Ever since the demise of the beloved Tazz almost six years ago, Toyota has not made significant inroads in the A- and B-segments. The Yaris initially captured the public’s attention, especially after the launch of the budget-priced 1,0-litre derivatives, but interest soon waned. The Aygo city car, on the other hand, has always held boutique-hatch appeal, evident in its premium pricing and tiny dimensions.
With the introduction of the Indian-built Etios (in five-door and saloon variants), a vehicle which we had a chance to sample in Cape Town and surrounds on its local media launch, I have no doubt the manufacturer has a strong chance of recapturing some of the Tazz’s magic.
A-segment price, B-segment size
Pricing for the Etios starts at R115 800 for the 1,5 Xi hatchback, which boasts such niceties and essentials as air-conditioning, power steering, ABS with EBD, two airbags and a two-year/30 000 km service plan. The one to go for, however, is the Xs, which at an additional R5 100 also has colour coding, electric windows all-round, central locking, four speakers instead of two, front foglamps, plusher cloth trim on the seats and doors and a rear wiper (the screen also features a demister). The saloon variants have the same specification levels and cost R121 800 for the Xi and R126 600 for the Xs.
The hatch measures 3 775 mm in length and has a wheelbase that stretches 2 460 mm, while the saloon’s measurements are 4 265/2 550 mm. Even in the hatch, I could fairly comfortably fit on the rear bench with the driver’s seat in my position. The saloon boasts impressive levels of rear legroom, while headroom in both is sufficient. The five-door’s boot holds 251 dm3 of luggage, while the four-door offers a cave-like 595 dm3. Subjectively, both versions felt more spacious than their competitors, both front and rear.
The facia features a quirky layout, with the central vents stacked to improve airflow to rear-seat passengers and the instruments placed in the centre above the optional radio (Toyota offers three audio options; the double-DIN one pictured above is a must as it smartens up the centre stack and offers aux and USB ports). The enormous glovebox swallows 13 litres of knick-knacks and is cooled. All controls are well placed and straightforward to use; if you’re used to how a small Toyota drives, the Etios will be familiar terrain. The plastics are hard and some too shiny, but I noticed no rattles and creaks on the two versions I piloted. However, the Polo Vivo still sets the bar in the budget B-segment for fit and finish.
Under the hood
All Etios models feature a brand-new 1,5-litre petrol engine mated with a five-speed manual gearbox. It’s a perky powerplant, no doubt owing to the maximum torque of 132 N.m being developed at a relatively low 3 000 r/min and overall mass of about 930 kg, depending on the variant. The Etios cruises at 120 km/h at this peak in fifth, which keeps engine noise to a minimum (which is a godsend, because tyre roar overwhelms conversation and the audio system). In town, the gearbox can often be left in a higher gear than is usual with a powerplant of this size.
On the road
The Etios’s Indian roots are most envident in its suspension setup. In order to cope with that country’s rough roads (and ours), the springs and dampers have been sensibly tuned to favour ride comfort (which is very good) over cornering ability (not great; too much lean, too much oversteer). Combined with the smooth, light shifts of the gearbox and feathery steering, throttle and clutch pedals, the Etios is an unchallenging vehicle to pilot.
Toyota has set itself the target of selling 20 000 Etioses annually from next year, a goal which seems entirely attainable if you consider the inevitable enormous take-up in the rental-car industry, the manufacturer’s solid reputation and extensive dealer network, and the fact that many previous and current Tazz owners now again have a Toyota to consider. Of course, it helps that the Etios is a sensible, well-priced and spacious vehicle. It should see Toyota again being a major player in the A- and B-segments.
Don’t miss a comparative test featuring the Etios in the July issue of CAR.
How it compares with two budget B-segment stalwarts:
|Vehicle||Toyota Etios||Ford Figo||VW Polo Vivo|
|Model||1,5 Xs hatch||1,4 Ambiente||1,4 Trendline|
|Engine||1,5-litre petrol||1,4-litre petrol||1,4-litre petrol|
|Power||[email protected] 600 r/min||[email protected] 000||[email protected] 000|
|Torque||[email protected] 000 r/min||[email protected] 000||[email protected] 600|
|0-100 km/h||11,3 secs||13,63 secs*||12,2 secs|
|Top speed||165 km/h||169 km/h||177 km/h|
|Fuel consumption||6,0 L/100 km||6,6 L/100 km||6,2 L/100 km|
|Warranty||3 yr/100 000 km||4 yr/120 000 km||3 yr/120 000 km|
|Service plan||2 yr/30 000 km||optional||optional|
|Price||R120 900||R118 670||R130 000|