Recently, the brand launched an updated version of this Indian-built model and not too long after, I received one to drive for a week or so. I entered the test with scepticism and wanted to be critical because as we’ve learnt recently, cheap doesn’t have to mean nasty.
The updates made to the Etios are mild to say the least, and are more as a result of the brand introducing the Sprint variant in place of the previous Xs to the range.
Up front, the Sprint features an adaptation of Toyota’s 'smiling' grille as well as a new lower air intake with integrated fog lamps. My test unit was the hatchback version which gets a reshaped rear bumper and 15-inch alloy wheels, which fill out the arches better when viewed from the side.
Inside, the updates are barely noticeable with small improvements made to the quality of the materials used throughout the cabin.
I’d be lying if I said that the driving experience on-board an Etios is awe-inspiring, but then again, it isn’t designed to be. It is designed to provide basic transportation with a few modern luxuries. On that front, it delivers the budget car goods.
In terms of creature comforts, expect the basics such as a media system with Bluetooth/USB/AUX, electric windows and central locking.
Its 1.5-litre 66kW/132Nm naturally aspirated petrol motor and five-speed manual gearbox isn’t the most refined or efficient powertrain out there, but its larger displacement and willingness to rev makes it one of the more spirited and gutsy budget cars around. The engine also returns reasonable fuel consumption, with our week-long drive registering a figure of 6.6-litres/100km, which isn’t a far cry from the 6.0-litres/100km claim.
In terms of practicality, the Etios will seat four occupants comfortably with good head, leg and knee room. The boot is not the biggest within the segment though with 251-litres of space, being beaten by the Volkswagen Polo Vivo, Renault Sandero and Ford Figo, but still offering a respectable amount of luggage space.
This might sound strange but the Etios also features a handy 155mm ground clearance and a robust suspension setup, which means that tackling our less than satisfactory roads was made quite a bit easier.
Although trounced by the Figo (170 mm) and Sandero (164 mm), all three comfortably trump the 115 mm offered by the Vivo. A head scratcher it might be, but you’d be surprised at how often ground clearance comes into play with our out-of-regulation-size speed bumps, patchy repairs, occasional dirt patches and the general state of disrepair we find some of our tarred areas in.
Modern budget cars, particularly in South Africa, have been under close scrutiny for their respective safety ratings. The B-segment budget contenders such as the Vivo, Figo, Sandero and Etios for that matter have acceptable safety ratings and the basic safety items I feel should be the absolute minimum in modern cars.
You get dual-front airbags, ABS with EBD, ISOFIX child seat anchors and a stable structure that saw the Etios achieve four stars in the Global NCAP safety ratings test.
If we look at the Etios from a practical standpoint, it would appear to come out in the middle of its class in terms of space, specification and pricing. It does come with a Toyota badge though, which helps it probably as much the VW badge does on the Vivo. Overall though, the Etios is still a good product that provides reasonable safety, good consumption and fuss-free motoring.