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In the US, the Mazda 2 plays the role of the Toyota Vios

Americans know the subcompact car as the Yaris Sedan

Can you make out the Mazda 2's face from this angle? PHOTO FROM TOYOTA

In August last year, Japanese automotive rivals Mazda and Toyota surprised the industry by announcing an alliance that would see Toyota taking a 5% stake in Mazda, and then Mazda receiving a 0.25% share of Toyota. A highlight of the partnership disclosure was the revelation that the two companies would build a $1.6-billion assembly plant in the United States.

Earlier this month, the location of the planned manufacturing facility was finally made known: Huntsville, Alabama. The plant, expected to be operational by 2021, is seen to create 4,000 new jobs. The new joint-venture company is called Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA, and will be tasked to initially produce 150,000 units of the Toyota Corolla and 150,000 units of a still-unidentified Mazda crossover.

Before this JV agreement, the two automakers from the Land of the Rising Sun had already been cooperating—particularly on the product front. Toyota’s now-defunct youth-oriented sub-brand Scion actually rebadged the Mazda 2 subcompact sedan and sold it in the US in 2015 as the iA. It should be noted that Mazda doesn’t offer the 2 in America.

Unfortunately, Toyota would pull the plug on the Scion, and the latter officially ceased operations in August 2016. With Scion’s demise, the orphaned iA was once again rebadged—this time as the Toyota Yaris iA. Which technically made it the US version of the Vios if you think about it. Today, the company unveiled the 2019 version of the car, which from this point on shall be called the Yaris Sedan.

The profile is starting to give away those Kodo lines. PHOTOS FROM TOYOTA

The facelift gives the Yaris Sedan a sportier face with a honeycomb grille. Piano-black accents and chrome trim have also been added in an attempt to make the exterior look more upscale.

The Yaris Sedan is powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine (106hp) mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic gearbox. We reckon these are the same Skyactiv pairings found in the Philippine-market 2 sedan.

Inside, the Yaris Sedan has a seven-inch touchscreen multimedia display, voice recognition, remote interface, and a six-speaker audio system.

Safety features include dynamic stability control, traction control, antilock brakes, brake assist, electronic brake-force distribution, brake override system, front/side/curtain airbags, and the so-called low-speed pre-collision system.

The Mazda 2's cockpit and steering wheel say hello. PHOTO FROM TOYOTA

The question now is this: Do you prefer the locally available Vios or this Yaris Sedan that is essentially a Mazda 2 in Toyota clothing?

Vernon B. Sarne

Vernon is the founder and editor-in-chief of VISOR. He has been an automotive journalist since July 1995. He became one by serendipity, walking into the office of a small publishing company and applying for a position he had no idea was for a local car magazine. God has watched over him throughout his humble journey. He writes the ‘Spoiler’ column.