Turbocharging the Toyota Vios 1.5L

The little car that gets boost and does it very well.

Toyota’s best selling small car, the Vios is big in sales numbers and does an excellent job in A to B chores, Grab duties and an overall very good first car. What’s not so great is in the power department, and it definitely won’t win any stoplight races against say, a 98 Civic SiR. But then again, that’s what turbocharging is for right? So here’s how we do it.

1. Take out the bumper, grill, stock airbox, exhaust manifold, horns, lights etc etc so we have a clean slate to work with

2. “Can I put an intercooler on my non-turbo car?” Has got to be the most asked question and one of the dumbest on the Internet. Most people would want a turbo just to be able to show off the intercooler in front and for this reason, we’re doing this step first because ya know, looks are a priority.

3. Here’s the turbocharger. This is one of our old china made T25 sized turbos which we rebuilt the center cartridge with stronger bearings because this is the weak point of these turbos, it’s either a pass or fail the second the engine starts up, and it’s a pain in the ass to swap out once everything is in place so we take the extra step to make sure this sucker will last.

4. Welded turbo manifold. Unlike most manifolds that you see on the internet with the curvy stainless steel tubing, we chose thick iron pipe for strength and it will never ever crack under heat, even if it isn’t so pretty.

5. Turbo and manifold now married. This is also the reason that if you have performance headers, you have to take it out and sell them because this will sit in its place.

6. It’s a shame that the Vios as a backwards facing exhaust, hence you can’t really see the turbo

7. The intercooler is mounted here behind the bumper support

8. This is the aluminum pipes that leads to the throttle which is in front of the engine.

9. Here’s a closer look at the bracket the holds the intercooler in place.

10. This is the turbo discharge pipe. There are two ways to route this, either above the engine like what he have here, or below, for that more sleeper look, it actually doesn’t matter as it doesn’t affect performance.

11. All our turbo builds use a K&N filter. This is important that no stray dirt particles get sucked into the turbo.

12. “Can I put a blow off valve on my non-turbo car?” Is the second dumbest question on the internet. And like the intercooler, people will actually get a turbo setup just for the sound. On this Vios, the blow off valve is located somewhat in the bottom half as that’s the best location, which has to be at least 1 foot away from the throttle. Sorry, no showing off to your car club friends when you open the engine, but hey you get that passheewwww sound.

13. And here’s the completed turbo installation. The aluminum pipe can be in any color you want but we went with an all black setup, ya know, for that sleeper look.

14. The stock bumper fits perfectly without any cutting needed. The generations after this Vios actually have even more room behind the bumper as they have grown in size.

15. All done and ready to be tuned. For this we use Unichip because well, it’s simply the best solution for the job. Minimal wiring and it has the ability to Reference a variety of input signals for fuel enrichment, such as throttle position, MAF reading or actual boost, so control the additional 5th injector setup.

16. And the numbers are in! Our 1.5L AT Vios makes 77whp and 78 ft-lbs torque in stock form. Turbocharging it got us an additional 60hp and 63 ft-lbs of torque for a total of 138whp and 141 ft-lbs torque, almost double the stock numbers, at 7psi of boost.

Now a lot of people will tell you that turbocharging will shorten the life of your engine. The answer is both yes and no, and it depends. Here’s why.

Every engine on the planet is overbuilt to some extent, that’s just the way things are done, the same way that screwdriver is overbuilt to not twist even Superman twists it. Engines normally can take 50-70% on top of their stock power rating with no problems, and this is what we follow as a rule if thumb. Of course some engines are built better than others. We know for a fact that the 1.5L Vios engine can take much more than the 60hp we added but we won’t risk the same power gain with a Kia engine.

We also don’t accept any turbo install with engines that have high mileage already, meaning over 100,000km and this is the “will shorten your engine life” comes from. Same way you don’t ask grandpa to do a 10km marathon

So it depends on how well you take care of the car and what’s the mileage and condition. Generally 40-60k kilometer mileage is ok for turbocharging, and your car is certainly out of warranty by that time.

Oh and this whole article is applicable up to the 3rd Generation Vios because the engine is exactly the same from 2004 up to 2016 and it’s also exactly the same for the 1.3L engine

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