Toyota Etios - Competition Beware!
It was a bold move on Toyota's part to enter untested waters. When your goal is to design the cheapest car in your stable, it is easy to sometimes go a tad overboard in an attempt to save costs. Sometimes you can forget the basics in a bid to reach the Goal. Is this the same case with the Etios?
The Etios, launched in December by Akio Toyoda himself, is supposed to be designed for India first, and there is probably no better place for Toyota to test the Etios, than in India. We Indians have always been known to be very price conscious. We love cars with Good Mileage, Low Maintenance and which are priced the Lowest in their segment. Indians are also getting increasingly Brand Conscious and this should play right into the hands of Toyota. And of course, there is the advantage of having a strong presence in a higher segment. We have seen the advantage that VW and Ford have had with the Polo and the Figo.
Toyota stands for Quality and Reliability with Low Maintenance and Good Fuel Efficient Cars. No wonder then, that the Corolla, Innova and Fortuner have been doing so well.
The Etios competes directly with the Swift Dzire, the Maruti SX4, the Tata Manza and the Ford Fiesta. Does the Etios have what it takes to make these cars sweat? We take the VX variant of the Etios to find out.
Not much is really appealing on the Etios' exteriors. It has pretty outdated Boxy looks. There is not much to talk about the Headlights nor the large triangular Tail Lamps. All in all, a lot of angles on the Etios remind me of the Logan.
I must add that though not many gave us a second glass, one little girl did shout out 'New Etios' from her car. Probably a Toyota fan, considering the fact that the family owned an Innova. Goes to show that even little kids love their Toyota!
Being designed for India means Lots of Chrome. So, we get a Smiling Front Grill in Chrome, Chrome on the Side Paint Protectors, at the base of the Windows and even a large Chrome Strip (which I thought looked quite cheesy by the way) on the Boot Lid.
The Side Skirtings try to add some design element to the otherwise bland sides.
Probably to impress and look good in the Photographs, Toyota had given the Etios with Black Filming in the glasses. We've not seen any other press car having any accessories apart from what comes standard on the car itself. And yes, it did make a lot of difference.
The Blacked Out 'B' Pillars and Etios name tag on the 'C' Pillars look chic.
I loved the 12 Spoke alloy wheels that come with the VX. If I had an option of choosing aftermarket Alloys, I would have happily chosen the ones that Toyota provides as standard on the Etios VX.
The Etios has a Single wiper blade, similar to the ones on the Tata Nano. Both cars have tried their level best to cut down costs, however the Ones on the Etios have excellent quality rubber and clean the glass very effectively. The Driver won't mind it at all, but maybe an enthusiastic Passenger might get a bit grumpy.
The wipers can justify the cost cutting, but the small Front Fog lamps and Single Reverse Lamp certainly don't. It does look a bit odd to see a single lamp light up while reversing. It gives the feeling that the other sides bulb might have fused.
The Ribbed Roof (similar to what we saw on the Micra) adds stability / rigidity while helping to keep the weight down.
Do we Indians like to travel light? My Mrs certainly doesn't! A Weekend trip means carrying all possible items that may come in need (not necessarily only items that are needed) and the Etios has just the right answer. 595 litres of Boot space means a couple of Extra Large bags can fit in comfortably. The Rear Seats however, do not fold for the occasional oddly sized item.
The Boot floor is what actually surprised us the most. Just a thin piece of Corrugated PVC sheet, nothing more. The Spare is the regular Steel Rim and another thin PVC structure covers the gaps near the end and is used to add a bit of strength where the tyre cannot support the weight.
The first thing your eye falls on when you enter the Etios, is the cheap looking Audio System. Unfortunately, it makes the interiors look a lot worse than they actually are. And it sounds equally bad too. The radio did not catch the frequency well, despite the antenna being in place and fully extended. Change that to a good touch screen Double Din system and the interiors would look 10 times better.
Plastic Quality is also strictly average. Everything is hard touch and looks like that from a 4-5 lac rupee car. I did like the colour of the dashboard though, as it helped in reducing the dashboard glare on the windscreen.
The Flat Bottom Steering Wheel looks Sporty and is great to hold, but the feedback offered from it is pretty much nil. It is super soft when driving in the city but does not weigh up enough as speed increases. It does have steering height adjustment which seemed more of a gimmick to me, as the travel was barely a couple of inches. The VX trim also gets Audio Control on the Steering Wheel and Toyota also provides a remote control so that the rear passengers can operate the Stereo too.
Sit in the Drivers seat and there is little you can complain about, except for maybe the lack of a Height adjustable Seat and Adjustable Seat Belts. Yet the seat is positioned high enough so that even shorter driver will have a good view of the road. The seat back is quite thin, yet provides excellent back and thigh support. The front seats literally hug you and give a very comfortable feel.
Sitting in the Driver's seat, you see that the speedometer console is not in its regular place. Instead it is right in the middle of the dashboard. Personally, I don't like the setup at all. The speedometer numbers are small and it is tough to tell the speed at first glance. There is also a shadow that is created by the needle which shows a pseudo speed about 20kmph more than what you are actually doing. The tachometer is also too far to the right to be used effectively. You don't get any MID display too, which is the norm these days - just 2 basic trip meters.
The Rear Seats are comfortable too and provide adequate thigh support. The recline angle is also excellent for a comfortable ride. Integrated head rests are provided all around, but we won't complain as they are soft and it feels good to rest your head on them.
The Etios has a 2550mm wheelbase, which is equivalent to my Honda City. This gives you a lot of Interior Space, and there is plenty of Leg Room all around also. The Rear seats can comfortably seat 3 people and the centre passenger gets a good deal too. The middle seat is soft and the low transmission tunnel doesn't intrude into his leg space either.
The Red and Black interior Theme looks good, but might not suit everyone's taste. The top of the Gear Lever gets red paint too. Fabric quality is quite good.
The AC vents are positioned quite uniquely. The round Vents operate differently from the ones we see regularly, although I can't really say if they provide any kind of an advantage. In fact I feel the standard ones are much better. You can't completely close them either and air flows out from the sides.
Despite a 1.5 litre engine, the cabin takes it own sweet time to cool in the summer heat, though the AC does not have any major effect on the car's performance. In fact, I had to leave the engine on for a couple of minutes and wait outside for the cabin to cool down a bit, yet it does not chill to the level one might expect it to.
You can close the vent to the left of the Front Passenger and open the glove box vent to direct the AC air into the Glove box. The 13 litre glove box can store a lot of items in it.
The Front doors open really wide but don't closewith a soft thud. You need to apply some amount of force to close the doors, else they will be left slightly open. The door pockets are large enough to hold 1 litre bottles. You also get some storage behind the hand brake and in front of the Gear Lever.
The Power Window switches are quite tacky. No auto up down feature on any window. The Front door arm rests are adequate to rests your hand on, but the rear ones are quite small. Even though all of them had a silver finish, the Front Left Door rest on our Press Car was black.
OVRM's have to be manually adjusted from inside. No electrical adjustment provided.
Many features are missing to save costs. You don't get any lane change indicators, no anti-drip wiping and the Doors don't auto lock either. Flimsy Sun-Visors have been used, and the Bonnet Lever and XL Sized Headlight Leveler look aged. One wonders, what Toyota was thinking while deciding to use them.
Just to add another couple of points, the Rear windows go only about 3/4th the way down. Al passengers get grab handles on the roof with integrated coat hangers. Keyless entry has a separate remote control for it, and it is not integrated within the key itself.
The Etios rides just like its other siblings: plush. This is where the Etios scores big time. Bad Roads are soaked up with Ease, and the passengers are left relatively unruffled. Fortunate for me, as I had a 2 month old baby on-board.
The suspension setup is just about right, Not too stiff and not too soft either. Coupled with a 170mm Ground Clearance (again, made for India has its hand here!) means that the Etios does not scrape anything below.
The 185/60 profile tyres on 15" Bridgestone Wheels provide ample grip to the car. The Soft Power Steering and smallish 4.9 metre turning radius make it a dream to drive along with the city (not to mention the beautiful gear ratios which we shall see a little later on).
If you want a perfect City car, the Etios is nearly there. However, move out of City conditions and out on the open roads, and things are not so rosy. NVH levels are the biggest culprit here. Loads of tyre and wind noise even at speeds just above 100 kmph. Noise insulation is very poor and even in the dead of night at high speeds, I did not get that pin drop silence with soft music that I so love on night drives.
Significant amount of body roll is evident too and for a Sedan the Etios just does not inspire enough confidence to corner hard. The light weight (just 930 kgs for the VX Trim) does have a disadvantage in the Straight Line handling too. Pass 140 kmph and the Etios starts to feel wafty. 150 kmph and you really need your concentration levels up there. We did hit 165 kmph but only because we wanted to see how far the Etios can actually go. For all practical purposes (we have done 100 k's more in the Superb V6), I would not have gone past the 140 mark.
The Headlights need a bit of improvement too, both in intensity and in range. On the dark expressways, the Etios' lights are left wanting for more. But then again, aftermarket HID kits are easily available.
The Etios is one of the more spirited cars around. The 1.5 litre engine produces a healthy 90 PS of Power @ 5600 RPM and 132 NM of Torque @ 3000 RPM. Now 90PS may not sound too high, many other cars out there have a power output of 90PS. But, as we pointed out earlier, the Etios weighs in at just 930 kgs. This means that it has a Power to Weight Ratio of 96.5 PS/ton. Compare that to Dzire's 84 PS/ton, the Manza's 80 PS/ton, the SX4's 87.5 PS/ton and the Fiesta's 89 PS/ton.
In the Timed Runs we managed to reach 60kmph from a standstill in 6.5 seconds and the 100kmph mark in 14.2 seconds. Still, the Etios is not a very Rev happy car and tends to hit the Rev limit just too soon. Enthusiasts will find themselves a tad disappointed.
The Gear Ratios are amazing. Initially I was a bit sore that Toyota had not provided an option for an automatic transmission in the Etios, but at times I felt it was really not needed. The Etios pulls cleanly from standstill even in 2nd and 3rd Gear. 50 kmph in 5th Gear feels comfortable too. There is hardly any knocking from the engine. In fact you can slot the Car in Either 2nd or 3rd and drive along without the need for constant gear shifting. As I said earlier, the Etios is great for intercity driving.
Mileage wise the Etios returned 14kmpl in the city and over 17.5 kmpl on the highways. There are a couple of cars I have driven where you see the fuel indicator come down so fast it makes your heart skip a beat every time you have a look at it. Not the case with the Etios. We started our trip to Mahabaleshwar with half a tank of fuel thinking we would refill on the way, but the fuel counter just stayed put for most of the way, in spite of the AC being on 100% of the journey. We finally returned and refueled just before entering Pune. The average fuel efficiency that we received throughout the test, including the performance runs was 14.8 kmpl - pretty impressive! Add that to a 45 litre fuel tank and the Etios has a range of nearly 650 kms.
The Etios is pretty safe too. Front 2 Airbags are provided and ABS with EBD can be chosen as an option even on the base variants. Braking is powerful and brings the car to a halt within no time. In fact, at times I had to let go a bit for the fear that someone would ram into me from the rear!
|Power PS/RPM||90/ 5600|
|Dimensions in MM|
|Fuel Tank capacity||45|
|Turning circle radius in||4.9 m|
|Body coloured bumper||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Body coloured ORVM||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|AC with heater||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Electric power steering||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Pillow type rear headrest||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Chrome accented shift knob||No||No||No||Yes|
|Audio control on steering wheel||No||No||No||Yes|
|Audio System||No||No||2 DIN 1CD MP3/AM/FM||2 DIN DVD MP3/AM/FM|
|Fabric Upholstery||Single tone||Single tone||Double tone (black &grey)||Double tone (black &grey)|
|Leather wrapped steering wheel||No||No||No||Yes|
|ABS with EBD||No||Optional||Yes||Yes|
|Tyre rating||175/65 R14||175/65 R14||185/60 R15||185/60 R15|
|Ex showroom Mumbai||541185||574670||673736||721627|
Competition All Specs
|Variant||VX||Safire Aura with ABS||Zxi|
|Power in PS/RPM||90/5600||90/6000||87/6000|
|Torque in Nm/RPM||132/3000||116/4750||113/4500|
|Tyre rating||185/60 R15||185/60 R15||185/70 R14|
|Fuel Tank Capacity||45||44||43|
|Kerb Weight in Kg||915||1115||1035|
|Ex Show room price Mumbai||721627||660175||662957|
|Body coloured bumper||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Body coloured ORVM||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|AC with heater||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Electric power steering||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Pillow type rear headrest||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Chrome accented shift knob||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Audio control on steering wheel||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Audio System||2 DIN DVD MP3/AM/FM||2 DIN DVD MP3/AM/FM||2 DIN DVD MP3/AM/FM|
|Leather wrapped steering wheel||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|ABS with EBD||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Tyre rating||185/60 R15||185/60 R15||165/80/R14|
Yes, the Etios is not 100% what we expect of Toyota's standards but then, the car has been priced very competitively. The Etios costs between 4.94 lac (Ex-Showroom Pune) for the base Variant to 6.8 Lac for the Top of the Line VX Variant.
The Etios Rides and Handles like a Toyota. It has excellent performance, a Super Smooth Gearbox, Great Drivability and Good Mileage. The Toyota Badge means you also get Toyota's Reliability and Maintenance.
Returning great Value for your Money is the reason Maruti has been doing so well all these years. Toyota, with the Etios, has done this even better and even priced it like a Maruti. Toyota has a current production capacity of 70,000 units per annum for the Etios and the soon to be launched Liva Hatchback. And with the diesel engine following shortly even 1,40,000 units a year should be sold with ease.