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Etios again, not enough

Toyota has given a mid-season relook at its small sedan. Some things have clicked, but it could have done much more. Sumant Banerji reports. Bestselling cars, may 2013 |Automotive Scrabble | Etios: yet to excite

autos Updated: Jun 07, 2013 11:00 IST
Sumant Banerji
Sumant Banerji
Hindustan Times

It wasbilled as Japanese carmaker Toyota’s gateway to cracking the Indian market, but somehow in its desperation to get the pricing right, the company ended up dishing out a muddled product in the Etios. A mid-life facelift was widely expected, to undo some of the damage and give a new lease of life to the car, and the company obliged with one a few weeks earlier.

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It helps that the negativities notwithstanding, the Etios is not a total washout. It has been accepted well, with fleet operators swearing by the car’s reliability, fuel economy and space. But its bland interiors and uninspiring styling have kept individual customers away. The new avataar seeks to woo them back. Does it succeed?

Not much has changed here. The dimensions stay the same, which was expected. For cost efficiencies, the basic platform needs to stay the same. Barring a few cosmetic additions, there is little to differentiate the new Etios from the old. The smiling grille and lamps are tweaked a bit and a few features have been added, but that is about it. Agreed that external looks were not a major problem, but it would not have harmed Toyota to spice things up a bit.

Automotive Scrabble

This is where the old vehicle faltered big time. Space apart, the boring interior design and cheap looking plastics were a big put off. Toyota has changed the colour combinations to liven up the cabin, and that works. There is also an effort at a better fit and finish, but it still does not match up to the Dzire or an Amaze. Sadly, an opportunity missed to overhaul the interiors.

Drivetrain, ride, handling
Unlike most other sedans here, the Etios is a true-blue mid-size saloon. So it has a proper length and a commensurate big engine. The 1.5-litre petrol engine has enough power for city use, and the 1.4-litre diesel — that does duty in the bigger Altis as well — fits in like a glove. Ride and handling are precise, and till 140 kph, the car does not run out of steam. The damping has been improved, and engine noise is relatively lower. Given the space and the massive boot, it is a very functional car.

Many people flock to the Etios for the Toyota badge, which stands for reliability and durability though not so much for design and style. The facelift, however, seems a half-baked effort. Looks are broadly the same, the interiors still below par — though the technology is a boost. Space is more than adequate, and that is what will keep the Etios going, for now. Before it can really bite into the segment, which is becoming rather full, Toyota may need to start with a clean sheet of paper.

Next week: Verito Vibe

First Published: Jun 06, 2013 21:34 IST