Toyota had launched the Liva with sporty body kit some time back as a limited edition version. However, the Liva TRD Sportivo isn’t just about the cosmetic add ons. What the carmaker has done this time around is plonk the Etios saloon’s more powerful 89bhp 1.5-litre petrol motor in the hatch. But is that enough to make it a proper enthusiast’s car?
The Sportivo has been launched with the sole purpose of injecting some spice into the Liva’s rather dull image and going by looks alone, you can’t miss the sporting pretensions. However, the motor is rather meek by hot hatch standards and the 1.5-litre’s 89bhp power output is the same as the Brio 1.2-litre’s. The Liva’s 925kg kerb weight is the saving grace as it translates into a power to weight ratio of 96.2bhp per tonne, just shy of the Polo’s 96.3bhp per tonne.
It’s also a ratio that results in a pretty impressive 0-100kph run of 11.88sec. Compare that to the Polo’s 11.62sec and you’ll see the Sportivo is a fairly ‘warm’ hatchback when driven flat out. The motor is very responsive thanks to a healthy slug of low-end torque, and power delivery is quite linear. The mid-range is strong too and the engine pulls reasonably well, if not as enthusiastically as a Honda motor, to its redline. The 1.5 Sportivo motor is identically geared to the regular 1.2 Liva and the 1.5 Etios and hence the extra power makes the Sportivo feel a touch low geared. This has its benefits; the Sportivo is quick off the mark and darts to 60kph in a sprightly 4.79 seconds, which is a touch quicker than the Polo 1.6. It pulls cleanly from low speeds in almost any gear, and this makes it very easy to drive in the city. As a result, you don’t need to change gears frequently, and even if you do, you’ll love the five-speed gearbox’s light, short throws.
The Liva’s twin-cam motor is not the smoothest or the quietest around, but there’s no doubt the improvements to the Liva’s noise, vibration and harshness package has improved things.
Still, a proper driver’s car is not just about performance, but also how entertaining it is from behind the wheel, and this is where the Sportivo’s distinctly non-sporty nature starts to show. Toyota hasn’t tweaked the bits that could have turned a capable hatch into a great driver’s car – namely the chassis, suspension, steering and brakes. The steering rack, for example, is low geared and has about four turns lock-to-lock, and the steering itself is lifeless and has a strange, inconsistent feel to the way it weighs up.
The suspension is a straight carryover from the regular Liva and doesn’t have the damping characteristics of a hot hatch. The larger 185/60 R15 tyres have improved grip but the Sportivo has a fair amount of body roll and a certain numbness in the handling that doesn’t encourage you to drive it quickly. The ride is pretty decent on uneven surfaces, though it doesn’t feel as settled as a Polo. But there is less road and tyre noise now, thanks to the improved insulation, and the suspension feels quieter too.
The Sportivo tries to play the part with a body kit that includes sportier front and rear bumpers, side skirts, a rear spoiler and handsome smoked grey alloy wheels. There are changes to the cabin too, namely that black dashboard and front seats that have the TRD Sportivo logo on them. It gets all the bells and whistles of a top-end V SP Liva, and that means the two-DIN audio system with USB and aux ports, power windows and two airbags. It doesn’t get climate control or powered mirrors though. Surprisingly, the Sportivo comes with a perfectly round steering wheel rather than the sportier-looking flat-bottomed wheel that the regular Liva gets. What’s more, the bigger engine means it doesn’t qualify for the government’s small car excise benefit, so it’s priced at Rs 6.13 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). That isn’t particularly great value, considering it’s missing equipment expected in a top-of-the-line hatchback.
Overall, the Sportivo does have decent performance and is more attractive and sporty looking than the regular Liva hatch. However, these characteristics don’t manage to hide its true practical hatch colours.