Etios, Toyota's first built-for-India car makes an impression with its fuel-efficiency, space and a super-responsive engine

The Etios is Toyota's first serious crack at the budget-end of the market and the result is the most affordable Toyota you can buy. The hype surrounding it then is perfectly understandable. Let us find out if Toyota gives you enough bang for your buck with its first built-for-India car?

Design and engineering

If there is one area where the Etios is at a disadvantage, it's with the styling — simple body lines and a bulky boot. But Toyota has tried to add some visual drama with the boomerang-shaped grille, the bulge on the hood and a prominent crease that runs across the doors. The rear is a bit uninspiring.

The greatest achievement, however, is the Etios's unreal kerb weight of 930kg which makes it, by far, the lightest mid-sizer and even lighter than several hatchbacks. How has Toyota managed to keep the weight so low? The door handles are grab-type, there's no rear quarter-glass, the rubber beading for the door is missing as is the engine cover, there's only one horn and there's a single wiper too. Other not-so-obvious areas where material has been saved are in the headliner, carpeting and NVH insulation. The Etios is also not built with the same impact protection hardware that's demanded in Europe and this again helps keep weight down. Twin airbags and ABS are an option on the top-of-the-line model though.

Interiors

Far from the bland exteriors is the bold and unconventional dashboard. The instrument panel is not where you expect it to be, the central console with two vertically stacked centre vents is like nothing we've seen before (the lower one can be aimed at the rear seat). The flat-bottomed steering wheel and the massive glovebox are unique as well. The odd placement of the various bits does take some getting used to, but once you get accustomed to the new layout, the change is actually quite welcome. Surprisingly, for all the chop and change, the functionality of the cabin is brilliant.

However, the dashboard plastics don't have a quality feel, the air-con controls and the cable-type headlamp height adjuster are some bad bits.

The Etios' trump card is space. The front and rear seats are both big and wide, offering excellent back and thigh support. There is plenty of leg and headroom around as well. Sitting three abreast at the rear is quite comfy. And making life easy for the middle passenger is the flat floor and well-designed backrest. However, what these seats lack is good lateral support. There are no proper headrests in the rear and no central armrest but even so the large area the seats offer, the perfect backrest angle and the ‘hip' point translate into a very comfortable sitting posture.

Like passenger space, storage too is ample. Apart from the massive cooled glovebox, there are lots of useful cubbyholes, generous door pockets and seven bottle-holders! To top it off is a 595-litre boot which can easily swallow the luggage of five passengers on a long holiday. This is one area Toyota has not stinted on.

Engine and performance

The Etios comes with a single engine option at the moment — a 1496cc petrol, developing 90bhp and 13.4kgm of power and torque. These are modest figures for a 1.5-litre engine that has deep-breathing 16 valves activated by twin camshafts. But don't let that fool you into thinking that performance is less than adequate. The engine has phenomenal driveability which you immediately notice. Prod the throttle and the lightweight Etios simply leaps forward. The motor is super-responsive and has a solid, linear tug from low engine speeds, which makes it ideal for city driving.

All you have to do, even if you are in a high gear, is put your foot down and the Etios scoots forward to make up that gap in traffic. As a result, you don't need to change gears frequently. But if you want to, the crisp and quick gearbox is quite nice to use.

Ride and handling

The Etios is quite stiffly sprung. Ride quality at slow speeds is compromised a bit. Accentuating the stiff-kneed ride is a fair amount of road noise that filters through. Tyre noise and clunks from the suspension are quite audible, much of which is down to Toyota stinting on wheel arch and underbody insulation on this car.

Up the pace and the ride smoothens out and in fact is quite comfortable for most of the part. The Etios cruises with a flat and consistent poise which gives the driver a huge amount of confidence, especially at highway speeds. The Etios is pretty nimble for its size and easy to punt around town, thanks to a tight turning circle and super-light electric steering.

Fuel economy

The Etios is the most fuel efficient 1.5-litre petrol car in the country. With an astonishingly low kerb weight, a very tractable engine that has been tweaked for fuel efficiency, we would have been surprised if the Etios was anything other than very fuel efficient. In the city, we got a reading of a very impressive 11.8kpl and on the highway it returned 16.8kpl.

Keywords: EtiosToyota