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Power Tips for Toyota Avanza/Xenia Users

Friday, August 14, 2009

Toyota Avanza

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.

Major Flaws
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.

Firmer Handling
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.

19 comments to “Power Tips for Toyota Avanza/Xenia Users”

  1. Guido Possner (February 1, 2010 at 4:29 pm):

    Hello,

    Thank you for the very interesting write up about Avanza/Xenia. Unfortunately everything you complain about the build is even in the “New” Avanza Model 2009/10 still not yet fixed.

    After a ride with many Avanza from build 2006 [without vvti] to model 2007 with vvti we decide to buy this model as family Car in Indonesia.

    The build of the car reflects in my point of view the price you paying for. [ you get what you pay for - nothing more ]

    the crome handle of the back door stand up about a half centimeter on each corner. the driver seat is loose. and all of your complains seems to be unsolved until now.

    I drive Cars over 2.5 million kilometers already without any problems or accitents. but in this car my wife complains that she get dizzy[busing] and my 7 years old daughter complains about sakit berut.

    could the problems in your writeup be the reason for this kind of problems ?

    the Toyota inspector [auto2000] told me last week exactly the same.

    the car suspension is to hard in the back and in front to soft. i spend one day in the toyota dealer in bali last week and they dont find the problem. si i need to go there tomorrow again.
    the same issues with the acceleration or stutters on low gear and RPMs, its force you to shift down so often that even toyota needs to adjust this on our new avanza.

    could you please write some more info regarding the eibach suspension – i desperatly looking for a suspension set to bring the car about 2 – 3 inch more deeper to the asphalt and also stiffen the springs.
    as born german i know eibach suspension very well but there is no avanza model listed.

    is there a K&W suspension [hight adjustable] available for Avanza. ?

    Regarding the sway of the car. i asked toyota and they told me that a stabilizer is already build in. do we need to replace it ?

    thanks for the information.

    Guido

  2. bellamy (February 1, 2010 at 4:42 pm):

    @Guido:
    It is sad to find out that despite the car is now over 5 years in the market, Toyota hasn’t done anything significant to it in terms of quality. Being a cheap car is one thing, being a ridiculously-built is another.

    The sickness your wife and daughter complained could be (while I can’t say for sure scientifically) caused by the softness of the car’s suspensions. It sways on high speed and this is a fact that affects ride and stability. Ironically, this is what most Indonesians want with their cars, soft suspensions as opposed to rigid and stable ones. How they claim the latter to be comfortable is truly beyond me.

    The thing about it stuttering in low gears, this is adjustable on non-VVTi models, but I’m not sure that we can tinker around with newer models on this matter without having it go to an extensive adjustments. This is an “economical” reason that Astra uses to cover up their inability to pre-tune cars properly, and to answer Indonesians that wanted fuel economy and yet responsiveness/high top speed at the same time.

    Stabilizers built in the car? That’s just bullshit. No CKD cars sold in Indonesia come with sway bars as standards.

    About the Eibach suspension, trust me it’s there. It’s probably not listed in the website, but the one I use is made to Avanza’s spec. If you want, I can give you the address to the workshop where I installed mine. Right now, I’m using KYB adjustable shocks, so I’m not sure if there are K&W models out there that is suitable with the car’s measurements.

  3. Guido Possner (February 2, 2010 at 10:46 pm):

    Bellamy i am glad you answer so fast.
    according the Toyota dealer here – they file a warranty claim regarding my suspension problems. Even the Toyota Instructor told me that they are not sure whats the problem [couldn't name it] – but definitive the problem exists he assured me today. So there is still hope.

    Since my previous visit at the bengkel resmi a week ago – they definitively changed something with the settings on the motor setup. [stuttering in low gears] its feels better now and the car responds more agile [but it still exists].

    with the stabilizer / sway bars – i did look up today at the computer at Toyota. i ask them to show me the accessories catalog [ looking for a stabilizer ]
    he showed me the drawing and told me there is a stabilizer build in. maybe there is another name for it or there exists 2 of them – [ maybe the one on top ??? - sorry but Toyota Avanza wise i am not that sure anymore]

    Could you recommend me a brand or maybe an website where i can order from ?

    I would like to get the news from the Eibach Suspension too [ Springs and Shock Absorber as Set ] unfortunately here at the Islands of Gods every Bengkel just give up. Would it be ok to ask for it ?

    My [wish] setup for the future would look like this:
    [also based on your recommendations]

    Eibach Suspension Set [ 2.5inch closer to the asphalt ]
    16inch wheel set with 215 x 45 R16
    [any recommendations regarding the wheel size 16inch or 17inch and max width of wheels 205 or 215 or 225 ???]
    Sway / Stabilizer

    more about Avanza missing essentials:

    very annoying i find the missing buzzer when you switch on the light [ during day trip - raining ] and then switch of the engine and left the car. The light remains switched on until the battery stops working and you cant even start the car anymore. there is no warning light or an adequate warning signal to indicate that the head light is still switched on.

    same is for the automatic door lock – after you start moving and hit the brake the car locks completely.
    annoying in situations like closing garage doors
    [ daily 3 times ] start the engine and open gate and drive outside – when you drive with passengers you need to stop – and they will enter the car. in the moment you stop – the door locks up every time when passengers are close [1 meter in front of the door] and you have to unlock manually.

    Light in the passenger room – door close – light off – in dark environment you sitting behind the steering wheel and looking about 5 – 10 sec. for the ignition lock.

    – now by surprise — i found a solution for all 3 together.

    A smart electrician showed me a way to assemble an buzzer [ i will try tomorrow an internal PC speaker buzzer [used for errors on pc main board] below the dashboard and also extend the light in the passenger zone.

    the way via capacitors to extend the light – and connect it to the cable where also the automatic door lock is installed, brings following effect:
    45 seconds with lights on – even the doors are closed – and also the automatic door lock is extended to the same amount of time.

    to fix tomorrow: reduce the time span to max 15 seconds. by using different capacitors with smaller ohm parameter and install missing buzzer.

    thank you for the suggestions.

    Guido

  4. bellamy (February 3, 2010 at 12:35 am):

    @Guido:
    You can see what the custom sway bar I installed in my car here:

    http://www.bellamybudiman.com/blog/2006/06/17/avanza-sway-bar/

    I’m not really sure this is something that Auto2000 could provide for their customers.

    I also just realized that you are residing in Bali. Unfortunately, I don’t think I could help you much with parts dealer there. Since I installed the springs in a local workshop, I don’t know if there are websites that provide online orderings as well.

    Anyway, with your future setup, I would really recommend that you use a 205/50/R16. There is no need to go thinner than that as it would just make your ride fairly uncomfortable. I currently use Potenza G3s as my tires. They perform well on high speeds, dry or wet. Also, I wouldn’t go for the 17″ rims. You will need 225/40/R17 tires to be able to fit them in, and these are painful for daily drivers.

    As for the essentials, yes, I know that they are annoying. And you’d be surprised that there are Indonesian cars more expensive than ours that don’t even have those features. But those are nice DIYs, I might try it when I have the time to tinker with it.

  5. Guido Possner (February 3, 2010 at 2:45 pm):

    thank you very much for the provided link – is there a way to get a name, model or brand ???

    could we order via Suara Motor maybe ?

    thanks again for your help.

    Guido

    PS. i will update you regarding the passenger light and door lock combination. also the buzzer i indent to use.

  6. bellamy (February 3, 2010 at 6:00 pm):

    @Guido:
    The sway bar was custom made by Suara Motor. It’s not available elsewhere. You will still need to install it even if you order it from them, but it involves drilling at certain spots for the mountings. But if you’d like you can call them for details: +62 21 5346709

  7. Guido Possner (February 7, 2010 at 3:21 pm):

    Great ~ Thank you very much for you help and support!

  8. Guido Possner (February 7, 2010 at 9:48 pm):

    Bellamy – could you have a look at the link below please:

    http://tsikot.yehey.com/forums/showthread.php?t=59978&page=2

    are we talking about the same thing ? [ swaybar ? ] this solution from the Philippines are without any holes in the car body or chassis.

    Thanks

  9. bellamy (February 7, 2010 at 11:31 pm):

    @Guido:
    It’s essentially the same thing, but I’m not quite sure with the effect or build quality of those. I’ve seen several here that uses steel with smaller diameters and they hardly have any effect to improve handling. Too bad this country doesn’t seem to know what a no-questions-asked return policy is, otherwise you could buy one and take it for a spin :)

  10. Guido Possner (February 8, 2010 at 10:47 pm):

    Bellamy i completely agree with you!
    the reason for my concern: i cant check the way they mount it to the Avanza chassis – the open ends look to the front of some pictures – some of them the ends showing to the back – some are screwed to the body – some of them using an U-shaped holder and if i look up ultraracing.com.my it not screwed at all. –> http://www.e-revmotorsports.com.sg/Toyota%20Avanza%20rear%20anti%20roll%20bar%2016mm.jpg

    could you please make a foto how your sway bar is mounted ?
    to avoid any complications with Toyota. i would appreciate your help.

    as good news at the end of this perfect Monday : Toyota agreed with my compaints and change tomorrow the complete suspension from my car.

    wish you a great start in the week.

  11. bellamy (February 8, 2010 at 11:30 pm):

    @Guido:
    Let me try to get that picture the next time my car is due for spooring/balancing. In the mean time, I’ve been trying to remember what was the name of the manufacturer until you showed me that picture. Ultra Racing has a set of bars made specially for the Avanza, and some say that these are good: http://www.ultraracing.com.my/Bars.asp?ID=3136

  12. ErwinNP (July 8, 2010 at 10:09 am):

    Hello,

    I’m an owner of Avanza 1.5 G (M/T) in the philippines. Reading your blog, I was wondering if you have considered 195x55x16, 205x50x17 or 205x45x17 wheels? can I have your input about this.
    I also have an Eibach Pro Kit but I do not installed it yet, due to I’m still looking for new set of shock absorbers. May I also ask for your suggestion on what would you recommend for the front shocks (I think I’ve read the rear shocks you recommend is KYB Excel-G Gas Shocks) since you’ve changed from Gabriel Gas Struts to KYB Adjustable shocks.

    Thank you.
    ErwinNP

  13. bellamy (July 8, 2010 at 1:45 pm):

    @ErwinNP:
    Yes, I’ve considered those wheels, but there are a few reasons why I didn’t go that way. The first one is when you use either one of those three tire sizes, it won’t fit your car. With my configuration right now, the gap between the tire and the spring leg of the front strut is about 5mm, if not less. Using tires bigger larger than that will make your front tires scrape off the spring legs. Something that you wouldn’t want.

    The second reason is that using 17″ wheels will create a larger unsprung weight to your car. This results in slower acceleration, increased fuel consumptions, as well as several minor things that could potentially affect the handling or ride quality of your car.

    In short, the 205x55xR16 configuration is by far, in my experience, the furthest limit if you want to modify your car without sacrificing ride quality.

    As for the front shocks, actually mine are Gabriel gas struts, and the rear ones are KYB Excel-Gs. I have not tried KYB’s front shocks on my car, but I suspect they should have a comparable model to Gabriel’s.

  14. ErwinNP (July 8, 2010 at 3:20 pm):

    Hi,

    Thank you for the response.

    What offset of rims did you use? I was thinking of +45. I’m now thinking of getting 16″ rims instead, based on your recommendation.

    You have installed Eibach Pro Kit, right? (it lowers the body by more-or-less 1.5″, I got the information from http://mahagurusia.blogspot.com/2009/01/avanza-spring-upgrade.html, this is the reason why I have it too). My question now is, what do you recommend between the four; 195x50x16, 195x55x16, 205x50x16, 205x55x16? Of course, I also plan to buy Potenza tires too.

    My Mitsubishi Lancer also has Potenza GIII (old model of RE001). I’m afraid that I might lower my car and worry those humps and pot holes in the street.

    I was thinking of getting the 50 series, instead of 55 series, the width is not yet decided, ‘coz I wanted to see how it fits (if it went out of the fender to much and I might have problems with the paint in my fender due to road tar and mud) but the problem is I’m getting smaller tire diameter :(

    Please help me to decide :( Thanks again.

  15. bellamy (July 8, 2010 at 3:57 pm):

    @ErwinNP:

    Yes, I have the Eibach Pro Kit. As for the tires, you should go with 205x50xR16. It should be more than enough for your car. And you won’t be able to fit anything beyond that.

    My rims offset is 42, by the way.

  16. ErwinNP (July 8, 2010 at 5:02 pm):

    Hi,

    Thanks again for the response.

    Can you post some pictures of your car? especially side view (complete car), top view from the side of the fender and at the rear wheel also.

    What do you have currently 205x50x16? width of the rim is 7″?

    Do you also have skirts (chin, side skirt, rear skirts), or step board at the sides?

    Thanks again man.

  17. bellamy (July 8, 2010 at 10:58 pm):

    @ErwinNP:
    Haven’t been taking photos of my car lately nor that I have the time to do that. The best I have is this.

    You should see the Car section of this website. That is what I have now with its current configuration. The picture above is also the latest, and as you can see, no useless skirts or foot steps whatsoever.

  18. ErwinNP (July 9, 2010 at 1:56 pm):

    Thanks for this information. Have a nice weekend!

  19. gic (May 31, 2011 at 10:58 am):

    sir bellammy nice suggestion with regards to tires and rims upgrade to 16″ but what about rims offset and the pcdif I buy 16″ rims

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