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Practical Haulers: Suzuki APV vs. Toyota Avanza (2007)
 
It is often joked that the typical Filipino family is composed of at least 7 people: the parents, the grandparents, 2 children and a yaya. This has led to the rise of AUVs or Asian Utility Vehicles, since a 5-seater car can no longer suffice. Even with the phasing out of AUVs in the early 2000’s, the clamor for an affordable family carrier continued and manufacturers have gone through varied routes trying to serve an every fickle market. Of course, this has led to somewhat higher prices for these co-called ‘champions of the Filipino masses’. What should have been a sub-million peso car has transformed itself into something well and truly a seven-digit purchase. However, it seems that someone has forgotten to mention this to Suzuki and Toyota.

In response to a demand for a respectably loaded but affordable people carrier, both have gone the compact route. Suzuki came up with the squared-off and decisively upright APV and Toyota, a shrunken Innova they dubbed Avanza. Both offer surprisingly varied approaches but target the very same market. Thus, pitting them against each other is all but a forgone conclusion. Let the grudge match begin.

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and in this contest, there’s really no clear winner. Some prefer the robotic look of the Suzuki APV while some love the softer contours of the Toyota Avanza. In both cases though, they can’t hide the fact that they are taller than they are wider; and in the case of the APV, too tall—making it impossible for me to fit into my 1.75-meter vertical clearance underground parking (the APV actually measures in at 1.86-meters).

Like their respective body shells, the APV and the Avanza take things differently inside. Those familiar with a Toyota cabin will feel welcome inside the Avanza down to the family switches, steering wheel, button positioning and ergonomics. Everything’s easy to use and understand. Quality’s generally alright save for the transmission tunnel and power window plastics which feel like they want to break off. Compared to the Avanza, the APV feels more solid, albeit more plasticky. There are absolutely no rattles in the APV test unit despite the fact that it has done around twice the mileage of the Avanza. That comes as a pleasant surprise for me, who consider Toyota interiors better built than bank vaults. Perhaps it’s not infallible after all. That said the APV does suffer from a bus-like driving position because of its upright steering wheel, tall driver’s seat and oddly positioned pedals. All of this stems from the fact that the APV has its engine underneath the front passengers as opposed to the Avanza’s front-mounted design.

Depending on the quantity of people you need to fit at any given time determines which is better suited to your family. If five’s the norm and seven the exception (say weekend shopping), the Toyota Avanza is at the advantage. The first two rows offer ample comfort even during the long rush hour traffic. The third row’s best left as an emergency jump seat, but at least the occupants have their own headrests and seatbelts for both comfort and safety. When not in use, it folds up revealing a vast loading bay. On the other hand, the APV equalized the interior space between all three rows resulting in a more manageable third row (it actually seats more than the Avanza by 1 person). And the Suzuki has a better, one-touch seat folding mechanism to boot. Unfortunately, even occupants on the first two rows feel suffer from banged knees—not good if five people’s the batting average for you.

Both cars are priced below P800,000 (the Suzuki APV at P 765,000 and the Toyota Avanza at P 773,000), so you really can’t expect either to be speced to the roof. And they aren’t. They are, fortunately enough, decently loaded for a balance between comfort and value. All power amenities (except antenna), front fog lights and a CD/MP3 stereo system are standard on both. Toyota loads in silver accents on the Avanza, while Suzuki goes wood with the APV. Oddly enough though, both throw out convenience day/night rear view mirrors and put standard rear wipers instead. Overall though, the Avanza’s much better value thanks to more comfort (dual air conditioning and rubberized pedals) and safety equipment (driver’s airbag).

With both the Suzuki and the Toyota looking every inch the people carrier, you have to expect that they’re going to handle like one. In fact, to a degree, they both handle the same way. Despite their tallboy proportions, both feel secure and planted enough to feel safe in. Crosswinds and wind noise from the mirrors are obtrusive in both, especially during highway travel. In terms of seat-of-the-pants experience though, the Avanza wins hands down thanks to its crisper steering, quicker reflexes and a much more sorted ride. Even if the APV does have better biting brakes, the Avanza’s the easier one to drive fast out of the box. Visibility is much better as well.

Both sport similarly sized engines, but the APV loses this battle to the Avanza lopsidedly. In terms of both standstill and passing traffic acceleration, the Toyota’s 18 horsepower and 14 Newton-meter advantage make itself known from even a simple bleep of the throttle, making it a much better vehicle to take to Baguio brimming with family. The Avanza shows much more urge throughout the engine’s power band, while the APV merely huffs its way to every shift point. And speaking of shift point, Toyota’s reputation for making buttery-smooth automatics is kept intact with the Avanza’s unobtrusive shifts. There’s much more hesitation from the APV perhaps because of its engine, but more importantly because of its poorly spaced automatic gearbox.

So who’s the winner here? For all intents and purposes, it’s the Filipino family. Never before has any car manufacturer grown big enough cajones to come up with a respectably noted, well-built people carrier with more standard features than letters in its name. And now, we have two. Anyone who’s considering either the Suzuki APV or Toyota Avanza is surely spending a considerably amount of their savings for what could be their first (and sometimes) only car. And as such, both are good value products that cannot be passed over. On the event of this match-up though, I would declare the Toyota Avanza as my personal pick on the grounds of a better driving experience, more engine power and a much more accessible dealer/service network. But Toyota should never rest on its laurels here. More than anything, the razor-thin margin by which I chose the Avanza should serve as a forewarning for Toyota. There are some rivals out there who are not afraid to knock on your market’s door. And the Suzuki APV almost got you dangerously evicted.

By Ulysses Ang | Photos By Ulysses Ang
Practical Haulers:  Suzuki APV vs. Toyota Avanza (2007) Practical Haulers:  Suzuki APV vs. Toyota Avanza (2007) Practical Haulers:  Suzuki APV vs. Toyota Avanza (2007) Practical Haulers:  Suzuki APV vs. Toyota Avanza (2007) Practical Haulers:  Suzuki APV vs. Toyota Avanza (2007) Practical Haulers:  Suzuki APV vs. Toyota Avanza (2007) Practical Haulers:  Suzuki APV vs. Toyota Avanza (2007) Practical Haulers:  Suzuki APV vs. Toyota Avanza (2007) Practical Haulers:  Suzuki APV vs. Toyota Avanza (2007) Practical Haulers:  Suzuki APV vs. Toyota Avanza (2007) Practical Haulers:  Suzuki APV vs. Toyota Avanza (2007) Practical Haulers:  Suzuki APV vs. Toyota Avanza (2007) Practical Haulers:  Suzuki APV vs. Toyota Avanza (2007) Practical Haulers:  Suzuki APV vs. Toyota Avanza (2007) Practical Haulers:  Suzuki APV vs. Toyota Avanza (2007) Practical Haulers:  Suzuki APV vs. Toyota Avanza (2007) Practical Haulers:  Suzuki APV vs. Toyota Avanza (2007) Practical Haulers:  Suzuki APV vs. Toyota Avanza (2007)

 

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April 16, 2000
Civic Minded: Honda Civic (2000)
February 20, 2000
Ford Lynx Ghia (2000) Driven
January 18, 2000
White Lightning: Honda Civic (1999)
December 18, 1999
The Lost World: Volkswagen Polo Classic (1998)
December 12, 1999
Against All Odds: Mazda 323 (1999)
September 29, 1999
Warp Speed Transport: Nissan Sentra Super Saloon (1995)
August 30, 1999
Complete Change of Mind: Nissan Cefiro (1997) Long-Term Test Update
August 30, 1999
Honda City LXi (1999)
July 12, 1999
Alternative Nature: Mitsubishi Galant (1999)
June 20, 1999
The Bavarian Delight: BMW 328Ci (1999)
May 15, 1999
Alpha and Omega: Opel 2.5 V6 Omega (1999)
February 5, 1999
Opel Vectra (2.0 (1999) Driven
January 1, 1999
The Daily Nightmare: Nissan Cefiro (1998)
December 1, 1998
VTEC with a Vengeance: Honda Accord (1998)
November 10, 1998