2015 Toyota Avanza: First Drive

Tiny MPV proves Toyota still does how to do basic right
Imthishan Giado

 2015 Toyota Avanza

At MME, I get the opportunity to drive a lot of fancy, fast cars. Yet I’ve got a soft spot for simple, basic transportation executed correctly. The new Toyota Yaris I reviewed recently didn’t make the grade, trying to be a ‘lifestyle’ choice when all it needed to be was a good, fun city car.

Now they’ve launched the Avanza MPV. And it’s not bad at all. In fact, it may be very good indeed.


First things first: what’s the Avanza? Built in Thailand and designed by Daihatsu, it is the smallest seven-seat MPV money can buy at 4.14m long and definitely the cheapest at a one-option price of AED54,900.

Is it fast?

Power comes from a 1.5-litre four cylinder/four-speed auto combo putting out 102bhp and 100lb ft of torque. With a kerb weight of just 1105 kg – barely 25kg heavier than a Yaris – those numbers are plenty good enough to get this little tyke of an MPV moving.

Of course, the Avanza is light because it’s styled like a box on wheels. Toyota Innova owners and Dubai Airport Taxi drivers will be completely at home in the Avanza, which borrows the van-like profile of its bigger brother. Anonymous? Yes, but I actually like it a lot because it’s so damned honest. No silly body slashes and cuts, only simple panels that will be cheap to replace in a fender bender.

2015 Toyota Avanza

Plastic Fantastic

The interior’s not going to wow you. There’s an ocean of cheap hard plastic common to Toyotas designed for Asia Pacific markets like the Innova and Fortuner. Panel gaps are all over the place, too with a good centimetre of daylight visible on my test car’s steering wheel seam. Look in the door pockets and you’ll find exposed screwheads. The textures and colors are all over the place: the stereo features nasty silver paint, the A/C vents a weird rippled surface. Apple-slick, this is not.

But against all odds, the Innova’s interior somehow works. The van-like seating position is comfortable, providing good thigh support and there’s plenty of room to stretch out for five people. Toyota is trumpeting the third row but it’s either for the very short or kids with hardly any leg room. And to be honest, given its proximity to the rear hatch window I would be uncomfortable asking anyone to sit there. So let’s call the Avanza a five seater with a big boot and be done with it. The rear seats flip and fold, the middle row only folds flat so this won’t compete with a Honda Odyssey.

Toys? A decent six speaker stereo, air conditioning, Bluetooth telephony (hallelujah!) and rear parking sensors are all you get. There’s tons of little nooks and crannies to hold your phones and waterbottle and plenty of head room for ironic hat wearers.

Is it awful to drive?

Once again, the Avanza defies expectations by being not-horrible to drive! The little 1.5 doesn’t have a lot of power but there’s a nice burp of torque to get you moving, thanks to the low-geared four-speed. Don’t get me wrong; the Avanza is slow, but not super slow. Crucially on the highway, we took up to 120kph (and slightly beyond) and the little MPV feel planted and stable with guts to spare for overtaking manoeuvres. Wind noise? It’s present but you can easily maintain a conversation at 120.

Handling? The Avanza features electric steering but it’s slightly heavier than these systems usually are and there’s a smidgen of feel. Body roll is epic but the tyres hang on well and if you push too hard, the back end will actually come out – yes, the Avanza is for some reason, rear wheel drive!

2015 Toyota Avanza


Of course, nobody’s actually going to drive the Avanza like a hooligan. It’s a cheap car for budget conscious consumers that absolutely nails that target. The ride is good, it feels tough and spacious and won’t drain your wallet at the pump. In many respects, it feels a smarter buy than the Yaris hatchback.

But how does it compare to rivals like the Renault Duster and Ford EcoSport? The Ecosport feels about the same in terms of acceleration but is smaller inside and out, while the Duster is a car designed for Transsylvanian peasants graduating from a wheelbarrow and has the sophistication to match.

The Avanza, then. Super cheap, and does what it says on the tin. Only badge snobs need not apply – for the rest of us, it’s a bargain.

2015 Toyota Avanza
Prices (there’s just one trim):
1.5 AED54,900
1.5-litre, VVT-i, 102bhp @ 6000rpm, 100f ft @ 4400rpm
Transmission: four-speed auto, rear (!) wheel drive



5 responses to “2015 Toyota Avanza: First Drive”

  1. Josh says:

    Avanza is actually built in Indonesia and was co-developed by Toyota and Daihatsu. The model is consigned by Toyota to be built at Daihatsu’s factory. Btw, good review!

    • admin says:

      [Imthishan] Thanks!

      The information we got from Toyota at the launch is that the car is built in Thailand, like the new Yaris hatchback. Like you, I suspect otherwise – will recheck with the local dealer.

  2. Mirza Baig says:

    Great review….being a Toyota..it is value for the buck especially in the middle east considering running costs and resale value which are top parameters for many buyers. If someone wants to get excited knowing that it is RWD…..then thrown in a couple more dosh…fit a turbo…intercooler…slam the car down…sticky bigger wheels etc etc…and have some fun with a lot of space to play with…it does have the looks to be pepped up pretty well 🙂

  3. Steeroid says:

    “the Duster is a car designed for Transsylvanian peasants graduating from a wheelbarrow and has the sophistication to match”

    That description was Epic.

  4. hello
    How can I get one type of car model 2014 avanza new user or color white, red or silver. Km with transport costs account to the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq \ Dohuk city \ and as soon as possible. Thank you
    Emile Antobarbarian87@yahoo.com

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