Toyota Allion NZE260 Detail Review


A more descriptive analysis of the highly popular JDM Allion this time around.

Engine

The 1496cc 1NZ-FE base engine in the A15 provides 110PS/6000 power, and 140Nm/4400 of torque.  Interestingly the A18 1790cc version which is more rare in Sri Lanka due to the higher taxes (yet low priced in Japanese auctions due to the high demand for the a15) has a more advanced 2ZR-FA engine which revs harder at 140PS/6400rpm and 176Nm/4400 of torque.  The A18 engine features Toyota’s VALVEMATIC that provides more power and yet high levels of fuel economy.  Anyone using this version, appreciate if you can provide your experiences specially on the fuel economy and performance, as my general feeling is that its not going to be too far away from the A15 in efficiencies, but you get the bonus of the higher outputs that can be an advantage on the highways, and also for the thrill seekers.

The A15 tested is remarkably quiet, partly due to the good noise insulation, and also possible the design of the engine.  However what is really interesting is the simple ease the vehicle pulls at low speeds, and i believe part of this reason is the CVT gearbox.  The end result is that the Allion offers painless acceleration that will make you feel the engine is lot more powerful than what it is.  Its only in the open roads and when you need that heavy pull in overtaking that you notice the lack of oomp in the engine, something that most users of this car in Sri Lanka are not going to notice unless you like driving a bit enthusiastically.

Transmission

A big change in the second generation Allion is the introduction of the CVT (called Super-CVTi) gearbox for the entire range of models.  Only the 2L version had the CVT gearbox in the 1st generation models.  The Super-CVTi has been tuned to give more of an auto feel and most users are unaware that the gearbox is a CVT.  Kudos to Toyota in achieving this, as common feature of most CVT’s specially Honda has been the rather revvy behaviour, though this can be an interesting attribute.

However see section below, seems if the car is used in heavy traffic situations, sticking to the Toyota standard gearbox oil change can cause gearbox failures.  Honda’s learning with the CVT gear oil change cycles may also be very applicable for Toyota as well!

Exterior

The Allion compared to the sister car the Premio always presented a more sporty younger appeal, and the same continues with this model.  The vehicle tested being a variant of the base model lacked some of the visual aesthetics,  still had that look.  The more beefy versions add to the visual impact that makes the car a lot more meaner.

The side mirrors have the now popular winker mirrors, while adding a touch of modern feel, most winker mirror implementations have the feel of being bolted in when compared to the winker mirrors in Mercs which were among the first to feature this.

The rear has the now fairly standard Toyota look, and has more than a  passing resemblances to the big brother Camry. A bit of the bangle  design has crept into the Toyota design house, but in a lot more  pleasing way compare to the BMW designs of the past.
Interior

The soft texture of the seating material gives a very pleasant feel for the passengers, and also gives the vehicle an upmarket feel.  However the material is a major dust attractor, so regular cleaning is on call, specially if its the dark colored interior.


The high mid console which has the  classy stubby gear lever i felt was a tad badly placed, and only suited  if you were the type who liked to sit back and drive in a relaxed mode.

The front seats are top notch, and though lacking any form of  electrical seat control, it provides the front passengers a very  comfortable driving position. The rear seat space is superb, and the ability to recline the seats (at the cost of some boot space) adds to the luxury feel of this mid level sedan.

The dashboard console is very neat, and the all LCD information screen provides a good level of information.  In addition to the average fuel economy, it also provides the current fuel economy to ensure the driver can optimize his driving style to meet his needs be it economy or a bit of thrill.  However while most JDM cars in the past had the information in English, the console now is in Japanese, which means any error information or warning are not going to be understood by non-Japanese users.



Ride and Handling

The vehicle suspension handles local rutty roads extremely well, giving a comfortable ride even in the most bumpy parts.  However for an enthusiast they may find the ride a tad on the softer side, but the advantage is that the vehicle does not loose composure on the rippled, rutty roads and maintains high degree of comfort for its occupants.  The standard tires on most Allions are the 185/65/R14, and with the thick sidewall, these tires ensure the ride comfort is maintained.  These tires look a bit too small for a car of this size, and especially cars that had the rims replaced by 14″ alloys look very ungainly.  Vehicles with Toyota alloys tend to get 185/65/R15 that provides a more balanced view, while the TRD alloys with the 17″ makes the car stand out.

Fuel Economy

The vehicle has as amazing fuel economies if driven properly, excelling in open roads.  The dual-VVTi configuration provided great traction with minimal revs and idle sipping very little fuel definitely attributing to this amazing returns.

City / Urban – Peak Hours 8-9kmpl
City / Urban – Non Peak Hours 9-12kmpl
Outstation / Highway – Narrow roads 10-14kmpl
Outstation / Highway –Wide roads 15-24 kmpl

Problems
Friends who have this vehicle have reported the following problems.

  1. The AC tends to get heated once in a while even on cars with low mileage. The AC fan is found to be working the issue could be due to the AC compressor bush expanding.
  2. The CVT gearbox has started to fail on several of these cars including the Axio which features the same gearbox and engine combination. The issue seems to stem from the fact that Toyota states a 100,000km duration for the CVT gearbox oil change, and sticking to this with the car being used mainly in traffic seems to be suicidal. To avoid the gearbox failing the best is to do the oil change every 50-60,000km and then reduce the duration even further as the car ages in mileage. The gearbox failure seems to be in two stages, one where the gearbox will not change which can be repaired, and the next where not attending to this problem in time causing a belt failure.
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Upcoming reviews and updates


The influx of new cars also means i now get my hands on some of the newer cars my office mates have purchased.  I have asked them to provide me regular updates and a some test time so that i can update this blog.  The cars that are scheduled to be reviews and tracked are,

  • Toyota Axio NZE141 1.5L (G-grade) automatic CVT
  • Toyota Axio NZE141 1.5L (G-grade) manual 5-speed
  • Toyota Allion NZE260 1.5L automatic CVT
  • Toyota Premio NZE260 1.5L automatic CVT
  • Hyundai Tucson 2010 2.0L automatic 6-speed
  • Toyota Corolla Fielder NZE141G 1.5L automatic CVT
  • Toyota Belta 1.3L automatic CVT
  • Toyota Corolla 141 1.6L 2007 local version

Honda GE6 2008 Fit (CVT gearbox version) quick review


My brother got his GE6 2008 fit last week, the 1330cc version with the CVT gearbox. I was only able to do a quick test and hope to do a more thorough review shortly.  Here are my initial findings compared to the GD1 Fit i had.

  • The interior space is noticeably improved, the boot clearly a lot bigger
  • The seats are not a lot more supportive, something that you noticed if you were slightly larger or bulky in frame
  • The new honda steering wheel looks cool and so does the new console
  • The interior feels a lot more after market, but the quality of plastic is still low budget
  • The ride has definitely been improved, as the car is less jittery on rough surfaces, though humps are still an issue, but yes good improvement here
  • Road noise seems similar, so not much change there
  • I was expecting ground breaking changes in acceleration, but I did not notice any significant change in the urge, however i might now be corrupted after driving my Stream 1.8
  • The CVT gearbox seems to have been tuned now to behave more like a normal auto as its less frentic
  • The brakes in the GD1 use to give poor feedback though they worked well, and the same is there with the GE6
  • The crisp sharper front looks is definitely nicer, and the side profile makes the car a lot more larger than the GD1

My brother has been driving it mainly in the city, and the car is averaging 11-12kmpl, which is very good considering i was getting similar economies with the GD1, which was less powerful.  So the i-VTEC version though more powerful seems to be as good as the i-DSI version in fuel economy, impressive.

Fuel Economy

City / Urban – Peak Hours 10-11kmpl
City / Urban – Non Peak Hours 11-12kmpl
Outstation / Highway – Narrow roads 12-14kmpl
Outstation / Highway –Wide roads 16+ kmp

My bro had replaced the stock 14″ wheels with 15″, and had opted for a slightly higher profile, so the car now looks a bit jacked up, but does improve its ground clearance.  His initial feel was that increasing the wheel size had not impacted the vehicles dynamics and comfort.  Since he still retained the same sidewall size (65), i guess the comfort would not be impacted, though the tire roar may be greater (though that may depend on the tire as well).

Toyota Allion NZE260 1.5 quick test


My colleague purchased a Toyota Allion NZE 260 1500cc model, replacing his venerable FB14 which had served him with remarkable reliability for over 7-8 years.   So far he has been simply thrilled with the car, as it has been an marked upgrade from his former car.  He initially had wanted to go for the cheaper Axio, but then after much thought he realized that the axio was not that greater upgrade, and the price difference was marginal.

Just for the benefit of Sri Lankan visitors, he along with me directly imported the vehicle, and the total cost for the Allion was around Sri Lankan Rs 4.3million for a 2007, X grade, 4.5 auction grade, A grade interior, authentic 18,000km. The japanese FOB price being around 1.45million YEN.

He does not bring the car much to Colombo since his commute is over 70km from his home, but his running within his town has returned him an average fuel economy of 15.5kmpl.

However the very moment he came to Colombo and drove the car around the Colombo city limits on a busy hot Saturday, the economies dropped to 9.4kmpl.

My quick drive of the car just after driving the Stream, revealed the usual very compliant Toyota ride quality, and the much better insulation of noise from the outside.  The VVT engine in the car had very good low down throttle responses, which made the car very easy and effortless to drive.  The Allion like the Axio has the Toyota CVT gearbox and this clearly makes its presence felt as the car definitely has that CVT type of quick pickup, something that the standard automatics (Bar the dual clutch systems) are not capable of.

The difference low down in the way the engine has been setup is very noticeable as the Allion picks up quickly with minimal push to the accelerator, while the Stream you have give the engine a bit of rev (3500+) and then you see the car come alive. However the engine note is a lot sweater on the Honda Stream, and i am not being biased here 🙂

The seating is well thought of and extremely spacious, very much like a FD1 civic or the Honda Stream i have (comparatively the Axio/Corolla for some reason has pathetic rear legroom).

I was also quite surprised to see that even the X grade Allion had an audio system that includes a tweater, and the system could handle sound pretty decently.  My friend replaced the OEM CD player that came with the car with the Clarion VA400 6.5″ LCD audio system, as this player unlike most in the range has Bluetooth built in, and the Clarion CD head is even better than the Pioneer for reading scratched CD’s.  (I too have replaced my player with this same audio unit and will provide a review of the head unit after i have used it a bit more!)

A point that Toyota owners have to be mindful is that the new gearboxes are CVT in these cars.  You CANNOT use the standard ATF oil and you must use the Toyota CVT oil.  The impact of the using ATF oil on these gearboxes are not known, since its something new to Sri Lanka as the older Allion’s mainly had a standard automatic.

While Toyota has said the CVT oil change interval is 100,000km, remember these are for good driving condition. Honda quotes 80,000km for such conditions.  However Honda quotes 40,000 if the conditions are severe, and in SL Colombo context this might be even lower.  Hence the Toyota owner will also be safer opting for shorter cycle for changing the CVT gearbox oil.

Honda Stream 1.8 RSZ the first month


The vehicle got its first service at the agents, and the oil was changed as it was nearly time, and more importantly it had 0-20W oil which is not suited for local conditions. The agents recommended i save the cash and opt for normal oil due to my low mileage use, so it got 15-40W Havoline mineral oil.

A week later i noticed a screech in the brakes, and though Tek Motors had an OEM brake set for around 7K, i decided that will go with the originals even though they were price at 15K.  Since the car was new to SL the agents did not the parts manual in their systems, but i got the code from an Singapore Stream forum who were very helpful (Well they had the parts manual, but were as usual lazy to cross check what was compatible).  Though the codes are different it turns out the brakes are the same as the 1.8L FD1 civic.

The car had average fuel economy at 10.5 in the meter when i got it, but the first week it was doing only 7.5kmpl.  After the engine oil change the car is now doing around 8kmpl in colombo city traffic.  However if you can just control the foot it is able to return around 9.2kmpl but its very hard to control the temptation to step on the accelerator since the R18 engine comes to life only at the higher revs (unlike the GD1 fit which had all its power low down, and nothing much at the high ends).

Seems the car is still learning, and an ECU reset might be on call to make it fast track on learning.  However i doubt it i could get anything more than 9kmpl regardless of the fancy features the engine technology has, since its a heavy car (nearly 1400kg) and it has a standard auto.

The paddle-shift is proving to be useful, not just in the corners, but also when you need to get the car into cruise mode quickly, and also when you want to do that rapid overtaking. Unlike an manual or for comparison a CVT, the auto box has around a half second delay from the selection to engagement, but this is still okay compared to having nothing at all!

Possible causes why the Sri Lankan Corolla 141 is not fuel efficient, AXIO excempted


The Corolla is a car that in Sri Lanka (and other asian countries) that is highly regarded first due its high reliability, very comfortable ride and importantly excellent fuel economies.

The model that really became popular and had such inflated prices was the NZ121 model.  Personally i found the shape rather bland, and the rear legroom ridiculous for a car in that class (the Honda City/Fit and the Civic both had much better legroom).  The drive was also rather soft, but i guess that’s what the vehicle was targeted for.  These are comments on the 1.5L versions i had driven or been a bored passenger :), the higher powered 1.8 and 2L versions maybe different.

However the ride comfort in rutty roads and potholes was definitely one aspect that it stood out compared to the Honda Fit/Fit Aria and the Civic ES series.  Toyota definitely knows how to handle such road conditions, and that makes is very popular in Sri Lanka due to our wonderful smooth roads (Sarcastic smile!).

The other thing you notice it the much better noise insulation, a perennial weakness with most Honda cars, with the exception of the Honda Accord from what i have experienced.  Again something that many might want since it helps muffle the tire roar, external noises and enjoy your audio system better.

However the biggest reasons for the high sales would be the superior fuel efficiencies of the NZ121, as it easily seem to be capable of doing 10-12kmpl in severe city driving conditions, something that even the Fit/City would be challenge with the AC on.  Outstations the economies improved to even greater levels, and aided by the Corolla communities “programed to get best efficiency driving style” the fuel economies were always repeatable.

However come NZE141 with the 1.6L engine with a better looking interior and exterior (sadly for Toyota, Honda released the FD1 civic that made the 141 look .. eh.. let me not comment!).  These vehicles were purchased in frenzy by the loyal toyota community thinking it could only be better than the NZE121.

Well it improved on lot of things that were good on the 121, but it fell flat in the most important area, which is the fuel economy.  The cars were having fuel economies as low as 5-6kmpl in city driving during the burn in period for new cars, and seem to never give more than 7-7.5kmpl in city driving conditions.  The buyers were furious and even the local agents were lost.

However since my sister had brought this car i decided a bit more research was due, and then i found the issue was there in the cars in thailand as well.

Here they had some reasons,

  1. The car sold for the Sri Lanka (and Thailand) markets had the old NZE121 engine.  Not a bad thing one might think.  However Toyota for some reason has reduce the power output by 5% in the engine, and also remapped it to give more power low down.
  2. The car was over 100-150lb heavier, and it looked that as well.
  3. The local market had ignored that the 121 JDM corolla imported as re-conditioned already had a more advanced VVTi engine, and was lighter by almost 200lb over the 141 sold locally.

Put the maths together, lower power engine in a heavier car with the engine tuned for power at low down, and you now get a feel why the economies went smack down.

However the issue was not there with the Corolla AXIO sold in japan, and why not.  Simple it had the newer more advanced Toyota VVT engine which was more economical and powerful (seems toyota has understood this, the 2010 corolla now has the new engine).  So this car was able to deliver the fuel economies that were good or better than the NZE121, which is why you see everyone going for the AXIO these days with the revised tax rates.

However seems like Toyota has silently updated the 141 for the asian market, by replacing the older engine with a newer VVTi engine.   Sadly the 1.6 liter still gets the normal auto gearbox and the single VVT-i engine, as the CVT is only coupled with the 1.8liter unlike the Axio where the 1.5liter engine is coupled with the CVT gearbox. The 1.8liter version also get the more advanced D-VVTi engine.  However the extra power and more fuel efficient newer VVTi implementation should make the local 141 better though still not as great as the Axio due to the extra weight and the normal auto box.

A quick comparisons of the Corolla range with the important aspects, mainly the engines, power and weight.

Corolla 141 Asia/Thailand Corolla 121 Asia Corolla 121 Japan Corolla 141 Asia/Thailand 2010 Corolla Axio 141 Japan
Engine Model 3ZZ-FE 3ZZ-FE 1NZ-FE 1ZR-FE 1NZ-FE
Capacity – cc 1598 1598 1498 1598 1498
Type 4cy dohc VVT-i 4cy dohc VVT-i 4cy dohc VVT-i 4cy dohc VVT-i 4cy dohc VVT-i
Power (bhp/rpm) 108/6000 110/6000 110/6000 122/6000 110/6000
Torque (Nm/rpm) 145/4400 150/4400 141/4400 154/5200 140/4400
Weight – kg 1255-1300 1060-1080 1230 1140-1150
Gearbox Super ECT 4-sp auto Super ECT 4-sp auto Super ECT 4-sp auto Super ECT 4-sp auto Super CVT-i
0-100kph (sec) 11.8