Friday, August 14, 2009
The Toyota Avanza and Daihatsu Xenia are probably Toyota’s and Daihatsu’s cheapest and most popular family MPV available in Indonesia. Their reliability, high resale value, and load capacity have been major key factors of why people chose these cars over the past six years. While I personally not too fond of its now beige interior, and its overly-chromed exterior (one of Toyota and Daihatsu Indonesia’s biggest disease when handling facelifts), the Avanza and the Xenia are still overally good cars if you’re on a budget.
As we know already, even the most expensive car available on Earth is bound to have flaws, the Avanza/Xenia has quite a long list of fixes if you want to have a good, comfortable, and a bit more exciting ride quality. As an Avanza user for four years and counting, I’m going to share the key points on how to turn your Avanza or Xenia into a better overall car. Remember, when you buy a cheap car, expect that you might need to spend more to get it where you want it, and here’s a good example of that.
Before we start, I’m going to base this on my 2005 Toyota Avanza, so if Toyota and Daihatsu are concerned about their customers and they follow good business and manufacturing principles, there’s no reason not to have improvements of the cars’ weaknesses in the newer models.
There are some major flaws that I immediately encountered when I bought this car:
- The engine often stutters on low gear and RPMs, this is because of somewhat an idiotic approach from Toyota and Daihatsu to create more fuel economy. I believe this symptom no longer exists starting from the VVT-i models and up.
- Overall body roll is almost unacceptable in high speed turns, and the car sways a lot during high speed commuting. This is due to the low quality shock absorbers that Toyota and Daihatsu chose to equip these cars with.
- The tires are too thick and the wheels are too small for the normal dimension of this car. This leads to the previous problem (swaying and unstable) as well as less grip, since the tires’ width are very small on the lowest end model of Daihatsu Xenia.
- The car bounces back vertically in a ridiculous manner when hitting a speed bump or a pothole. This is again because of the stock springs that is way too soft for a car of this dimension
Since most of the cars’ problems revolve around the running gear, I’m going to base my tips on that, and have them presented in tiers that I found most important first, and the ones least important (or even optional based on your preferences) afterwards.
Eliminating the Sway
The ridiculous swaying of the car can actually be cured by using a simple Sway Bar or better known here as Stabilizers. I had mine custom-built, but you can find these easily. Just remember to find one that is prominently thick and that you cannot bend these bars by your bare hands. If you find ones that are easily bendable, they are not Sway Bars. They’re accessories and does nothing to your car.
Once installed, you’ll begin to notice that your car can now cruise in a stable and straight position while driving high speed. Depending on how well you feel your car when driving, you will also find that your car will now have a slightly reduced body roll, especially when cornering.
Eliminating the Bounce
I found that most Indonesians prefer that their cars have soft suspensions. While this is probably comfortable for sedans or with cars that has more sophisticated engineering with automatically-adjustable suspensions, this is not the case for an Avanza or a Xenia. Having your car bouncing up and down continuously when hitting a speed bump or a pot hole is quite annoying, especially for the ones riding on the back.
There are two sequential ways to overcome this problem. First, invest on a better and harder shock absorbers that doesn’t bulge that much when you push your car while standing still. This gives extra stiffness to your ride quality, and as an added bonus, your car would even sway and roll even less on high speeds. While most people are skeptical that having harder shocks means more comfort, trust me, you’ll see the difference when you have this on. My shock absorbers of choice are KYB Excel-G gas shocks for the rear, and Gabriel gas struts for the front. You can also opt for other brands according to your preference, as long as you use the right sizing for your car.
Second, if you feel that you need to go even more stiffer than what the new shocks provide you, you can invest on a lowering kit. What a lowering kit does is that it lowers your car around 2-2.5″ to the ground. This gives a lower center of gravity, which means better handling, and even less roll and sway. Additionally, it eliminates that ugly fender gap and gives your car a better stance to look at. I believe there are several good aftermarket lowering kits that could go with your Avanza or Xenia. My choice is from Eibach, and there’s also another from Espelir, and Jamex (original ones, that is), among others.
Adding the Grip
While most riceboys doesn’t know shit about this and often ends up with rims that are too big and tires that are too thin, you can actually improve your car’s grip and handling if you know how to modify your car’s tires and rims correctly. Since the stock Avanza rims are 14″ in width, and Xenia’s are in 13″ in width, there are two things that you can do with this. First, you could opt for a 15″ rim. They usually go with a 6.5″ width and you can pair them with 195/60/R15 tires. For most people this is enough and it gives you the balance between performance and comfort. Just make sure that you get yourself a good set of tires. I always go with Bridgestone whenever I can, but there are tons of good tire brands in the market for you to choose from.
If this is not enough for you, you can always opt for a 16″ rim, with usually a 7″ width. You can then pair them with 205/50/R16 tires. You’ll get less comfort that the 15″ rims, but it gives you a bit more grip, especially when cornering.
However, I will not recommend going with 17″ rims. Why? Because it adds up the unneeded unsprung weight to your car, resulting in slower accelerations, and you won’t be able to fit a nice and comfortable set of tires on your car. You might be able to get away with 225/35/R17 tires with no problem, but that means sacrificing your ride quality, not to mention that you may need to modify and forcefully shift those front springs to fit the tires and rims in. I don’t recommend this at all.
One of the things that I don’t like with most cars is that they have too-light steering wheels. While ladies and elderly drivers might appreciate this, I found that having a firm and a bit heavier steering is better. Again, this is my preference and it doesn’t mean that it is a requirement. I opted for a Issota Meg steering wheel that is slightly smaller in diameter and has a slight bigger steering grip. Please note that I don’t recommend changing your steering wheel if your car is equipped with airbags, as this is probably equal to suicide.
So there you go, several ways to make your Toyota Avanza or Daihatsu Xenia into an overall better car to drive in. I hope you find them useful for a better and safer drive.