Text and photos by Aries B. Espinosa
IF THE summer months mean weeks-long fiestas for Pinoys, for the motoring media it has also meant three- or four-day-long road trips with the country’s leading automaker and distributor, Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP).
TMP’s annual Road Trek, now on its 15th year, takes the local motoring media to the country’s best island destinations on board its featured vehicles. En route to the destinations, TMP bunches up the participants into teams and engages them in fun in-transit and pit stop games. The teams’ efforts are blissfully rewarded with prizes and — of course — lots of pampering and R&R at the island paradise destinations.
In the Road Trek’s 15 editions, it seems that Palawan — the country’s “final frontier” and its biggest province in terms of jurisdiction — has turned out to be TMP’s favorite destination. The Road Trek has been held here in 2008, 2013, and 2016. Then last May 9 to 11, the Road Trek just made its fourth run here — this time from Puerto Princesa City to Taytay Port in the municipality of Rizal in northern Palawan, a good 170-km drive.
That distance was enough for our group of four to get to enjoy our assigned vehicles. First was the top-of-the-line Vios variant, the 1.5 G Prime, then the monster SUV 4.0-liter FJ Cruiser in cheery bright yellow, and finally the face-lifted Dark Blue SE 1.5 G A/T Avanza, which was the highlight vehicle for this trip.
The other models TMP brought along to transport the other groups were the Vios E Prime, all-new RAV 4, Fortuner G and V models, Innova V, Camry, and Hiace Tourer.
The new-look Avanza rightly held the spotlight this time. Considered as the “front act” to the MPV phenom that is the Innova, the Avanza deserves its own makeover for its 2nd-gen look, especially when it has been positioned as the “MPV of choice for the smart Filipino family.”
Maria Cristina “Tini” Arevalo, First Vice President for TMP’s Brand and Product Planning Cluster, revealed that the Avanza has reached the 100,000 unit sales mark since its introduction to the local market in 2006, and has earned its place as the second bestselling multi-purpose vehicle after the Innova.
“This Road Trek 2019 offers the first official glimpse of the new Avanza, and the Philippines has been among the first countries in Southeast Asia to launch it,” Arevalo announced.
She added, “The new Avanza, the vehicle of choice for the young starting families on the lookout for best value without sacrificing style, will be offered to the public (starting May 14 at all 69 Toyota dealerships nationwide) with its top variants the 1.5 Veloz A/T and the 1.5 G A/T without any price increase.”
Thus, the new Avanza Veloz A/T keeps its price pegged at P1.065 million, while the 1.5G A/T variant stays at P1 million. The Avanza goes for a starting price of P731,000 (for the 1.3 J M/T).
With that price freeze at the top-of-the-line variants, the new Avanza becomes an even more value-driven proposition, as it now comes with a refreshed sporty look, a redesigned dashboard with a new infotainment system, and practical safety features.
The new Avanza’s exterior overhaul includes a brand new fascia, highlighted with new split-type LED head lamps as well as front fog lamps alongside its dark front grille. The redesigned alloy wheels complement the ground clearance. The sporty rear design and the fin-type antenna complete the modern look.
Inside, the new Avanza comes equipped with a 6.8-inch capacitive touch panel display infotainment system also found in premium Toyota models like the RAV 4 and Camry. This multimedia console is enhanced with high-resolution K2 Technology audio that enables 2-phone hands-free and 5-Phone music streaming. Smartphone mirroring is also allowed using the T-Link app.
Boasting a spacious 7-seater cabin and cargo trunk, the interior design cues have been patterned for versatility and practical daily use. Driving and riding comfort and convenience is enhanced with its new digital display air-conditioning and additional accessory connectors for the front and back rows.
As for safety, aside from two SRS airbags for driver and passenger, the new Avanza has 3-point ELR seatbelts for all seats and an ISOFIX child seat restraint system suited for starting families. On top of its Anti-Lock Brake System, the new Avanza also gets upgraded with side mirror-integrated turn signals.
And then there’s the always dependable and satisfying powertrain. The new Toyota Avanza generates a maximum output of 103hp for the 1.5-liter engine (Veloz, G variant) and 95hp for the 1.3-liter engine (E, J variant). There’s still the choice between a 4-speed automatic and a 5-speed manual.
The five-hour drive with the new Avanza from Puerto Princesa to Taytay Port provided our group with enough inputs to conclude that the second iteration of the Avanza makes good on its claims in styling, interior amenities, and drivability. The winding and rolling hills of the well-paved Palawan highway showed that the new Avanza could handle itself well in the twisties at speed, albeit the suspension was a bit rigid (and we felt it when we crossed bridges with uneven lead-ins and lead-outs).
From Taytay Port, our contingent of 37 participants boarded a big outrigger for the 45-minute transfer to the Apulit Island luxury resort (formerly Club Noah). There, TMP President Satoru Suzuki provided the big picture on the Road Trek and on TMP: “The Road Trek tradition has become an enduring symbol of friendship that goes beyond business. The challenging times that we in TMP and our media friends have faced together have made our ties stronger,” he said.
“The first quarter of 2019 looks very favorable, as we successfully launched the full-model change of the RAV 4, and held the Philippines’ first world premiere for the Hiace. We hope that the new Toyota Avanza will receive the same level of enthusiasm from our media friends,” Mr. Suzuki added.
With over 100,000 owners and drivers of the Avanza, plus so many more who will buy its second generation, the motoring media will certainly take a keen interest in this low-key MPV.