Etios…the new face of Toyota

Posted: December 26, 2010 in Car reviews
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Toyota till now had been a niche player in India with its all its passenger cars catering to the higher class of the society. That had been their strategy in India and every other country they were present till date. But they soon realized that in India, the fastest growing passenger car market, it was just not enough to have models catering to the elite, as every other car sold is either a hatch or an entry level sedan. To make their presence felt in India, they had to come down to the mass market, making cars for the common man in India. It was something they had never done before, not only in India, but anywhere else. They had to come up with something targeting an area dominated by the homegrown automakers like Maruti and Tata; and challenging them at their own turf, let alone beating them was always going to be tough. But Toyota had a vision, to capture 10% of the Indian car market by 2015. An entry level car so unique and belonging to a class of its own, without compromising on the renowned Toyota Quality standards was the need of the hour. Hence the Etios was born, to propel forward the cruise of Toyota in India to the next higher level.
By pitting it into the big league of established models like Swift Dzire and the Indigo in the entry midsize sedan segment, Toyota has declared its intentions loud and clear. Supported by aggressive marketing and road shows covering 24 cities right from the time it was showcased in the Delhi Auto Expo, it had generated enough hype in India long before its launch and seemed pretty much in course to make its mark in the market and create a loyal fan following. It is quite evident considering the fact that just inside three weeks of its launch on 1st Dec 2010, the car has managed an amazing feat of close to 14,000 pre delivery bookings. Going by the Etios tagline, in every way it is a first!!!
But the real test of the car will be to keep up the initial performance in the days to come when then hype settles down and people look for the real value in the car. It needs to prove its worth in all aspects and outperform the leader Dzire both in terms of price as well as in quality if it needs to achieve anything it dzires to. So, is the car really worth it or is it just the initial hype? Read on.From the outside, the car looks neat and elegant with it nice little smiling face and well proportioned lower grille, and, combined with the smooth flow lines on the bonnet, gives a pretty unique image to the car. The sculpted lines than run along the length of the car gives it a refreshing look and coupled with the sculpted profile just under the windows and extending to the front fenders, makes it look quite different from other cars on the road. The paint quality looks superb and has good chrome door inserts as well unlike the Marutis and Tatas in this range; but that brings to an abrupt end the short list of pros of Etios’ exterior which otherwise looks bland and unappealing. The rear side is also no different, and even with substantial chrome cover to hide the simplicity of the boot, it looks no different from the Logan which is notorious for its rear looks. The panel gaps are also slightly on the higher side and could have been better put together. The dull triangular tail lamps that project outwards give it an image of being too separated from the boot lid, and seem to be in two different horizons. Even the chrome on the rear feels pasted incompletely and has significant gap from the boot lid on its lower side. But the best part of all is that this car looks like a complete sedan, unlike the Dzire, which is nothing more than some additional odd looking metal pieces added on Swift.
Step inside the car and it feels like there is space all around, for you and whatever you tend to carry with you. The front seat cushion, though not as thick as some other cars, has good profile and offers pretty decent thigh support. The rear seat is wide enough to easily seat three well sized adults and the low hump on the floor make things pretty much easier for the middle passenger. The back seat angle is also good and would give you no strain at all on long drives. The steering looks absolutely top class, with its non circular profile and is good to hold and grip, but is not in snyc with the rest of the interiors; which look a bit too dull with its odd uninviting color and texture, the only exception being the brilliant etching on the panels that run atop the sticker-speedometer console. The fit and finish and quality look decent as well, more built for the price rather than providing the ‘Q Class’ feel Toyota claims to give in this car; but nevertheless feels quite comparable to the Dzire. Toyota has tried to be different everywhere inside, with silver colored door arm rest and panels on the door trims; but it only helped in giving a low cost appearance to the already flimsy door panels. The cooled glove box has loads of space for anything you would need in a long weekend trip to remain fresh, and can be a boon with the mercury climbing new peaks every year. The AC vents, though outdated in terms of design, goes about doing their job pretty well, cooling the cabin in quick time and able to direct airflow even to the rear corners, with their superb positioning. The hand brake lever seemed small compared to other cars and seemed to have plenty of open spaces all around, giving hints of the cost cutting done in the car. So is the bonnet opener, which resembles the engine switch off lever in old Leyland buses. Another small but disturbing fact was that Toyota has done nothing to hide even the small nuts and bolts holding the floor console and are open for everyone to see. So in the interior as a whole, while Dzire score over the Toyota in looks, the Etios outscores Dzire by its sheer practicality and well thought out interiors.
The boot is larger compared to the Dzire and you will never complain about lack of space, but the quality of materials used in the floor wouldn’t impress you by any standards; but again, who will be bothered about something which you is least functional and sparsely used as that? Quite surprisingly, even the engine compartment has lots of vacant space and can easily accommodate another bag if need be!!! Could be for the diesel engine Toyota plans to roll out in Etios later this year.
The car has a 1.5 litre petrol engine producing 90PS of power and 132 Nm of torque. It is just 5PS more than the Dzire, but combined with the extra low weight of the car, seems more than capable. Slot in the gear, release the clutch and depress the pedal, and the car zooms forward briskly, in a composed and purposeful manner. The steering is light and coupled with slick and short throw gear shifts, city driving should be nothing but effortless. A couple of quick gearshifts and you find yourself zooming past that 80 km/hr in relatively no time at all. The power delivery from the engine feels so smooth, almost like an unending serene breeze rather than a quick whirlwind affair. The only cons are the relatively higher noise levels, especially when the engine is stretched to its higher side and the sudden loss of power when AC is turned on even at cruising speeds. The highway stability also doesn’t seem to be affected by the low weight of the car and it felt good even with strong crosswinds blowing across. The suspension and tires looked quite soft and the car was quite comfy to ride on highways, but seemed to take a bit longer to dampen on extreme broken surfaces and small plastic speed breakers. Clearly the onus was to make it a more ride oriented car like all other Toyotas around. Having said that, least was expected from the car in the handling front, but in turned out to be just the opposite. The steering, though not perfect near the centre, was quite responsive and confident thereafter. Lane changes and overtakings were a child’s play, with the car offering good grip and control, but with the soft suspension playing spoilsport occasionally. A bit more feedback to the driver on what was happening underneath would have been more welcome, but alas, handling was never the top priority for Toyota in this car. The tires also offered good grip and held strong while cornering and gave the feeling of being in control as long as you try to steer heavily and steering gets a bit vague. Brakes also seemed effective enough with the car stopping in relatively quick time, but yes, not in a straight line as I would have liked it to be.
Sure, the launch of the Etios sedan would certainly bring smiles to the long queue of hardcore Dzire fans, who can now hope to get their petrol Dzires rather quickly. Its Etios-if sense rules over heart.

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