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Toyota has launched an all-out attack on the local six cylinder passenger vehicle market with their upgraded Vienta V6 range. Models consist of eight variants from the basic CSi to the top of the line Grande, claimed to be the most luxurious Toyota sedan to be offered in Australia. Prices for the new range start at a very competitive $27,160 rising to $43,980 for the prestigious Grande model.
Due to the wide range, the Vienta is able to fit comfortably into the medium six cylinder market, the CSi satisfying the lower end or fleet level, whilst the Grande slots into the lower end of the luxury market with ease.
There has been an obvious concentration on the separate identity of the Vienta, its lift in equipment levels and the emphasis on the local assembly and content. All of these have assisted in reducing the price of the Vienta range and being more competitive.
The main changes in the Vienta range are the introduction of a manual transmission to the CSi and Touring Series sedans, replacement of the Ultima with the Grande, standard integrated alarm and immobiliser and upgraded audio systems. Trim colours have been revised with a new range of seat fabrics, including perforated leather and woodgrain trim as an option on the Grande.
Safety items include a lap/sash seat belt in the centre rear seat position (sedan only) and front seatbelt webbing clamps, with ABS and driver's Airbag standard on the touring series and Grande, but optional on the CSi and CSX.
The fully integrated, standard equipment security system can be operated either with the remote control or by locking the doors with the ignition key. The remote also operates the central locking system and an audible warning is given, when the system is both activated and deactivated. Three optional programs are available with the remote switching, including the choice of silent arming/disarming, if required. The car horn is used as the sounding device and the built in immobiliser prevents the engine from being started even if entry is gained. A small flashing red dash mounted light completes the package as a warning to would-be trespassers.
The CSi model as tested, is fairly well equipped, the only major item missing as standard and available in the opposition's base models being a driver's airbag. The CSi radio cassette system with four speakers and inbuilt security is no exception to the quality of the equipment supplied.
There is very little change in the exterior of the Vienta, the body panels being unchanged. The general shape and style are not outrageous with the typical high boot line giving an advantage of increased luggage space. The low bonnet line and rear body height have created a wedge shaped design which has assisted in achieving reasonable aerodynamics.
Paint quality and lustre is of a high standard and most panel margins are consistent. However, excessive protrusion at the top of the right side doors has revealed a flaw in the quality control of this area.
Occupant space in the Vienta is quite good in the front cabin area with ample head and leg room, the latter being assisted by the tilt adjustment of the steering wheel and the height adjustment on the driver's seat cushion. The front seats are quite firm with good side support in both the cushion and the seat back, which also has a three position adjustable lumbar support on the driver's side.
The rear seat area is not nearly as roomy as the front, with sufficient head and leg room for an average size person, but limited leg and head room for those with more generous height. The rear seat is obviously designed for two people, as the hump in the centre of the cushion and back section make it uncomfortable for a fifth person, on a longer journey.
The MacPherson strut, coil spring suspension is inclined to be soft, giving good passenger ride, but not without some penalty in the vehicle's handling.
Flow-through ventilation is quite adequate with two passengers, however glass misting starts to occur with three or more passengers, making it necessary to take advantage of the air conditioning system.
Totyota claim that Vienta has the largest luggage space in the six cylinder Australian sedan line up. Depth is good, catering for the Australian Esky and Victa lawnmower.
Plenty of storage spaces are provided in the front cabin area, including door pockets, a good size lockable glove box, a centre console with a glove box and two smaller storage areas, including a twin cup holder.
The driving position in the Vienta allows good vision in all directions, with rear vision assisted by power adjustable external mirrors. All instruments are readily visible with controls laid out in the standard format, clearly marked and easily accessed.
The brakes, steering and gearshift are very light and easy to operate, making this yet another typically easy car to drive, a Japanese trait we have come to expect. Although light in operation the power rack and pinion steering gives good feel and response, no doubt assisted by the steering wheel's two and three quarter turns from lock to lock.
A welcome addition to the lower end of the range is the variable speed intermittent wiper operation, which amply copes with those varying degrees of drizzle.
Performance of the 3 litre V6 engine is spritely giving excellent acceleration, particularly in the higher rev range. When driven sedately the performance/handling package provided in the Vienta range is quite well balanced with good response available via the five speed manual transmission. However, when the extra power available from the V6 engine is unleashed, combined with manual transmission and a suspension which is inclined to be soft, this sedate medium sized sedan can suddenly become a handful for the unwary, on loose or slippery surfaces.
The manual gear lever, whilst light in operation, requires some concentration, particularly in selecting third gear, as it is very easy to slip into fifth by mistake when changing quickly. All gear ratios, with the exception of first gear, appear well matched with the V6 engine, however because maximum torque is reached in the higher rev band of this engine, considerable revs are required to move off from a standing position, and perhaps a lower ratio first gear would be more beneficial.
The four wheel disc power assisted braking system is more than adequate for the size and weight of this vehicle although the front to rear braking ratio and tyre specification on our test vehicle could be questionable, as the front brakes are prone to severe lock-up under heavy application. This situation would no doubt be eliminated on those models fitted with ABS.
Although the softer suspension has sacrificed the handling qualities to some degree, the Vienta still handles quite well when pushed through winding sections of road, the slight reduction only being evident under extreme conditions.
Sound levels within the cabin area are quite low at freeway speeds, enabling moderate level conversation to be maintained with ease.
Fuel economy with the manual V6 is exceptional, returning 10.5 litres/100 km on suburban operation, 9.4 litres/100 km on highway operation and 9.8 litres/100 km overall. These figures present a strong argument, yet again, for the benefits gained with manual transmission and a larger capacity engine in a vehicle which is not working as hard as its four cylinder counterpart, to maintain good performance.
Service intervals on the Vienta are scheduled to take place every 10,000 km with additional servicing recommended every 5,000 km for vehicles operating under severe conditions.
Engine component access is reasonable, with the starter, alternator and clutch slave cylinder being within easy reach. On the other hand, the spark plugs, injectors, timing belts and air conditioning compressor are almost out of sight and certainly not service friendly.
As with most of our modern vehicles, there are less and less items requiring service on a regular basis and the Vienta will not be an exception, requiring mainly oil, spark plug and filter changes, brake pad replacements and possible tyre renewals in the first three or four years of service.
The unladen mass of the Vienta CSi sedan comes in at 1435 kg, allowing it to legally tow a laden trailer with a mass of 1435 kg here in NSW. However, Toyota in their wisdom have set their maximum towing mass at 1200 kg for a trailer with its own braking system and 500 kg for an unbraked trailer. Maximum ball mass (towball load) has been specified at 80 kg.
The upgraded Vienta series has certainly widened the field of interest with the introduction of the five speed manual transmission coupled to the established 3.0 litre V6, along with the lift in equipment levels at both ends of the spectrum and the reintroduction of the prestige 'Grande' tag.
The performance and handling of these vehicles is certainly within their competitors ball park and with the lowering of the price tag on the bread-and-butter fleet (CSi) models, the competition is sure to be interesting.
However, when it comes to seating five people in comfort, availablity of low down engine torque and a feeling of solidity, the Vienta is still lacking and no doubt the competition will not bow down to the pressure placed upon them, although I have no doubt they will feel the thrust of the Toyota attack.
The Vienta is a good mid size six cylinder sedan and will certainly be a consideration for those requiring comfortable seating for up to four adults, combined with excellent performance and good handling characteristics.
Test vehicle supplied by Toyota Motor Corp Australia.
|Price of vehicle tested||$43,980|
|Country of manufacture||Japan|
|Warranty||2 years, 50,000km|
|Number of cylinders||6|
|Engine size||2.9 L|
|Induction||Sequential Multi-point EFI|
|Claimed max power (kW)||136 kW @ 5200 rpm|
|Claimed max torque (Nm)||264 Nm @ 4400 rpm|
|Wheel size||6.00 x 15 "|
|Dimensions||RD339 P205/65 R15 95H|
|Turning circle (measured)||11.6 m|
|Width (including mirrors)||1770 mm|
|Fuel capacity||70 litres|
|Max towed mass (trailer plus load)||1200 kg|
NRMA Theft Rating
|Points on scale 0 - 120 (high score is best)||76|
Acceleration - Test results
|50 - 80km/h||5.3 secs|
|60 - 100km/h||7.0 secs|
|0 - 80km/h||7.2 secs|
|0 - 100km/h||10 secs|
|Best recorded during testing||9.4 L/100km|
|Worst recorded during testing||10.5 L/100km|
|Average on test||9.8 L/100km|
|Distance to stop (from 80km/h)||40 metres|
|Interior noise at constant 80km/h||74 dB(A)|