Review: New Toyota Etios

Posted by devesh.shobha at 08:03 am on Wednesday March 27, 2013

When a typical Indian car buyer is out in the market, some of the key factors in zeroing in on a particular model are ‘easy to buy’ and ‘excellent fuel efficiency’. Carmakers operating in India develop their models around this philosophy and so did Toyota with its Etios and Liva models. But what it didn’t consider at that point of time was the evolving nature of the Indian market where ‘affordability’ and ‘efficiency’ weren’t going to be enough to sustain.

That’s exactly what happened with the Etios and Liva when they made their debut in 2010 and 2011 respectively. The made-for-India Etios siblings were affordable (considering they were Toyotas), spacious, comfortable, quite efficient and practical. But what let the buyers down were their ordinary, Logan-inspired styling, cheap looking interiors and signs of low-cost bits and pieces at several places.

Toyota took a lot of flak for this, but it was able to take the criticism in its stride and quickly made necessary alterations to come out with 2013 versions of the Etios and Etios Liva. To begin with, Toyota has reshuffled the trim levels and has added new base variants for the saloon and the hatchback, apart from introducing a new sporty variant of the Liva. The Etios featured here is the top-end VD variant that comes loaded with all the goodies and safety features.

So let’s start with what’s new for the 2013 model - If the new Etios zoomed past you, it would be difficult to spot the slightly altered front grille. But what could give away to the keen observers are the new ORVMs with turn indicators and new elements in the tail-lamp cluster. That’s it. It’s the cabin that has received most of the new stuff and it shows. First up, the dull and boring grey interior makes way for a better looking dual-tone black and beige scheme. Although the materials used remain the same, the new colour scheme is pleasing to the eye. The faux wood inserts and new door pads give it a bit of flair. There are new graphics for the centrally-located instrument cluster and a neat looking 2-DIN music system with USB, Aux-in and Bluetooth connectivity. The air-con knobs are new and feel much better than the cheaper ones they replace.  

Gone are the low-cost, one-piece flat seats upfront and in come new seats that offer adjustable headrests, better bolstering and overall support. The driver's seat also gets height adjust. The rear seat continues to offer good levels of comfort and it now comes with bigger fixed headrests.

Toyota hasn’t made noteworthy changes on the mechanical front and thus, the Etios continues to be powered by 1.5-litre 89bhp petrol and 1.4-litre 67bhp diesel motors. Driving the diesel variant immediately points out the improvements made as far as NVH levels go – the cabin feels much quieter than before. The diesel engine doesn’t offer outright performance, but the Etios’s light kerb weight steps in to provide decent level of driveability. The motor responds surprisingly well to part-throttle responses and there is enough power on tap to amble around in the city. The low-end grunt is fine, but once the motor spins above 2000rpm, there is a linear surge of power that can pretty much take care of your day-to-day city needs. What’s disappointing is that once you are past 4000rpm, there isn’t much that the engine offers. It’s quite evident on the highways, but more so on the ghats where you end up constantly shuffling between the second and third gears, with occasional first gear start-ups. It’s here that you would appreciate the slick and light gearbox with precise throws the most. In the city though, a slightly heavier clutch action will leave you with an aching left ankle.   

Toyota has made changes to the suspension setup and it shows on the irregular road surfaces that the city of Mumbai is full of. It absorbs most of the bad patches with only bigger and sharper bumps filtering into the cabin. Where the softer suspension setup aids ride comfort, it kind of spoils the handling. There is massive body roll around corners and even the new supportive seats find it difficult to keep you in place. Also, the steering isn’t that precise and is quite inconsistent. Plus, that extra lock-to-lock turns make you steer a bit more than usual. However, straight-line stability is good and you can cruise at 120kph all day long.

So then, with the new Etios, Toyota has made considerable improvements to overcome some of the earlier model’s drawbacks. Where it scores high is efficiency (our test returned 14.9kpl in the city and 19 on the highway), cabin and luggage space and practicality. What it lacks is desirable styling. But then it comes with Toyota’s reliability, strong after-sales and peace of mind that not many rivals offer.

Rating
5/10

The cost
Rs 8.15 lakh (ex-showroom, New Delhi)

The specs
4cyl, 1364cc, common rail direct injection turbo diesel, 67bhp, 170Nm, 16.95kpl, 5M, 1020kg

The numbers
0-100kph - 15.48sec
30-50kph in 3rd - 4.11sec
30-50kph in 4th - 7.71sec
50-70kph in 5th - 9.47sec
80-0kph - 25.29m /2.26sec

Verdict
The new Etios, with refreshed interiors and decent features, takes the game forward for Toyota in the budget segment. It’s an affordable Toyota that’s practical, efficient and comes with an attractive price tag. The Etios slots pretty high on the chart when it comes to ‘cars you would buy with your head rather than your heart’.

TAGS// toyota, etios

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