The new Toyota Etios Cross is the carmaker's attempt at capitalising on the SUV-craze in our market. Volkswagen had ventured down a similar path sometime back and introduced the Cross Polo. While both cars are merely cosmetically butched up versions of the standard hatchbacks, it's these looks that the companies are counting on to attract buyers. But if you had to put your money down for one, which one should it be? This is what we think.
Performance and refinement
The Etios Cross uses a 1.4-litre four-cylinder diesel engine that makes 68bhp and 17.3kgm of pulling power. The motor is largely vibe-free, but it does sound a bit gravely and gets progressively noisier as you build revs. It delivers power in a smooth fashion and the light clutch makes moving forward a largely trouble-free affair. Overall performance is good and the Etios cross hits the 100kph mark in a decent 15.86 seconds.
The Cross Polo is powered by a smaller 1.2-litre diesel motor that makes 74bhp and 18.3kgm of torque. And even though it uses one cylinder less than the Etios Cross’ motor, it makes about 7bhp more. Power delivery isn’t as immediate as the Etios Cross’ and the response at low revs is poor. However, things improve once you move past the 2500rpm mark. The Cross Polo gets to the 100kph mark in 17.6 seconds, which is a 1.74sec slower than the Etios Cross.
Ride and handling
The Etios Cross is pretty nimble for its size and easy to punt around town. Its light electric steering and a tight turning circle adds to its nimble handling character. The ride at low speeds feels a bit jiggly over uneven surfaces, but it’s not jarring. The ride smoothens out as you get to higher speeds and the Liva is quite a comfortable car to drive on the highway as well. The overall handling is safe and predictable.
The Cross Polo definitely shines when it comes to handling. Its suspension setup is almost perfect. The steering is more direct and weighty, the grip levels are good and it feels more secure at speeds as well. The ride isn’t bad either. There is a little bit of vertical movement but it tackles most surfaces with aplomb. The suspension is slightly on the firm side in comparison to the Etios Cross, so at slow speeds, it’s not as absorbant on bumps.
The cabin of the Etios Cross has a similar sporty black theme that helps camouflage some of the cheaper-looking plastics of the standard Liva. Quality of plastics is the same as in the Etios, which means they don’t look or feel great, except for the glossy black plastic for the centre console. The chunky flat-bottomed steering wheel has a good grip and comes with controls for the CD player. Toyota could have added a few elements to make the cabin more appealing though.
The Cross Polo’s all-black interiors give it a sporty touch. The dashboard design, however, is straightforward and simple. Fit and finish is clearly better than the Etios Cross. Overall, the cabin is well appointed and everything falls to hand easily. The chunky steering feels nice to hold and has audio controls on it too. Finding a comfortable driving position is easy thanks to the reach and rake adjustable steering. The high dash may hamper visibility of short drivers.
Space and practicality
The Etios Cross impresses in terms of space, there is more than ample leg, head and shoulder room. Both front and rear seats are accommodating and three people can easily sit in the backseat quite comfortably. There’s a good amount of storage spaces for small items and the glovebox is simply massive. The boot, at 251-litres, has decent space, however, the suspension towers intrude into the space available.
This is one department where the Cross Polo doesn’t excel. The rear seat is short on headroom and legroom, especially if you are a tall driver. The front seats however, have enough space and the cabin has quite a few big cubby holes for storage. The front door pockets are massive and can hold full-sized water bottles easily. The Cross Polo’s 294-litre boot is usefully big and it’s well shaped too. Plastic quality is also much nicer and nothing feels cheap.
The Etios Cross diesel is offered in two trims, the top-spec Etios Cross VD comes equipped with dual airbags, ABS, remote locking, a Bluetooth-ready audio player with aux and USB support, steering-mounted audio controls, a rear wiper and defogger, and a height-adjustable driver seat. At Rs 7.4 lakh, it costs Rs 50,000 more than the similarly-specced Etios Liva. Or you can opt for a lesser-specced GD version that’s priced at Rs 6.92 lakh.
The Cross Polo is available only in one fully loaded version. At Rs 7.76 lakh, it is Rs 57,000 more expensive than a comparable Polo 1.2 TDI – it only gets plastic bits on the exterior. Standard equipment on this top variant includes dual airbags, ABS, remote locking, audio system with Bluetooth, aux and USB, steering-mounted audio controls, rear wiper and defogger, a height-adjustable driver seat, automatic climate control and electric mirrors.
While the VW Cross Polo does have its share of strengths, evident in the typical German build quality and the decent driving experience, the Toyota Etios Cross comes across as the more convincing looking crossover. It's also the easier car to live with owing to its great combination of space, practicality and ease of use. Although the build quality levels don't match up to VW and the interiors could definitely have felt more premium, it's the looks that count most for these offerings and that's what Toyota has succeeded in pulling off.