First drive: 2015 Toyota Avanza in the UAE
It’s here! The car you’ve been waiting for! You people keep complaining about everything. “It’s too expensive, there’s no third-row seat, it doesn’t have Bluetooth, it doesn’t have USB ports, it’s not fuel-efficient, it doesn’t have alloys, it’s not rear-wheel-drive, it’s not as reliable as a Toyota, blah, blah.” Well, here’s the car for you — the all-new 2015 Toyota Avanza. For only Dhs 54,900. Now stop whining.
The Toyota Avanza is a mini-MPV designed by sister-company Daihatsu and built in Indonesia. It comes in only one trim for the UAE, with a 102 hp 1.5-litre 4-cylinder mated to a 4-speed automatic and rear-wheel-drive platform. But more importantly, it has three rows of seating.
Yes, the cabin can theoretically seat seven, although only the smallest of kids will be comfortable in the last row. It is decently spacious, with about the same legroom as a Yaris and about the same headroom as a Previa, with a sliding split-folding second-row seat. Even the third row split-folds, but the bench does not disappear into the floor. There’s only space for grocery bags with all three rows in use.
The hard-plastic cabin has dashes of unpadded cloth as door-inserts, with as many as three bottle-holders on the front doors, a few more on the rear doors, and more cupholders for first-row and third-row passengers. Useful features include a basic CD/MP3 stereo, USB/AUX ports, keyless entry, power windows and mirrors, Bluetooth and two airbags. But wait, there’s more. Fog lamps, 15-inch alloys, manual a/c with rear roof vents, rear window wiper and ABS with EBD, all are standard.
We took it out for a brief spin and there were some surprises. The upright driving position, necessitated by a non-telescoping steering wheel, isn’t hard to get used to, especially since the big windows and raised driving position offer great visibility. The steering is nicely weighted and gearbox is responsive in casual driving, even if there isn’t much forward motion at full throttle. The brakes are so-so, but get the job done with a little extra pedal-push. And there’s surprisingly little body roll and almost no floatiness over bumps. It basically drives like a big Yaris.
Of course, the downside to tighter handling is that the ride is a tiny bit firm, although not annoyingly so. However, things get a bit loud inside the cabin at 100 kph, due to the minimal use of sound-deadening. You can feel that when you slam the thin doors. And the a/c, while strong, is uneven in the way it distributes air via the vents.
So who does the Avanza appeal to? In an ideal world, all a family would ever need is an Avanza. In fact, that’s how it already is in South-East Asia, where the Avanza hails from. Of course, market dynamics are different here. Most people take a bigger loan and buy 7-seater 4x4s here for fake street-cred more than anything else, and the Avanza has none of that. As such, we still think it will sell in huge numbers, bought by repeat customers of the Innova.
For detailed prices and specs, visit the Toyota Avanza buyer guide.