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Old 1st November 2009, 22:16   #1
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Default Toyota Qualis - Product Review / Discussion

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The Beginning
The Toyota Qualis marked the entry of Toyota Kirloskar Motor Private Limited - a joint venture of Toyota Motor Corporation and Kirloskar Group - in India in 2000. The company had already launched a massive ad-campaign towards the 2nd half of 1999 announcing its arrival in the Indian market. Although everyone knew the brand, Toyota still used the tagline "Touch & Try" for those who had never tried out a Toyota before. Excitement was building up in 1999 amongst the Indian buyers who really expected a good car from Toyota. But in January when Toyota launched the Qualis (short for Quality and Service), reactions were mixed. Potential buyers expected a modern looking vehicle and were disappointed when a dated model was launched. Rival companies rejoiced thinking that an outdated model will never beat their vehicles.

But things took a drastic turn in a few months when people actually "touched and tried" the car. The Qualis introduced at the time when there were only 2 players in the market - the Mahindra Bolero and the Tata Sumo. Although the Qualis was a Multi Utility Vehicle (MUV), it wasnt targeted at MUV buyers. It felt very car like and the quality and refinement of the Qualis was what differentiated between the Bolero and Sumo.

The Variants

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The Qualis was launched in January 2000 at an on-road price of around 5.7 lakhs for the base variant and 8 lakhs for the top-end variant. The models that were introduced were the FS (Family Saloon) and the GS ( Grand Saloon) and GS-T (Grand Saloon Touring).

- The Family Saloon (FS) model was the entry level model and the cheapest variant of the Qualis. It was a bare-basic model which was actually targetted for the tourist business (read that as Sumo). This model came without a/c and power steering and these luxuries were available only as an option. The FS Model was a 10 seater with a bench seat for the passenger in the first row and side facing seats in the last row. So the seating configuration was a 3+3+4. It was available in a choice of 3 solid colors i.e. White, Red and Blue. There were further variants within the FS range - B1, B2, B3, B4 and B5. Since the FS was the base version targetted towards Sumo/Bolero buyers, Toyota offered this model with minimum equipment and with only solid colors. Metallic paint was not even offered on the FS Model - and to make things worse, there was a choice of only 3 colors - Maroon, Dark Blue and White. The lowest variant of the FS model did not even have Power Steering, Power Windows and A/C. To make matters worse, even decals were not offered standard on the FS model.

- The Grand Saloon (GS) was the model that was targetted at the family buyer. It was available in 8 and 10 seater configuration. The 10-seater configuration was similar to the FS Model. The 8-seater had a bucket seat on the front row and forward facing seat in the last row - thereby making the seating configuration as 2+3+3. The GS model was equipped with a side cladding/fender and even a classy looking aluminium footboard. It was also available in a choice of 3 metallic colors i.e silver, maroon and teal. Power steering and a/c were standard on the GS. Although other options such as power windows, locks were also offered as options across the GS range.

- The Grand Saloon-Touring was introduced a few months later and was priced at around 9+ lakhs. This was the top-of-the-line Qualis which had all the bells and whisltes. Power steering and windows, Checquered flag decals, alloy wheels, bull-bar with integrated fog lamps, dual A/C, Central locking, De-fogger, Rear spoiler and wiper.

Toyota also launched a limited edition which carried huge Toyota stickers all over the side of the car. This was introduced, as far as I know, only on the FS model and that too with a silver color (with blue and white Toyota stickering). However the Qualis success had hit Toyota so badly that they tried introducing petrol version of the Qualis to compete in the premium car segment. However a combination of an expensive price tag and a poor fuel efficiency ensure that this model was a flop in the market.

With the introduction of the Chevrolet Tavera and the Scorpio, Toyota knew it had to do something and replace the ageing Qualis. Again expectations were high when the Kijang received a face lift in other South East Asian markets. However Toyota skipped the new Kijang and introduced just a face-lifted version of the Qualis. The face-lifted model shared the same body / engine / interior from the existing Qualis. The only difference were the chrome grille, new bumpers, multi-reflector headlights, tail lights with reflectors on the tailgate and wider tyres. The face-lift also saw the introduction of the petrol Qualis i.e RS (Royal Saloon) which turned out to be a flop.

Toyota also launched a couple of Limited Edition Qualis' later - the best of them being the Myst. The Myst too was available as an FS model with metallic black paint, side cladding, cup holders, GS wheelcaps, body stickering.

Last edited by v12 : 7th November 2009 at 15:22.
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Old 1st November 2009, 22:33   #2
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Coming to the Qualis, the car, even though it was an outdated model, the quality and feel of the car was typically Japanese and years ahead of the Bolero or even the Sumo. The paint and interior quality could be even compare to higher segment cars like Honda City and Ford Escort. The entire car is so well built to last that even after 9 years of owning one, I am yet to hear a rattle from the dashboard. The only place where the Qualis lost out to the competition was in the looks department. The car screamed "I'm from the 80's" from all the angles and to add to it were the puny 14-inch wheel/tyre combination it stood on. And yet just because of its brand this outdated model went on to become a success in the Indian market.

The car pictured in this review is our very own FS-B5 model which we picked up brand new from Lakozy Toyota, Malad in October 2000. Since TKM was very much customer oriented during its first year, we were handed over the keys by a very high ranking person from Toyota Motor Corporation.

Look at it from any angle and the Qualis looks out-dated. Its only from dead front that the Qualis looks a bit handsome. Launching a discontinued model in India for Toyota was really a gamble and a bold move, but the gamble paid off. Toyota knew that the Indian customer would not accept an outdated model and hence they beefed up the South African Kijang before launching it here. The grill was a temporary one and the headlights were changed to the wrap-around type. The van like tailgate also added to those boxy looks along with the 14-in wheels with 175 size tyres.

Had Toyota fitted 15-in wheels and sideward opening spare wheel mounted tail-gate, I'm sure it would have gone a long way in improving the looks. The FS Model looked more bare than basic since it did not come with any sort of exterior equipment. To top it, it wasnt even offered with any decals. GS Models came with a full body decal which actually made the car look good. Mirrors and door handles also were not body colored. The best looking variant of the Qualis was obviously the GS model with all the claddings and decals. Alloys were offered as optional on all the models and were priced very high at dealerships.

Visibility all around is very impressive because of the large glass area and no thick pillars or rear headrests to obstruct the view. The paint, sticker and monogram quality can put even more expensive cars to shame. Although the FS was a base model, Toyota atleast provided the luxury of body colored bumpers. The corners were in black plastic to avoid un-necessary paint chip-off while parking.

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The Qualis looks the best when viewed from dead front....
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and equally worse when viewed from the rear.

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Monograms and stickers of very high quality.

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Side Mirrors are quite the standard size and provide a good view of the traffic behind. (*Body colored mirror not part of standard equipment)

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14-in wheels and 175 tyre provide a good handling. Spare wheel mounted below.

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Floorboard small and does not have the classy feel of the GS models.

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Front doors open wide enough to allow easy entry and exit.

Last edited by v12 : 7th November 2009 at 11:28.
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Old 2nd November 2009, 10:29   #3
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Getting into the Qualis is actually an effort especially if you have the FS variant since it does not have a wide footboard unlike the GS Model. But once you are in, its easy to identify this as a Japanese car. The interiors are a class apart from the rival models and are built to last. The quality of the plastic is very good if not top-notch and have a very car like feel to it. If it were not the high seating position, you wouldnt be able to tell that you are actually sitting in a Multi Utility Vehicle.

As you climb into the driver seat, the first thing you would notice is the lack of leg space especially for tall drivers. The view up front is good and you can see the entire bonnet which eases judgement while parking in tight spots. Al around visibility is also good since the windows are large and the pillars are not that thick. The passenger seat in the bench seat format (FS) is the worst seat to be in. Firstly because it does not recline and secondly it does not slide back. Also the seat is too straight for comfort. In our car, we have replaced the bench seat with a 2nd hand Honda Accord bucket seat, The bench seat is used only on family trips if space is an issue.

The middle row can seat 3 people easily without any discomfort. Also the floor being flat, there is enough room for the middle person to stretch his legs upto the gear lever (provided he's thin and a bucket seat is used). The last row of facing seats are best to be avoided since they are very uncomfortable due its straight position and also because they're situated behind the axle and you can feel every bump. I feel Toyota should have provided grab handles for the last seat occupants to avoid them being thrown around on turns.

The driving position and ergonomics are perfect and everything is well placed and within easy reach. The steering is very thin and slips easily and a good steering grip is a must. The gear lever is also well placed but is a pain while starting and switching off the engine. It can actually break your leg if it hits you at the right place due to the vibrations.

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The center console looks dated due to the sliding switches. A/C has only 3 settings - Lo, Medium and Hi - and is effective for front and middle row. Not effective at all in the last row. Music system placement wel within reach

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Door handles are easy to use and are well placed. Power windows are after-market fitments. Door pockets on all 4 doors but not very big. At the most you can store a few coins and keys.

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The fuse box situated on next to the driver door. The bonnet lever is situated right beow it.

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Hazard switch

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Steering is quite heavy to use in traffic since it is not power assisted. Pedals are well placed. Steering grip is a must. Typical japanese stalks for headlight and wiper controls. Pull and Twist type handbrake lever on the left of the steering wheel.

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Dummy switches on the FS. Although on the GS model there are actual switches for the fog lights, demister etc. The oval area in the GS houses a Rs. 9500 Toyota digital clock which is available for Rs. 500 in accessories shops.

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Sliding windows for the middle row.

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The roof lining. Notice the difference in color for 2 patches which was a fault in our Qualis. Grab handles for all passengers and rooflight at the front and rear. JVC VCD player in the center not part of standard equipment.

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Seat hooks to hold the jump seats in the last row. They've never snapped till date.

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Ample space available at the flip of a switch (err sorry ... seat). Thanks to Rehaan for the animation idea.

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Ample space to fit in 2 bikes with the middle row flipped and jump seats removed. Here's a pic of the RX Cafe in the boot. Notice only the left rear seat has been flipped.

Last edited by v12 : 5th November 2009 at 23:56.
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Old 2nd November 2009, 10:30   #4
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Engine : Toyota 2.4L engine, in-line 4-cylinder
Displacement : 2446 cc
Max. Power : 75 PS @ 4200 rpm
Max. Torque : 15.4 Kgm @ 2400 rpm

The naturally aspirated 2.4 litlre diesel engine in the Qualis needs no introduction. Its done duty on a couple of other Toyota models too - the Hilux, Chaser - but with a Turbocharger. Producing 75 bhp, this is more than enough for city driving. Although the engine is very much refined, there is considerable bit of vibration especially while starting and during idling. The engine is peppy at lower revs and picks up speed easily. But as the revs build up, you realise that its losing power and its time to up-shift.

With a full load of 10 passengers, the Qualis does feel very sluggish, but with minimum load the need for a more powerful engine is not felt. The A/C does take a load off the engine and this is very noticeable once you switch it on. Overtaking on the highway needs a bit of planning since you just cannot shift down and take off.

Driving in traffic requires quite an effort if you dont have a power steering model. Fortunately our car just received this luxury a few weeks back.

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Fuel Economy
The Qualis returns around 8-9 kmpl on normal city driving and around 11-12 on highway driving. All this on normal diesel.

Last edited by v12 : 7th November 2009 at 11:05.
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Old 7th November 2009, 15:20   #5
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The End
With the competition catching up and newer models coming up, it was really time for TKM to pull up their sleeves and get in the new Qualis. When Toyota decided to stop the production of the Qualis in 2004, the Qualis was still one of the best seller in the MUV segment. Although designed to capture the family car market, the Qualis made its way into the tourist car market and displaced the Tata Sumo completely. Toyota had no reason to discontinue the Qualis but maybe because of a brand image and the Indian auto scene seeing new cars, they wouldnt want to be left behind selling outdated models.

Expectations werent high this time, since most people expected the 2000 or 2003 Kijang to replace the Qualis. But Toyota skipped these models and got in the final replacement of the Qualis - The Toyota Innova.

The Qualis Timeline

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Old 7th November 2009, 16:02   #6
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Great writeup, felt as though I was reading a book. Quick question , were there any suspension or mechanical differences between the base and the top end models of the Qualis ? Other than power steering.
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Old 7th November 2009, 16:17   #7
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Good Writeup. I am sure Qualis would have felt really bulky without the PS. For such cars i am sure PS should have been made available even in the base versions.
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Old 7th November 2009, 16:18   #8
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Originally Posted by bottle View Post
Great writeup, felt as though I was reading a book. Quick question , were there any suspension or mechanical differences between the base and the top end models of the Qualis ? Other than power steering.
No mechanical differences between the FS, GS and GS-T. A/C (single and split) and Power steering were the major difference. All other equipments (interior and exterior) were offered as optional on the lower models.
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Old 7th November 2009, 16:27   #9
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Qualis is a brilliant drivers car. I have driven my share of Mercs VWs Hondas and what not, but nothing comes near to the driviing comfort of a Qualis.

We had a Qualis GS from 2002 to 2009. 7 years of sheer service by the car, we have taken it to the corners of the country. Driven it in excess of 140 kmph. Sometimes when required loaded the car with about 1 ton of magazines to be delivered. It had served us with sheer obedience. never complained where ever we took it, how much ever we loaded it with. my family has many great memories with the car. It never failed us. It has never left us stranded. Never a Major accident.

Once I quipped to my friend that I would have a sticker saying 'Qualis Never Fails'.

Lanson had a scheme running, for about 1.5 lacs, they would totally refurbish the Qualis with new tyres, alloys, double a/c, rear defogger and wiper and a new decal. Was tempted to taken in the offer instead buying a new car, but the model was getting old.

Model : Qualis GS.
Tenure : March 2002 - April 2009.
Kms : 1 Lac 75 thousand.
Problems : Not a single one.
Reason for sale : Getting too Old (Model. not the car)
Sold for : 5 lac 35 thousand Rupees.

Last edited by Archish : 7th November 2009 at 16:32.
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Old 7th November 2009, 16:29   #10
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Fantastic write up V12 . The success of the Qualis just stamps the fact that looks really dont matter when it comes to a car selling in the Indian market. The Qualis though lacking in looks came with refinement, reliability and other firsts which were just not there on the then available options. Used Qualis' still command a good price in resale.

The Qualis is a true Toyota and I have seen examples which have done 4 lakh kms plus and still going strong. They took a risk and then laughed all the way to the bank. They are now continuing the trend with the Innova.

Last edited by Dippy : 7th November 2009 at 16:30.
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Old 7th November 2009, 16:34   #11
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The qualis was the ONLY vehicle in the Indian auto history which had its highest monthly single nameplate sales (December 2004) since the vehicle was launched, in its last month of availability.

The qualis is still a legend.
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Old 7th November 2009, 17:03   #12
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Brilliant car - One of the best in basic mobility for Indian roads!
Reliable, Underrated and enjoyable long-distance runner.
I can only think of a couple of grouses:
- Although comfortable, there was a bit of fatigue after long-distance trips. Otherwise could compare very well with cars. I guess this was more because of the bent-knee sitting position.( Possibly, an effect of the compromise between full-SUV-stance and lower ride height to aid stability and handling). My personal take, purely!
- Even with a bit of abuse, the otherwise-low service costs could shoot. The drivetrain is an exception here. Based on my experience with my office car. Am I right here?

Edit: Just saw sidindica's comment. Thats quite a feather to have on your cap!

Last edited by jagan0677 : 7th November 2009 at 17:06.
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Old 7th November 2009, 20:58   #13
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We bought 3 of them over the years, including the anniversary edition black one which was the best of the lot. Great value, this car built by strong trust in Toyota reliability.

It did get succeed by another brilliant product- The Innova. But the Qualis still holds a special place.
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Old 7th November 2009, 21:43   #14
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Nice writeup V12,thank you for so much of information. Qualis is a legend in Indian automotive history.

Most of our office's cabs are qualis and almost all models mentioned in your post (diesel ofcourse) are there.

I was always curious about the naming conventions for Qualis.I think 3 x FS,2 x GS,1 x Myst and one anniversary edition are present in our office fleet.

Is this car is still at a premium in used car market?

Heard from a driver who recently sold his 2004 qualis,got 6 lakh for it.the car had 2 lakh+ KM in odo.

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Old 7th November 2009, 22:23   #15
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loved the vehicle owned it and now own its replacement .
but still miss the qualis
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