There’s plenty of advice out there that says “Hey, you’ve just started working, it’s best you get a brand new car because they're reliable and cheaper to maintain!" Don’t get us wrong, it's a very valid opinion.
But what if you’re 'the 10th dentist'? Perhaps you want to eschew the monthly commitments and just plonk the cash for an older car that'll still take you around reliably.
For that, the 2003-2007 Toyota Vios (NCP42) remains a very viable option.
While I own one, here's an unbiased account of:
- What you should look out for when scouting for one
- The costs you should expect
- The fun stuff - communities and aftermarket parts
Variants, powertrain and practicality
The Vios comes with a 1.5-litre, naturally aspirated inline-four engine (code: 1NZ-FE) making 109 PS and 142 Nm, paired to a four-speed automatic. Suspension is MacPherson struts in front, and torsion beam behind. If you get the G variant, you get disc brakes all around.
Speaking of which, there’s only two variants, and both have the same powertrain. Fuel consumption is still respectable - with a light foot, 500-650 km on a full (42-litre) tank is possible.
The G variant is a better buy because you'll get:
- Anti-lock braking system with electronic brake force distribution (ABS, EBD)
- Disc brakes all-around
- 15-inch wheels
- Two airbags
- 2-DIN audio (easier to buy aftermarket systems)
- 6 speakers
- Electronically-adjustable side mirrors
Regardless of what you choose though, you'll only get a 400-litre boot, fabric seats and non-foldable rear seats. At least there's a full-size 15-inch spare.
The Orca/Orga (different Vios get different fish names) is a compact sedan. As such, it isn't any more imposing to drive and park than a Perodua Axia, for example.
It got a small nip-and-tuck in 2005 which mostly covered aesthetics, but nothing was touched mechanically.
The facelifted models get a new front fascia, slightly updated tail lights, stubbier antenna and different wheels. The interior stays the same, if only for a colour change (black/grey to cream/beige).
You might want to spring for the facelifted one by merit of it being relatively newer.
What to look out for?
The first Vios is still a mighty dependable car, so there are some obvious red flags you should avoid:
- Difficulty starting
- Jerky gear shifts
- Clunky, metallic noises while idling/driving
- White smoke (burning engine oil)
- Crashed or flooded examples
Some examples might have steering rack and lower arm issues (try what's shown in the video above and make sure that sound isn't present). Also, the dampers may need replacing at this age.
It’s also good practice to keep some money aside for alternator repair/replacement, but this is valid for any used car more than 10 years old.
Keep an eye on rust spots too - under the boot is a common culprit. Water tends to seep in due to deteriorating rubber seals, but that's easily fixable with replacement seals (around RM 100).
This generation of Vios was also part of the worldwide Takata airbag recall campaign. Make sure the front passenger airbag has been replaced and you get the car's full maintenance records.
Maintaining an early Vios isn’t expensive. Road tax is RM 90 and yearly insurance is around RM 800 (zero NCD, zero loading and excluding additional coverage i.e. windshield or flood coverage).
Parts are a dime a dozen and there’s tons of shops out there who can fix up your Vios. The battery size is NS60L, so that will set you back around RM 220 for replacement. Other than that, the Vios runs on 15- or 16-inch wheels, and you can find tyre prices here.
Prices - around RM 15k - RM 18k
Pre-facelifts can be yours for around RM 15,000 while facelifted ones go for around RM 18,000.
Remember, classified prices aren’t final due to hidden fees, so try to buy from trustworthy private sellers - of which there’s plenty of them on Facebook.
Communities and aftermarket
You'll never be left wanting for communities as the Vios has quite a steady following with tons of groups on social media.
If modifications are your thing, you’ll be happy to note that it’s a lively scene there too - anything from bodykits, accessories, and even whole powertrain swaps (2ZZ-GE with 6-speed manuals are a thing).
Getting a first-gen Vios (in good nick) is not a bad way to start your motoring journey. Just remember to keep in mind the crucial stuff you've read here, buy it from someone trustable, and you'll be well on your way.