Toyota Zelas

Valid Attempt?

With the launch of Toyota 86, I thought we were done with Zelas. The fact that it never caught on after 3 years in the market had further left me believe what I thought - just what I thought! But as a matter of fact, I was wrong.

Toyota seems to not give up and we want to know why. They have an impressive 86 in the lineup and if they've left a room for Zelas to exist, we sense a conspiracy. Our feedback from the last Zelas drive two years ago was mainly about the same old good Camry engine, plenty of space in the rear and boot considering it's a coupe but all that packed in a very oddly designed body. We weren't happy with the wide front nose and interiors. However, with all this said, let's check out the new Zelas and see if it's worth a try.

Driving Impressions
Not much is changed, except the new headlights, sleek grille, extended hood, a new black panel under the rear bumper and LED tail lights. Sideways, everything remains unchanged but with new alloys. To cut it short, of note for improvements is that Toyota has managed to offer a nose that better suits a coupe - one of our main issues in the past.

Limit your excitement when we talk about interiors. Hard plastic are used across the dashboard, center console and door panel. The dash is awkwardly angled, facing the driver with a purpose which is to offer close interaction. No power seating adjustment options yet, and our sport coupe lacked a lumbar support feature - I know I shouldn't be asking more. We have a 3 spoke leather power steering wheel with paddle shifters just underneath. Other features are power windows, smart entry & push start button, manual A/C, tilt & telescopic steering column. Perhaps the most what Zelas has provided inside is for rear passengers: decent head and leg room that I doubt any other from the segment can provide.

For entertainment, we've got Audio/AM/FM/CD/AUX/MP3/Bluetooth feeds with an output of 8 speakers optimally positioned. The steering wheel has control switches for audio and telephone. To accommodate more luggage, we have a 60/40 split, fold down rear seats.

As we said, Zelas has the same engine used in Camry and RAV4 - the 2.5 liter, 4 cylinder in-line, 16 Valve, DOHC, dual VVT-i with an output power of 178hp at 6000rpm. When it comes to Zelas, the torque gets very impressive with 230Nm at 4100rpm. The power is supplied to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission system which now has another attribute - dynamic throttle management. In quick downshifts we hardly feel the rev impact due to the new system. As with Toyotas, the whole package for safety is inevitable starting with the ABS, cruise control, dual front airbags, side/curtain and knew airbags, rear parking sensors, VSC and active headrest for front seats.

Our feedback on the last Zelas drive was positive and that hasn't yet changed. The ride was firm and impressive, as was the handling part. At some point, we didn't even mind forgiving the Zelas for being a FWD; that says what we feel about it. Tires had a strong hold on the road thanks to the rubber grip; one of the aspects that differ from an 86 which is more rear tailing frenzy. Body roll was limited most of the time. A smooth downshift with minimal disturbance adds to our list this year and hence, we are almost there to see it as a daily two door coupe. We still don't like the large C pillar that blocks the rear view; blind spots may go unnoticed and that is not good. The car offers a very good fuel economy rate and passengers are happy with the space inside. Overall, our new Toyota Zelas can be a daily drive sport coupe.

Verdict
Ironically, when we talk about competition in the so called "mass market sport coupe segment", Toyota 86 is still one of its enemies, though not in a complete sense. First of all, they ride on different platforms. While 86 is a RWD skidder, Zelas is a FWD easy goer with an edge on pricing as well - now, that's a point. Once we sort that out, we look at Nissan Altima Coupe and Honda Accord Coupe. Zelas can closely match when it comes to space, specs and even the price. What we wish for more of is style. With the face-lifted Zelas, we see Toyota's attempt as valid and certainly time should tell us the result.

Specification

Year:  2014
Engine Cylinder:  i4
Displacement: 2.5 liter
Power: 178 hp
Torque: 230 Nm
Transmission Type: 6 Speed Automatic
Drive: FWD

Performance

0-100: 9 Sec
Top Speed: 210 kph
Fuel Efficiency: 9 liters/100km

Technical Aspects            Points

Design                                    2.5
Handling                                 3.5
Safety                                     4
Performance                            4
Technical Innovation                3 

Consumer Aspects          Points

Driver Satisfaction                   3
Emotional Appeal                    2.5
Value for Money                      4
Comfort Level                         4
Middle East Friendly                 3

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