The Toyota Vios needs no introduction. Before the pandemic hit, 33,181 units of the Vios were sold in the Philippines in 2019. If the Vios were its own brand, it would be the fifth-largest automaker in the Philippines (when using 2019 sales figures). Clearly, if there’s one thing that the Vios lacks, it would be distinction. Thankfully, Toyota Gazoo Racing has a solution for you if you want to stand out. Say hello to the 2022 Toyota Vios GR-S (or GR Sport).
Let’s just first clarify a few things here. This is not in any shape or form a high-performance vehicle from Toyota, and this is prevalent in Toyota’s naming structure. If “GR” comes before the vehicle’s name, such as GR Supra, GR 86, or GR Yaris, then these are the true performance cars. On the other hand, if a car is badged as “GR Sport/GR-S” and it comes after the car’s name, such as Vios GR-S, Fortuner GR-S, or Hilux GR-S, then these are Toyotas with aesthetic (and/or handling) upgrades. Got it? Good.
Now, from an aesthetics standpoint, the 2022 Toyota Vios GR-S in my opinion is the most handsome Vios yet. The Gazoo Racing body kit and black 16-inch alloy wheels do look nice, and so is the black rear lip spoiler. It just has the right amount of sportiness without going too overboard, at least to my eyes. It also certainly helps that this car is painted in a striking shade of red, and it really captures the eyes of onlookers. Mission accomplished then for Toyota it seems to give the Vios a more distinct look.
Unlike Toyota’s past TRD-badged offerings though, the enhanced exterior is matched by an improved interior design. It’s not a radical upgrade, per se, but some of the interior upgrades do enhance the driving experience. For instance, the synthetic leather and suede GR sports seats have more aggressive bolstering and better sculpturing. As a result, the seats not only feet great under hard cornering, but they also do a better job at reducing fatigue on long-distance drives. Also unique to the Vios GR-S is a useful color multi-information display with a unique GR start-up animation.
The rest of the upgrades, however, are purely aesthetic, such as the red stitching on the doors, steering wheel, and the GR engine start/stop button. Though admittedly, these visual tweaks do enhance the look of the interior.
The rest of the Vios lineup for 2022 gets a new 6.75-inch touch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The interface itself is good, with its logical menu structure and decent response times. For this class, our benchmark would be the all-new Almera’s 8-inch Nissan Connect infotainment, with its sharper screen and better graphics, though the one in the Vios isn’t bad to begin with.
As for the rest of the vehicle, rear-seat space is still good, though the Vios lacks any amenities for the rear. Both the all-new Nissan Almera and Honda City have aircon vents and/or a 12-volt outlet, depending on their variants. Either way, competitors now offer more amenities for the rear passengers, and we wish for Toyota to catch up on this aspect.
Trunk space is also reasonably good, but not class-leading. At 478 liters, it’s able to carry a lot of stuff. The class benchmark, however, is the Honda City, with its 519-liter trunk that’s just a few liters shy of the bigger Honda City.
As for the powertrain, the 2022 Toyota Vios GR-S still uses the same 1.5-liter gasoline engine from the G variant, which means it produces 107 hp and 140 Nm of torque. Unfortunately, we do not get the sport suspension found in the Malaysian Vios GR Sport, and this is also presumably to maintain the car’s ride comfort especially given our country’s road conditions. What has been upgraded is its CVT, which has been re-engineered to simulate a 10-speed automatic that can be controlled through the paddle shifters or the gated shifter.
Does the new CVT enhance the driving experience? Surprisingly, yes! And this could be the main defining feature of the Vios GR Sport. The new CVT has a wider range of ratios to explore in pure automatic mode, which in turn resulted in improved fuel economy. I was able to achieve 12.3 km/l for a week’s worth of use, which is better than the 11.2 km/l I experienced with the Vios G CVT under the same circumstances.
Not only does it improve fuel economy, but the “10-speed” CVT also mimics a fixed-gear torque converter automatic brilliantly, at least when in Sport mode. When driving enthusiastically, the simulated cog swaps are really felt, just like in a traditional automatic. It must be noted that the ten simulated ratios are quite short, and when in manual mode, you end up shifting up and down quite frequently. Still, I was genuinely surprised that the new CVT enhances the driving experience.
With Sport mode switched off and the transmission in D, the CVT goes back to its old rubber-band throttle feel. Revs are held as you accelerate, which is always a thing with CVTs. The engine itself, while not the best in its class in terms of outright numbers, offers a decent pace when overtaking or entering expressway on-ramps. I just can’t help but think that the Vios GR-S would be paired better with a 5-speed manual just to match its sporty exterior.
In terms of handling, the Vios drives largely the same as before, which means there’s a reasonable amount of steering responsiveness and controlled body movements under hard cornering. There’s a reason why those who want to enter motorsports on a budget would often pick a Vios. However, we still think that the Mazda 2 with its tighter steering, well-tuned suspension, and traditional 6-speed automatic offers a sportier driving experience. Surprisingly, however, compared to the all-new City RS, the Vios GR Sport’s new CVT makes it a more fun-to-drive subcompact car than the Honda.
As for the rest of the driving experience, I do think that the Vios has been one of the quieter subcompact cars in its segment. Its ride is also good, though I do think that the all-new City is ever-so-slightly better at absorbing bumps. Either way, one of the reasons for the Vios’s popularity is its easy-to-drive nature, and this GR-S variant is no different.
As a whole, the 2022 Toyota Vios GR-S is able to set itself apart from other Vios models in a brilliant fashion. The upgrades aren’t just aesthetic, because some of them are also quality-of-life upgrades that do enhance the driving and ownership experience. As the country’s best-selling car, it’s practically impossible not to spot a Vios at any given moment, but this variant is able to address one thing that the Vios has always lacked due to its sheer popularity: distinction. Just don’t expect it to have the spirit of the GR Yaris hot hatch or even the GR Supra.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★★
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Space and Practicality: ★★★★☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★★
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Overall: 4.4 out of 5
*Pricing is correct and accurate as of this article’s time of writing.