What has changed?
First shown at the South African Festival of Speed last year, the new Etios Sprint replaces the mid-range Xs variant and differs from the base Xi by virtue of a more aggressive front bumper, wider door sills, V-shaped grille with chrome detailing above, tweaked rear bumper and 15-inch alloy wheels.
The interior however remains unchanged from the regular Etios with a mixture of black, silver and chrome detailing, the still centrally mounted instrument cluster and a waterfall-like dot-matrix sound system with Bluetooth and USB.
In addition to the Sprint, Toyota has given the aforementioned Xi a slight tweak with ISOFIX mounting points, a chrome grille and colour coded door handles and mirrors now being standard, while the flagship Etios Cross remains as is. Unlike the Sprint though, both the Xi and Cross do without the cosmetic enhancements
Is it a true sprint(er)?
Despite its name alluding to sporty pretensions from a performance perspective, the Sprint, like the rest of the range, makes do with Toyota’s 1.5-litre 2NR-FE petrol engine developing 66 kW and 132 Nm of torque, transferred to the front wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox.
As disappointing as this might sound, the Sprint made for a surprising performer despite the scoring conditions that enveloped the launch route from Port Elizabeth to East London calling for the air-conditioning to work overtime.
Available as either a hatch or sedan, the latter offering up to 562-litres of boot space, the sportiest Etios felt at ease on the winding roads leading from the Friendly City to Port Alfred, with good levels of a grip and an engine willing to impress when exploring the upper regions of the rev range.
What surprised the most though was the ride. Built at Toyota’s Bidadi plant in India, the Sprint managed to take the various lumps and bumps of the launch route in its stride without feeling uncomfortable or indeed exhibiting any significant loss of momentum on the rebound.
Standard spec is also impressive given the Sprint’s price, with electric windows all around, four-speaker audio system, tilt adjustable steering wheel, auto lock/unlock doors, dual front airbags and ABS with EBD being included.
It was not all good news though with one of the biggest disappoints being the clutch action. While slick and boasting a light clutch action, the initial bite point teeters on the high side with careful modulation needed to prevent stalling.
Similarly, the interior mainly consists of hard grey cheap feeling plastics which may prove durable in the long run, yet still make the cab feel dark. The black finish around the aforementioned audio system and silver inlays on the steering wheel don't add to the ambience either.
An ongoing point of criticism, and perhaps the biggest of the Sprint’s interior, is the centrally mounted instrument binnacle which despite looking modern, still requires you to take your eyes of the road when assessing your speed.
While it might not feature any performance advantages over the regular Etios, the inclusion of the Sprint will no doubt come as a bonus for buyers seeking something with a sporty touch at this end of the market. Add in a three year / 100 000 km warranty as well as a two year / 30 000 km service plan, the Sprint makes for an attractive newcomer likely to build on the success of an already accomplished model.
Etios 1.5 Xi hatch: R163 900
Etios 1.5 Xi sedan: R172 200
Etios 1.5 Sprint hatch: R172 600
Etios 1.5 Sprint sedan: R180 500
Etios Cross 1.5: R194 300