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    toyota-wigo20140429IT has a better radio than the Toyota 86 / Subaru BRZ twin.

    “It,” in this case, refers to the Wigo, a mini hatchback recently introduced in the Philippines by Toyota, and which is built by mini-car specialist Daihatsu. The car is sold in some areas either as a Daihatsu or as a Toyota, meant as it is to fill a gaping hole in Toyota’s product lineup in certain countries, particularly in the Southeast Asian neighborhood where small, affordable cars rule.

    Now the fact that the Wigo is built by Daihatsu—in which Toyota has a major stake—means it is no pushover, despite what its size and price tags might otherwise suggest. The majority of kei cars (those with engines no larger than 660cc) that roam Japan’s streets wear Daihatsu badges. The 1.0-liter engine that propels the Wigo comes from Toyota, which is shared with the Aygo, Toyota’s mini-car bet in Europe. The Wigo is no slapdash affair cobbled together to plug holes in product segments—it just happens to be a convenient solution.

    And so while the 86 and BRZ poster boys have to make do locally with radios lifted straight off Toyota’s Innova (and other mainstream models), the Wigo flaunts a fancy touch-screen multimedia unit. Which can be fitted with a nav system.

    For its price tag, the Wigo really offers a lot. There are three variants available, and the one pictured here is the mid-spec 1.0 G MT, which sells for P499,000. Besides the touch-screen job, it comes with halogen headlamps, remote locks with immobilizer, electric power assist steering, a pair of airbags in front, 14-inch alloys, a rear spoiler with a third brake lamp, a wiper for the hatch glass, fog lamps, chrome and silvery trim outside and inside the car, the assorted cup holders and storage bins. There’s air-conditioning, of course, which has dials better than that on some Toyotas. Electric windows, side-view mirrors, check.

    Four can comfortably fit in the cabin, and there is still a good amount of space aft of the backseat (which folds down) for luggage. It’s not posh in there, obviously, but it’s not shabby either.

    On the road the Wigo is surprisingly peppy, its five-speed manual transmission—slick to shift—making good use of its gear ratios to wring out power coming from the car’s engine. Low poundage also contributes to the cause, for sure. Unexpectedly good is the car’s steering, which is not overly assisted, and therefore something that cannot be said of many Toyotas. If not particularly sporty, the Wigo’s driving characteristic is, at the very least, enjoyable.

    The Wigo ticks a lot of boxes, then, especially for people seeking for a low-cost hatchback (as Toyota Motor Phils. reckons most of the Wigo’s buyers will likely be). But, is it a fuel miser?

    Frankly, no, if my six-day stint with the manual-gearbox variant is anything to go by. In a mix of rush-hour and late-night driving in Metro Manila, the car managed to eke out 11.4 kilometers to a liter of gasoline by the time half of the tank’s contents were spent (as indicated by the car’s computer). This figure could have improved through more distance logged, up to the point when the fuel gauge needle drops to empty. But, inversely, the figure could have also gotten worse if bad traffic later on had come into play.

    Now I know my way around “hypermiling” and even have a few fuel-eco contest wins to boast of, and “boast of” mainly because I had won without resorting to cheap tricks like switching the engine off and pushing the car in stop-and-go traffic. Or opting to get baked inside a car because its air-conditioner was off but its windows were closed, just to take home the cash prize. Results I have logged in such fuel eco runs range from high teens (in kilometers per liter, or kpl, figures) to high 20s, mostly recorded during long highway drives. So 11.4kpl in real-world city use is not too bad at all.

    But let me put this in another context. My daily driver is an all-wheel drive hatchback that packs a 150hp, 200Nm, 2.0-liter engine and which also has a five-speed stick shift, and on half-tank fill-ups I regularly log 8kpl to 9kpl with it. Over basically the same route, the Wigo, which has a three-pot, 1.0-liter engine that churns out 65hp and 85Nm of torque (or less than half of my car’s output), got 11.4kpl in six days of driving.

    Oh, but that touch-screen radio is cool.

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