Good Motoring
Etios: Good quality, low cost
H. Kishie Singh

It is a Toyota! That should endear it to a mass of people. It’s reputation for quality, longevity and low service costs has made Toyota the world’s No. 1 auto manufacturer. The second reason that the Etios will warm the cockles of your heart is the price. Starting at Rs 5 lakh for the base model, the J, the top-end VX is below Rs 7 lakh. At this price, it is the lowest price ever for a Toyota.

Now, here comes the third arrow from Cupid’s bow. Tested on the ARAI tracks, it gave a most impressive 17.6 kmpl. The exterior of the Etios won’t turn heads unless you approach it head-on. The smiling grill welcomes the Toyota customer with a huge smile. A nice touch because the rear end and profile are drab and do not set it apart on a crowded street. Above the broad smiling grill, the bonnet has crease lines, which give it some additional character.

The Etios gives a decent performance in the city and on the highway
The Etios gives a decent performance in the city and on the highway

A single wiper sits across the windshield (cost cutting measures).

The radio antenna sits at the front of the roof, which has four corrugated creases for additional strength. It also helps reduce weight. If the exterior is lacking in appeal, the interior impresses. This could be its greatest selling point.

The Etios was designed for the Indian customer in mind. Toyota knows that the Indian customer is fussy, demanding and wants a big bang for small bucks. He knows Toyota is reliable and trouble free, but what else is he getting? Slide into the driver's seat, and the flat bottom of the steering wheel, leather-wrapped in the VX model, gives it a neat and sporty look.

The audio controls are in the left hand spoke. The seats are large, comfortable and well padded. The head restraints are built into the seat back, not adjustable (Another cost cutting measure). Look through the steering wheel, and oops! No instrument panel. The instrument panel sits at the dead centre of the dashboard. Probably the most visually unique offering by Etios.

The reason for this is, says Toyota, to minimise the time the driver takes his/her eyes off the road. With all the money, time, effort and energy spent on R&D by the auto manufacturers, how come no one thought of this in 125 years of auto manufacturing? The steering wheel has a tilt option for height and electronic power steering (EPS). The A/C has four vents on the dashboard, plus two for the foot wells.

There is a vent in the centre console for the rear seats. A wide bench seat with a flat floorboard is there for extra comfort. The front seats’ sitting area is narrow. That makes space for the feet of the rear seat passengers. It provides a comfortable sitting position. The backrest is flat, not contoured. This means a single or even two passengers in the rear could slide around on a twisty hill road.

Three passengers will have sardine-like packing and possibly more comfort. The glove box is massive. It has a 13-litre capacity and can hold seven one-litre bottles. Glove box? It is a small refrigerator. There is a unique vent for the glove box, which will keep the temperature in the glove box cooler than the cabin. It can be closed if not required. Etios engineers have scored full points on providing space all around — in the cabin for passenger comfort, the glove box and finally the boot. The boot has a 595-litre capacity. It is the largest in the B+ segment. A clever touch.

Five Indians on a week-end trip will have luggage enough to fill the boot. The upholstery for the J and G models is all black. The V is black with grey insets. The top model is black with bright red insets. It could have been a bit more sedate. The engine available at the moment is a 1500 cc petrol, 4-cylinder, 16-valve, DOHC with electronic fuel injection.

It puts out 90 PS at 5600 rpm and 132 Nm of torque at 3000 rpm. The engine is mated to a 5-speed gearbox.

The J and G models have 175/65 R14 tyres and the upper end V and VX are 185/60R 15. The V and VX have airbags, ABS and EBD, keyless entry and a host of security and safety options. With the VX, everything is standard, and with the price being under Rs 7 lakh, it is well with the money spent.

Informatively, the Etios was designed with India in mind — the customer demands, the roads, the weather. It is also the lowest price Toyota ever made; yet nothing that one expects from Toyota has been compromised. Wish they could have given the option of the seats from the J and G in the VX.

Happy motoring.