2021 Toyota Vios GR-S Quick Drive Review: For those who hate mundane

Updated Apr 22, 2021

User's: 5.0/5 Editor's: 4.0/5
Performance upgrades… sort of.
2021 Toyota Vios GR-S Quick Drive Review: For those who hate mundane

In this review...

  1. Introduction
  2. Exterior
  3. Interior
  4. Engine & Performance
  5. Initial Verdict & Pricing

2021 Toyota Vios GR-S Quick Drive: Introduction

The Toyota Vios is probably the most conspicuous vehicle in the Philippines today. Whether as a private vehicle for bachelors and small families, or as a public ferry in the form of taxis and ride-sharing, the Vios is practically everywhere. It is, after all, a constant best-seller; most recently in 2020 with over 25,000 units sold.

For 2021, Toyota Motor Philippines wants to amplify the popularity of the Vios further by adding a new top-spec variant into the Vios range – a follow-up to its most recent upgrade last year.

Meet, the newly launched 2021 Toyota Vios GR-S, and we took one for a spin for this Quick Drive Review.

2021 Toyota Vios GR-S Quick Look: Pimping up the bestseller | Philkotse Philippines

4.0 /5

Toyota Vios 2021 Review

How we do our reviews
  • aesthetics
    4.0/5

    Overall exterior & Interior design, build quality, form vs function

  • Safety & Technology
    4.0/5

    Number of safety & tech features, consistency during usage

  • Performance
    4.0/5

    Power delivery, acceleration, transmission, suspension, handling

  • Comfort & Practicality
    3.5/5

    Overall Ride Comfort, Space, Storage Areas

  • Value for Money
    4.0/5

    Sticker price vs overall package

2021 Toyota Vios GR-S Quick Drive: Exterior Review

We all know Filipinos like dressing up their cars; that’s just embedded within our car culture. For that, the Vios GR-S already comes standard with body kits right off the showroom. These kits include a chiseled bumper with integrated lip and side skirts, plus a diffuser, a small spoiler, and a restyled bumper at the rear. They all complement the blacked-out door handles,16-inch alloys, and revamped grille, giving the mundane sedan an aggressive, sporty makeover. The best part is, Toyota Motor Philippines said these body kits can fit into any Toyota Vios unit – just in case you want to.

2021 Toyota Vios GR-S front profile shot

2021 Toyota Vios GR-S

Overall, I can say that the aesthetic additions to the Vios GR-S aren’t for those who don’t want attention. Then again, as the title of this story tells you, it’s for those who hate being mundane.

2021 Toyota Vios GR-S rear shot

The Vios GR-S comes with a distinctive rear

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2021 Toyota Vios GR-S Quick Drive: Interior Review

While the exterior design updates are plenty enough, the cabin, despite the same layout as the regular Vios G, gets updated as well with scattered red accents to make it look sporty. My favorites are the stitched gear lever shifter and the front semi-bucket seats upholstered with faux-leather and suede. They look great and relatively comfortable, too, plus the embroidered GR emblems on the headrests add an elevated appeal to the whole cabin.

2021 Toyota Vios GR-S interior dashboard

The Vios GR-S comes with red stitching

Also new for the Vios GR-S (and for the rest of the Vios range from XE and up) is the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to the infotainment system. That’s a big deal these days, considering the need for connectivity among the younger set of car buyers.

2021 Toyota Vios GR-S front seats

The Vios GR-S has a dark interior layout

Toyota could have gone all out with the upgrades, though, but they restrained and didn’t put telescopic adjustment to the steering wheel. The suede inserts are limited to the front seats, as well.

>>> Related: Toyota Vios GR-S vs G: What do you get with the new, sporty version?

2021 Toyota Vios GR-S Quick Drive: Engine & Performance

GR-S stands for Gazoo Racing Sport, and TMP said that the arrival of the Vios GR-S means more sporty and performance models arriving from hereon.

With that said, the Vios GR-S does come with one performance upgrade to deserve its badge – a new CVT with 10 programmed ratios.

Now, don’t expect sports car-like performance from the Vios GR-S just because of the simulated gear ratios. It does, after all, come with the same 1.5-liter 2NR-FE gasoline engine found in the G variant. It only adds flexibility when you want to manually toggle gears via the paddle shifters, while also keeping the drive convenient for daily drives.

2021 Toyota Vios GR-S front shot

The Vios GR-S is fitted with an aggressive front end

During the short drive, the paddle was responsive to inputs. You just need to get used to the fact that the higher number of gears means shorter ratios, ergo, downshifting while headed towards a corner at full speed would mean multiple pulls on the left paddle for more effective engine braking. You can even leave the shifting to itself and it will do the job well, but not to elate those who are looking for a sportier drive.

There’s just one elephant in the room that needs to be discussed. The Vios GR-S that was launched in Malaysia last year did come with sporty suspension tuning. Unfortunately, the Philippine-spec version does away with that upgrade but it isn’t a surprise considering that the new Vios variant is still made in the Philippines, as with the rest of the range.

2021 Toyota Vios GR-S side shot

It also comes with blacked-out trims

Then again, the Vios’ current suspension setup isn’t bad at all. It can handle corners relatively well, so there’s not much to complain about in this regard.

2021 Toyota Vios GR-S Quick Drive: Initial Verdict & Pricing

Some might say that the Vios GR-S is all show and no go, and they would be partially correct. But then again, it isn’t really a sports car in the first place. It’s meant to be an affordable introduction to the new Gazoo Racing brand.

2021 Toyota Vios GR-S

2021 Toyota Vios GR-S

>>> Related: Toyota PH updates Vios pricing, Apple CarPlay standard on select trims

Speaking of affordable, the 2021 Toyota Vios GR-S has a sticker price of P1,020,000, with an additional P15,000 needed if you want the White Pearl color. That’s already a bargain, mind you, considering that the Vios G Prime before sold for P1,098,000 – and that’s without the nice suede seats and upgraded transmission

Then again, I couldn’t help but think that it’s a missed opportunity for TMP. If the company only opted for a six-speed manual with the upgraded suspension setup, then the Vios GR-S could have been a great project race car for the younger set of enthusiasts.

Visit Philkotse.com to read more car reviews and to catch the latest updates in the automotive industry. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Jacob Oliva

Jacob Oliva

Author

Jacob is one of the premier motoring journalists in the Philippines. A former musician and a corporate slave, he took the leap of faith amid his twenties and started his writing career as a news and features writer for AutoDeal. It was there where he made his way up to become the chief editor and senior car reviewer before he left the company in 2020.

Right now, Jacob serves as the Content Manager of Philkotse. You may also read his insights about the local automotive industry in his column under Wheels, the motoring section of Philippine Star. A recipient of the Henry Ford Awards in 2019, Jacob is also the weekend editor for Motor1, a leading global automotive website.

Jacob has started his adoration for cars at an early age through his father’s Jeep Wrangler and his older brother’s Nissan Sentra. He currently has a soft spot in his heart for the latest version of the Suzuki Jimny, so don’t be surprised to see him one day driving a black or gray mini-SUV – bone-stock but with upgraded tires and rims.

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