002. To date, around 3.5 million units have been sold worldwide, with a large number in ASEAN.

DNGA – Daihatsu New Global Architecture –is a platform and structure which is used for the smaller models in the Toyota Group which Daihatsu is part off (and which is also extended to Perodua since it is partnered with Daihatsu).

2022 Toyota Yaris Ativ Vios
2021 Toyota Vios
Current third generation Vios

DNGA has been developed with weight-saving approaches while the rigid structure and suspension geometry provide high standards of stability and comfort. Besides giving much attention to aerodynamics, DNGA also provides generous interior space with a quiet environment.

2022 Toyota Yaris Ativ Vios

Size-wise, the new Vios (we’ll call it that since the name is more familiar to Malaysians) is almost the same as its predecessor with 5 mm more length, 10 mm more width and an extra 5 mm in overall height. Of greater significance is the widening of the wheelbase by 70 mm to 2620 mm which will have positive implications on handling and stability and more importantly, cabin spaciousness.

For now, only the specs for the Thai Yaris Ativ model are available and the engine fitted is the 3NR-VE 1.2-litre petrol engine which is partly dictated by the need to meet the country’s Eco Car requirement for incentives. This engine produces 94 ps/110 Nm which flows through a Super CVT-i transmission to the front wheels. As is common these days, the driver can choose an Economy or Sport mode, or just leave the engine to run in the default Normal mode.

2022 Toyota Yaris Ativ Vios

It’s not known whether Malaysia will continue with the 1.5-litre 2NR-VE unit (107 ps/140 NM) in the current Vios. As the model is assembled locally, it may be possible to use the engine and if we’re not mistaken, it is produced at a factory in Negeri Sembilan. Using the engine would be important for the model to maximise its local content level and get better government incentives to help keep its pricing competitive.

2022 Toyota Yaris Ativ Vios

The suspension remains straightforward with MacPherson struts in front and a torsion beam with coil springs at the rear. Some versions come with rear disc brakes as an extra selling point although most engineers will tell you that drum brakes are good enough.

As we’ve seen in the new models launched in recent times, Toyota’s design approach has become more ‘aggressive’ with a bolder appearance. Where appropriate, models are also given a sportier image and in the case of the new Vios/Yaris Ativ, the profile has gained a sleeker fastback style which brings the Cd down to 0.284.

2022 Toyota Yaris Ativ Vios
2022 Toyota Yaris Ativ Vios

The frontal appearance, now more angular and chiseled, has hints of the larger Camry with the dominant grille. Sequential turn signals and LED headlamps/tail lamps have now come down in price that they can be offered in this class.

With each new generation, the level of quality has risen and texturing is even finer. Adjustable ambient lighting, common in more expensive models, has now trickled down to the Vios and the driver can choose from 64 colours to set the mood for each journey.

2022 Toyota Yaris Ativ Vios
2022 Toyota Yaris Ativ Vios

The dashboard layout follows current trends with a tablet-like touchscreen display to show infotainment and navigation information. In the middle area of the dashboard are the manual controls for the ventilation and air-conditioning system, a more practical approach than having everything done by just touch.

2022 Toyota Yaris Ativ Vios
2022 Toyota Yaris Ativ Vios

Over on the driver’s side, the digital instrument panel shows all the operating information (with variable displays) while there are switches on the steering wheel for easy setting changes without taking the hands of the steering wheel.

Depending on the version, the new Vios comes with features such as automatic air-conditioning, a PM 2.5 air filtration system and an electric parking brake. Connectivity with smartphones is easily done with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.

An extensive Toyota Safety Sense package (which includes Adaptive Cruise Control) is provided to reduce drive workload as well as help avoid accidents. There’s also the Panoramic View Monitor which provides an all-round view and Toyota also has its own DVRs (dashcams) that are installed as standard or offered as accessories, depending on the version.

2022 Toyota Yaris Ativ Vios
2022 Toyota Yaris Ativ Vios

I would be lying if I said I was not excited about driving the GR Yaris.

“You go la bro, do a written and video review of the drive experience,” said Chips in our Piston/BikesRepublic/MotoMalaya Whatsapp group chat.

I saved the formalities, thanked Chips and dove right in. There was no, “are you sure, bro?”

I love my colleagues, but I love the cars more. There was no way was I going to say no to driving what is arguably the 10 most interesting drivers cars of the past decade. Or maybe 20.

The invite said to be there by 8, the sheer excitement woke me up by 530. I got there by 820. Traffic was bad.

After all the formalities, hellos and a quick breakfast, there it was, the car that had dominated the news for a while, and was deemed as the most exciting hot hatch in a while, and I was unimpressed. I found myself thinking, “damn, it is rather small and unassuming.”

It really is small. Tiny almost. Almost the size of a Mini Cooper 3-door. But wider. Which is not a bad thing. Some of the greatest cars are all short, wide and low. That’s the basics of a great hot hatch. Think Renault Clio V6.

But sit inside and it feels comfortable, with an almost family sort of friendliness to it; the type that feels like you could drive it all day and then some.

And despite all that, there was an aura in the air inside the GR Yaris that set the purpose straight. Telling whoever it is that sits in it that it was something special. This was not a regular Toyota and you could feel it.

Perhaps it was the data logger lookalike head unit that dominated the central dashboard. Or perhaps it was the very obvious focus of the 6-speed manual with an aluminium shifter. Or perhaps it was the plastic laminated sticker that read out the car’s purpose in life – ‘Developed For FIA World Rally Championship’. But the biggest giveaway to the purpose of this Yaris was in its name – Toyota Gazoo Racing Yaris.

“I sat in one of those things,” says my cousin Miki the day after my drive at Sepang.

I drove the Yaris from London to Cardiff, and it was horrid,” he said.

“Yes, but I bet it wasn’t the GR Yaris,” was my answer.

“Of course not, I heard those things are quite special,” was his answer.

He could not be more right. The GR Yaris truly is special. It is also a Frankenstein of sorts as it is the combination of a Toyota Yaris front and a Toyota Corolla back. Hence why it looks so wide at the back, because it is all-wheel-drive, and the wider track helps it go rallying. A perfect canvas for Tommi Makinen’s Toyota GR Rally team to develop a world dominator.

But there is little point in going further here, even if I were to wax lyrical about how much fun the car is to drive, which it really is, on track at least because I haven’t driven it on road – the fact of the matter is that you cannot buy a Toyota GR Yaris anymore. Not a brand new unit in Malaysia at least.

UMW Toyota Malaysia offered only 125 units of the GR Yaris to the Malaysian public, and all of them have been spoken for.

I did question the need to write this article before starting, since you won’t be able to buy it brand new here anyway. But the car is undoubtedly amazing, and deserves an article of its own.

And I totally understand the demand for it, I want one too. I can’t remember the last time I drove something that made me want to do some very illegal things with it. Every couple of years, a manufacturer will release something truly special that will blow away even the most dedicated of passionists – the GR Yaris is one of them.

Visually though there is nothing special about the car – inside or outside.

The uninitiated could easily be fooled into thinking it were a custom Myvi with a wide body kit which had spent time at the chop shop to get rid of the two back doors.

It really isn’t visually impressive. It won’t make your children squeal in delight when they see one, it will make your wife question her marriage to you should you spend over a quarter of a million ringgit in a car the size of a Myvi. It won’t get you the girls.

It will however get you lots of questions from fanboys. Myvi’s will want to race you, the Type R boys will “cucuk” you every chance they get. And the AMG and Golf R boys will have a laugh smoking you.

But that’s okay though, because as soon as you hit the corners, you will have the last laugh, because in the corners is where this Yaris becomes at one with its element.

In fact I dare say that in tight corners and in the right hands, this Yaris will “re-smoke” the AMG and Golf R. Such is its talent and capabilities, but a short wheel-base all-wheel-drive car will always need some experienced, talented hands that know what to do in case things get hairy. And things will get hairy very quickly.

The all-wheel drive system is intelligent, in normal mode, it sends 60% of power to the front wheels, while in track mode it sends 50% of the power to the rear for perfect power distribution, and in sport mode it sends 70% of power to the back wheels, making it a tiny tail happy car.

We did get a chance to feel this layout for ourselves, the sport mode around the gymkhana track which was set up to initiate a slide – a 360 degree donut drift, a slalom course then into a high speed gets the tail out if you pull the handbrake hard enough. Onto another slalom then hard on the brakes.

It was in the track mode that really made me realise that there are certain limitations to the car. Brake hard into a slow corner like turns one, four, nine and 15 of the Sepang Circuit and the rear will threaten to break loose. In fast corners especially turns five and six you have to modulate the pedal and even then there is this niggling sensation that the back just wants to break free.

Power is from a three-cylinder, 1.6 turbocharged engine. It puts out 261PS and 360km/h. Get the shifts right and this Yaris will reach 100km/h in just 5.5 seconds. Top speed is rated at 230km/h.

But it is not how much power it puts out, it’s how it feels doing it.

Floor the pedal and there is no roar or scream that follows the acceleration. It is more of a “whoosh” of the turbocharger. Did you really expect a three-cylinder engine to scream?

I am not mocking the engine here. What Toyota has achieved with a three pot engine makes it the most power three-cylinder engine in the world. Ever! Read that sentence again, perhaps then we can truly appreciate the magnificence of this small car.

Then there is the fact this Yaris is in fact a homologation special – meaning that it was bred for racing. Rallying, to be more accurate.

Toyota built 25,000 units of the GR Yaris, because the rules of homologation says a manufacturer needs to build 25,000 units of a model, and it goes on to say that 2,500 of those can be high performance variants as well. Which suggests that rumours around Toyota building a more hardcore version of the GR Yaris may actually be true. Hello GRMN!

There is no doubt that the Toyota GR Yaris is a special car to drive, though it may not look like it to the untrained eye. This is a car that needs to be driven to be appreciated, and those that know, they know.

My biggest gripe with this car? That UMW Toyota Motor is not able to offer more units than the 125 already sold. That more people are not able to enjoy such a fantastic machine. This is a car that could potentially define a generation, a legend like the Golf GTI and the Renault Megane. And unfortunately enthusiasts will have to turn to the grey import market to buy it, robbing them of official Toyota after sales support.

There is also word from friends who have booked the GR Yaris that their bookings are a money making tool now. Some are getting random phone calls offering to buy their booking for double the booking fee paid. Demand is so hot that at the point of writing, the GR Yaris offers better return on investment than any form of investment type, be it properties, gold, petroleum or energy stock.

A great car it is, one of the modern legends, but it remains to be seen how that three-cylinder engine deals with all that abuse.

And if your wife threatens to leave you because you spent a quarter of a million ringgit on a car that looks like a Myvi, tell her that it is a better investment than the jewellery she forced you to buy her. For now at least.

One of the most popular non-national cars out there, the Toyota Vios has been upgraded with more accessories and refreshed looks, offering better value for money.


For the top-of-the-range Vios TRD, the bodykit now has enhanced sporty looks with new colour-coordinated stripes. The exclusive bodykit, designed by TRD Asia, not only gives a sportier look but also offers functional benefits in the form of improved aerodynamics. The door mirror covers are now finished in black for added stylishness.

For the remaining variants, there is a new design of bodykit with honeycomb design grille that follows the latest styling trends. For the 2018 model, the interior looks have been refreshed with new seat cover designs for GX, E and J grades. The leather seat cover for GX variant is perforated to provide ventilation and improve comfort.

Parking sensors are fitted to the Vios 1.5 TRD, GX and G variants to make parking easier and safer. The rear sensors are useful especially for reversing, while the front sensors will help in getting into tight spots and avoid bumping against other objects which can damage the paintwork on the bumper.

All variants of the Vios are now fitted with a compact Shark Fin antenna on the roof, following current design trends. The Shark Fin antenna for the TRD variant is black in colour to enhance the sporty looks while the other variants follow the body colour. Due to its slim cross-section, this type of antenna has lower wind noise compared to the conventional pole type and does not need to be retracted or removed if the car is passing through an automated car-wash machine.

Scuff plates are also installed on the door sills of all variants to provide protection for the paintwork as well as add a stylish touch. Except for the Vios 1.5 J, the stainless steel scuff plates on all the other variants also illuminate when the doors are opened. The foot lamp illumination has been given a new look with amber colour for the TRD variant and white for other variants.

Advanced accessories such as Panoramic View Monitor, Digital Video Recorder and more advanced DVD-AVN infotainment system with a 7-inch touchscreen and smartphone and internet connectivity are still available for all Vios. For Vios 1.5 J owners who wish to upgrade their infotainment system, there is an optional DVD-AVX system with a 6.2-inch touchscreen that comes with Bluetooth connectivity, HDMI, Voice Dial as well as the Reverse Camera.

The cost of these accessories can be included in the hire purchase (H-P) loan amount if specified at the time the car is purchased. They are fitted at UMW Toyota Motor’s own Accessories Centre by trained installers and come with a warranty against manufacturing defects.

There are six variants available to choose with affordable prices as low as RM74,980 (W/O insurance). From now until the end of February 2018, purchasers of the new Vios can save up to RM2,512 and get an ang-pow worth RM988, plus free accessories. All offers are for selected variants and subject to terms and conditions, while stocks last.

All Toyota models come with a 5-years warranty and unlimited mileage for peace of mind ownership. The warranty is available for the next owner within the first 5 years coverage which further enhances the value of the car.

To find out more about the latest Vios and the special offer for Chinese New Year, customers can visit any Toyota showroom where test-drives are also available, or visit toyota.com.my.


Follow us on Facebook

Follow us on YouTube