The world’s largest carmaker Toyota has finally come up with a plan for the Indian market. And not surprisingly, that plan squarely centres on its small car and a sedan based on it — the Etios.
Built paintstakingly over four years by a young team of engineers in Japan and India and with an investment of Rs 3,200 crore, Etios is no other car even for a company as big as Toyota. It is the smallest and cheapest car the firm has ever built, and the learnings are such that the firm says it cannot make a car cheaper than this at all. Suffice to say, Etios will decide the way forward for the company not only in India but also across the world.
In a departure from traditional wisdom though, the sedan hits the roads first today, which will be followed by the hatchback only three months down the line. The reason the company says is that the platform was built for the sedan first and then compressed to a hatch. Let’s check out, if it works.
Unlike some other Japanese carmakers like Honda and Nissan, Toyota is not really known for its pathbreaking styling. Its cars are almost always more understated to look at that gives an impression of being no-nonsense and practical. With the Etios, it is no different.
While it is difficult to really fall in love with the car at the first look, it does have a fresh feel to it. Its large clear headlamps that surround a half smiling sloping grille give it a cheery demeanour. This car is nicely put together with flowing clean lines from the rear to the front. At the rear you find large trapeziocal tail lamps that look quite standard but adequate.
Bottomline, the car does not quite stand out of the crowd on the looks department but it is not at the bottom of the heap either.
But where this car scores is the attention to detail and the excellent utilisation in space. The car has been developed after the engineers studied the Suzuki Swift to the maxim, and in every department it shows. The leg and knee room at the front and back is more than adequate and it trumps the Dzire outrightly in this area. The storage space is also best in class and what should not be missed are tiny bits like seven 1-litre bottle holders and a glovebox large enough to hold 13 small bottles. An added delight is it has a chiller as well.
On the flip side though, the quality of plastic was surprisingly just about average while the central console as also the instrument cluster has a toyish feel to it.
Power and Drivetrain
This is one area where the Etios sedan really scores. And it is helped that it has a bigger 1.5 litre engine. That in itself catapults it to the bigger league of cars like the Fiesta, Verna and I daresay even the City.
The car is bigger and more powerful than its hatch counterpart and at no time, whether in the city or the highway would you feel lacking in power. The flat torque curve gives it a pleasurable drive making it the favourite driver’s car in the entry level mid size sedan segment.
Further, the car’s handling is impeccable as well and almost as good as any European car. For the limited amount of time that we got hold of the vehicle, we could not test the top speed (managed only 120kmph on the drenched Fuji speedway) nor get a hang of its frugality.
My hunch is it can go well beyond 150 kmph without so much as breaking a sweat while the company says it has the best in class fuel economy.
Verdict In the absence of knowledge of fuel economy, the jury would still be out. But the Etios without doubt poses the biggest challenge to Swift Dzire’s unchallenged supremacy. What the car offers is what most of India wants, basic mobility, space, fuel economy and solid sturdy feel.
Add ons include the thrill of driving for that occasional weekend getaway and the Toyota brand to brag about. It is not without its rough edges and may not succeed in dethroning the Swift cousins just yet, but Toyota has achieved what it set out to.
Etios should become a must consider car for those wanting to graduate to a bigger car.
(The writer was a guest of Toyota in Japan)