Toyota has never made a low-cost car like the Etios before. It is the cheapest car in Toyota’s universe and sets a new benchmark for affordability by the world’s biggest car company.
Toyota has played safe with the Etios’ looks. The design and styling is well proportioned and balanced, thanks to the long wheelbase. But the design doesn’t break any new ground. The Etios grille is typically Toyota and the sharp curve gives it some character, along with the prominent creases on the bonnet. However, the small lights look quite tame as does the front bumper with a pair of tiny fogs. The side profile again looks pretty anonymous but the crease swooping up in the lower half of the doors is a terrific touch. Also, the large 15-inch wheels, standard on the V and VX versions, seriously improve the Etios’ stance. The rear is the least attractive bit and the vertical boot lid and large triangular lights bear some resemblance to the Logan.
If the exterior doesn’t bowl you over, the Etios’ interior certainly will. There is not a shadow of a doubt that the Etios is the most comfortable car in its class. The rear seats with their large squabs, perfect backrest angle and the right amount of cushioning are supremely comfortable. If there is one criticism, it’s the flat design of the back seat which doesn’t have deep contours to hold you snugly. But there’s a reason for that. The Etios is a genuine five-seater. The rear seat is remarkably wide to easily accommodate three people but what makes it even better for the middle passenger is a near-flat floor tunnel which intrudes by only two inches into the cabin.
The front seats with just the perfect amount of padding are again the most comfortable we have sat in. They are perfectly contoured to give the right amount of support to your lower back. It’s not just the seats that are generous; the Etios has more space for luggage as well. There is a massive 595-litre boot, seven full-sized cupholders and a 13-litre chilled glovebox which is the biggest we have seen. The seats, however, don’t flip or fold.
The raised driving position is terrific. However, taller drivers might have a problem as the steering wheel, even after adjustment, is a touch too low. Outside visibility is simply excellent, thanks to the slim and tucked- back A-pillar and the centrally mounted instrument cluster doesn’t get in the way either like in the Indica Vista.
For the rear passengers, there is an extra vent in the centre which works really well. Electronic climate control is not an option on any variant but you don’t really miss it. What you do miss is power adjustment for the outside mirrors, which is not available as an option on any variant.
The top-of-the-line VX model gets bright red seat fabrics and a red gear knob to match. It also gets a flat-bottom, leather-wrapped steering wheel which is great to grip, looks distinctive, and adds a sporty touch. Interior quality is pretty good but clearly the Etios doesn’t have the richness or upmarket feel of the Vento or the City. Plastic quality is about average and there are some signs of cost cutting like the flimsy sun visors and the single wiper.
Under the skin, the suspension has been tuned for Indian roads and there’s sufficient ground clearance to clear the worst potholes and speedbreakers. Toyota engineers have managed to pare the Etios’ weight as this large mid-size saloon weighs a mere 930kg, an astonishing 80kg lighter than the Swift Dzire.
The Etios’s 1.5-litre motor comes with twin cams and four valves per cylinder but despite all that hardware to breathe better, it ends up producing just under 90bhp. This figure may seem modest but when you factor in the favourable power-to-weight ratio, the Etios feels like it’s up there with some 100bhp saloons.
The Etios is quite quick off the line and it’s largely because of the gearing which is a touch short. That’s because the Etios saloon shares the gearbox with the less powerful hatchback, which needs shorter gearing. The broad torque spread of the engine also helps driveability and the Etios has a wonderfully linear power delivery, making it a very easy car to drive in town.
The gearshift too is quite slick but you won’t need to use it much as the Etios pulls away smartly from low revs. Flat-out performance is more than adequate and the Etios always has a spring in its step and feels light on its toes. In fact, the Etios’ low weight helped it achieve class-best fuel economy of 17.64kpl in the ARAI driving cycle.
Rev the 1.5-litre engine hard and it does get quite vocal and there’s a bit of road noise too. The Etios has been set up to breeze through town rather than carve up a twisty road. The steering is quite light and requires little effort but it’s not quick. However, the tight turning circle and light weight give the Etios agility about town no other mid-sizer really has. If there is a fault with the steering, it’s the dead zone around the straight-ahead position.
It’s not driving enthusiasts that the Etios is aimed at but the family man who wants comfort and practicality in a sensible, hassle-free package. The Etios may not wow you with its looks but remember that it’s been designed and developed keeping Indian tastes and requirements in mind. Hence it blows away the competition in key areas like space and comfort, fuel efficiency and ease of driving. The Etios is a car you can buy with your eyes shut because, like most Toyotas, you can’t really go wrong with it. Expect the Etios to be priced highly competitively in the region of Rs 5 to 7lakh to take on the Dzire.