In just four years, the Toyota Avanza has firmly established itself as the most popular MPV in Malaysia, taking over from the Unser which was also the best-selling Toyota model for many years. Over 110,000 Avanzas have been sold to date and the reason for such immense popularity is its affordable price as well as 7-person accommodation ? something which is required by many families who have maids and parents going on outings too.
It must have been a big challenge for the product planners to improve upon a model that is so popular. How do you make a MPV that is obviously so good even better? But for Toyota, there?s no such thing as ?cannot improve?; the company?s ?kaizen? philosophy (Japanese for ?constant improvement?) does not allow complacency to set in even when a model does so well and there is a constant effort to make products better in various ways. Like the latest IMV trio (Fortuner, Innova and Hilux), they might not made radical changes but there are changes, though subtle, which are partly in response to feedback from customers and partly in keeping with trends. In areas where you can?t see, there are also small changes, all aimed at enhancing reliability or durability.
The latest Avanza line-up which appears in showrooms in Peninsula Malaysia this weekend (East Malaysia from November 29) has two new versions ? the Avanza 1.5S and 1.5E, both with automatic transmission. Also new is the option of a non-metallic white body colour which will turn heads because it makes the Avanza stand out! Prices for the new Avanza line-up start at RM62,000 and go up to RM77,100.
The new Avanza 1.5S gets an exclusive exterior treatment which emphasizes sportiness. It has an exclusive bumper design with an integrated foglight on each corner and a distinctive grille. Along the sides, side skirts (sill extensions) visually lower the appearance of the car, enhancing the sporty image. The skirts continue to the rear bumper where they also make the car look more low-slung from the back.
The simple and practical looks now have a more dynamic appearance with the new frontal appearance that includes a new and bolder front bumper design. The Avanza 1.3E has a colour-keyed grille finish while for the Avanza 1.5E and 1.5G,? chrome trim adds a touch of class. For the Avanza 1.5 variants, there are also chromed door handles and rear garnish to enhance exterior look.
Changes to the spacious interior are evident in the trim and upholstery colour which has been changed from beige to a new colour known as greige (mixture of grey and beige). To match this new colour, items such as the dashboard, steering, centre console and door assist grip have also had their colour changed to Ash Brown.
The shift lever operation for 4-speed automatic transmission variants is completely changed to the gated type which is used in the Corolla and Camry models. The arrangement of the positions has been carefully planned according to usage patterns to optimize operating efficiency and ease.
Journeys of any length will be enjoyable in the Avanza and unlike some other MPVs, staying cool inside will be no problem, thanks to the dual air-conditioning system. To ensure that the rearmost passengers receive sufficient cool air, there are overhead vents with a separate blower to deliver air all the way to the back.
Though compact on the outside, the Avanza offers comfortable seating for everyone inside. The third row, especially, offers generous elbow room and headroom for two persons.? For ease of movement in and out of the Avanza, the hip point has been set high at the right position for most Malaysians. This means that getting out is easier as the legs do not have to be stretched out uncomfortably while getting in does not require a ?climb?, something which will be welcomed by older people.
There are no changes to the powertrain which has 1.3-litre and 1.5-litre petrol engines with Toyota?s Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i). For the 1.5-litre engine, maximum power output is? 109 ps at 6000 rpm with maximum torque of? 141 Nm at 4400rpm. The 1.3-litre VVT-i engine produces 92 ps of power at 6000 rpm and a maximum of 120 Nm of torque at? 4400rpm.
To provide ride quality and handling comparable to a passenger car, the Avanza has independent MacPherson front suspension and a 4-link live axle at the rear with coil spring suspension. The use of a live axle at the rear is advantageous for a vehicle like the Avanza which can carry heavier loads, especially at the rear end.
Power assistance makes it easy to maneuver the Avanza and with its compact size, parking is very easy. Furthermore, the turning radius is just 4.7 metres so a U-turn can be easily done.
Having so many people on board makes safety even more crucial and every one of the seven occupants has a seatbelt, enabling compliance with the rear seatbelt usage law which will come into effect on January 1 2009. The bodyshell of the Avanza is also GOA-certified, meaning it has passed Toyota?s tough in-house safety standards collectively known as the ?Global Outstanding Assessment? (GOA). These standards? match or exceed the safety standards in most countries and every new Toyota model must pass GOA before it can go on sale.
All Avanzas have a laminated non-shattering windscreen as standard, disc/drum brake system with dual hydraulic circuits, a collapsible steering column and childproof locks fitted to the rear doors. The Avanza 1.5S and 1.5G also get dual SRS airbags at the front and ABS together with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD). The latter feature is important for a vehicle like the Avanza which will have varying loads that affect braking characteristics. EBD, which is computer-managed, adjusts the brake force applied on all four brakes according to the load on board and where it is located, optimising braking performance.
Customers can also order the new Avanza 1.5E and 1.3E with an Aero Package to give it a sportier look. Priced at RM2,635, this consists of Front Bumper Spoiler, Side Skirting, Rear Bumper Spoiler , Muffler Cutter, Wing Mirror with Signal Lamp, Rear Bumper Protector and D-pillar Reflector. Other optional accessories include Toyota-approved and recommended Solar tinting and security film for the glass. Other than the Avanza 1.3E, all the other versions come with alloy rims (including the spare wheel). UMWT also includes, as standard, a cleverly-designed teh tarik hook which goes under the front passenger?s headrest, luggage tray, first-aid kit, jumper cables and a safety triangle.
The security system for the Avanza is a comprehensive one that consists of an engine Immobiliser, siren with back-up battery, cabin sensor (which detects unauthorised entry and automatic door-locking.
As this is presumably a mid-term update, it would appear that unlike the usual model cycle of 5 years which Toyota has been using all along, the Avanza ? which is a sub-project in the IMV program ? is likely to have a longer model cycle to achieve better economies of scale for lower costs which can keep prices down.
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