We road test the Toyota Etios VX and find that it’s a car that has been completely engineered keeping the Indian consumer in mind. But does it really live up to what’s expected of a Toyota?

Toyota is having a rough time keeping pace with demand of the Etios. It’s not even a month since deliveries have started, but Toyota’s order book is already beyond 20,000 cars with waiting periods of nearly 9-10 months, forcing Toyota to add a second shift in production at its plant. Consumers are booking the Etios based purely on the Toyota brand and its promise of quality. In fact, that’s what Toyota is selling the Etios on – Q class, the promise of quality.

toyota etios road test photo

Photo: The Toyota Etios is a proper sedan and very well proportioned

However, our road test left us with mixed emotions about the Toyota Etios. The Etios has got a great engine, it’s fantastic to drive in the city, it seats five people in comfort, has loads of interior space and boot space, promises great mileage and er… has plenty of chrome! All the right qualities to woo the Indian buyer with aggressive pricing as well.

Scroll all the way down for the video of the Toyota Etios.

But Toyota could do better. The car is brilliantly engineered in all the right places, but the areas of cost saving are apparent. That’s how Toyota has managed to price the Etios between Rs. 4.49 lakh and Rs. 6.86 lakh. We’ll get to that in just a bit.

The looks…

toyota etios rear photo

Photo: Toyota has been generous with the chrome on the rear of the Etios. The boot can swallow 590 litres of luggage. There's only a single reverse lamp.

The design of the Toyota Etios wouldn’t be winning any awards, but it’s straightforward and practical. The best part is that the Etios has been engineered from the drawing board as a sedan, and not a hatch with a boot as is the case with the Maruti Dzire (Swift platform) and the Tata Manza (Indica Vista platform), the two main rivals of the Etios. However, the overall design is a little staid. It looks as though the Etios is the offspring of a relationship between a Tata Indigo and a Mahindra Logan. Of course, Toyota has tried to brighten up the higher versions with side skirts and loads of chrome.

toyota etios review photo

Photo: The front of the Etios has the signature Toyota smiling grille. The VX version also gets fog lamps integrated in the bumper.

The front has a cheery face with a smiling Toyota grille and a fat chrome strip running over the top. The headlamps have the turn signals towards the inner side with the parking lamps above them. The Toyota Etios VX has in-built fog lamps in the bumper with a sporty looking skirt under the air dam. The windscreen stands out because of the large dual-armed, single wiper that’s parked to the left and that actually manages to sweep the entire screen quite effectively.

The profile of the Etios looks very proportionate and better than its rivals, but has a bit of old-school designing in it. Toyota has used subtle creases in the window line and the lower part of the door to give the Etios some character. The flap-type door handles of the Etios also get small chrome inserts and the B-pillars are blacked out. The 12-spoke alloys on our road test Etios look good.

etios steering wheel photo

Photo: The Etios' steering has a flat bottom, giving it a sporty look and also allowing easy ingress and egress for well-built drivers

From the rear the Toyota Etios looks overly rectangular, with tall triangular tail-lamps flanking the large boot lid and bearing some resemblance to the Mahindra Logan and Tata Indigo. There’s a fat chrome strip running across the top of the boot (research told Toyota that Indians are obsessed with chrome). That’s a design cue take from the Dzire. The number plate is recessed into the bumper, leaving the boot clean.

Step into the Toyota Etios and you’ll notice more quirkiness in design. The instrument panel is in the centre and angled slightly towards the driver, actually improving visibility. The needles of the tachometer and the speedometer sit behind the numerical markings. Frankly, the white-background tachometer and speedometer digits looked like stickers on a concept car and didn’t quite look like they belonged to a production Toyota. It has a tiny digital bar-type LCD fuel gauge just above the digital odometer. What was conspicuous by its absence is the temperature gauge. There is a plethora of warning lamps beside the LCD trip/odometer.

toyota etios road test door

Photo: The door pockets of the Etios can easily hold 1-litre water bottles

The next quirk in design of the Etios trhat we noticed in the road test is the unconventional placement of the AC vents. However, we found this placement very effective, and it shows the kind of engineering research that’s gone into the Etios, leaving the area around the steering wheel uncluttered. The steering wheel itself has a flat bottom, giving it a sporty feel and also allowing “well-fed” drivers easy ingress and egress. What’s nice is that even the glove box is cooled, and is deep enough to store a few water bottles. There is no climate control on any of the versions.

The Toyota Etios’ front seats are very simple with non-adjustable integrated headrests – actually a useful safety feature as it prevents whiplash and stops drivers from driving without head restraints (many Indians do that). The rear seats also have integrated seat pillows. The dual-tone red-and-black interior theme suits the car. Both the sun visors have vanity mirrors (to stop drivers from using the inner rearview mirror for makeup touchups).

etios review speedo pic

Photo: The Etios has a centrally mounted instrument panel that's easy to read

The Etios’ rear seats could three abreast comfortably during our road test, with the centre passenger also getting enough legroom due to the almost flat floor. The reclining angle of the seat is also very comfortable, but the backrests do not fold down. However, if just one person is seated in the rear, it’s better to wear a seat belt to prevent yourself from sliding along the almost flat lower bench.

The cushioning is extremely thin on the front and rear seats, but yet adequate. However, the quality of fixtures could be better. The lower seat cushion of the rear seat came off its perch on our test car when we fished out the middle seat belt. There are three different textures of plastic used on the dashboard, but all feel hard to the touch and not quite what one expects from Toyota. Will most customers mind? Probably not.

The engine…

Open the bonnet and the first thing you notice is that the lid is very light. Aha! That’s one of the subtle ways of saving costs (using thinner gauge steel on non-structural areas). This has also helped in keeping the weight of the car down to under a ton, and helps improve mileage. What it doesn’t do too well is to insulate engine noise.

toyota etios engine photo

Photo: The 1,496cc DOHC engine in the Etios is peppy and has a flat torque curve that makes the car very drivable

However, the 1,496 cc, 16-valve, DOHC, 4-cylinder engine neatly packaged in the bay is very refined and only gets buzzy on hard acceleration. It pushes out 90 PS of power at 5,600 rpm and 132 Nm of torque at 3,000 rpm. It’s mated to a 5-speed manual transmission that has short gear ratios and helps in quick acceleration.

The drive…

toyota etios road test photo gallery

Photo: The Etios has a 4.9m turning radius and 170mm of ground clearance, making it easy to drive in the city and also tackle menacing speed breakers

The top-end versions of the Toyota Etios feature keyless entry, but conventional ignition and no automatic locking of doors. Turn the key and the engine fires to life with a bit of a clatter. Engine noise is perceptible inside the car at idle especially when cold, again showing areas of cost and weight saving in the Etios.

The clutch on the Etios is light and has very little play. The gears also slot in precisely and the car is quick off the mark. The best part about the way the Etios engine and transmission are configured is the very flat torque curve. During the Toyota Etios road test, we could cleanly accelerate from 20kmph to 90kmph in third gear – this car is immensely drivable in the city, without having to change gears too often. In fact, in bumper-to-bumper traffic it was quite delightful to be in the Etios. The peppy nature of the engine also saw us having a bit of fun pulling away from traffic lights quickly while getting into the higher gears in just a few seconds. The car can cruise at 60kmph in fifth gear at just over 1,500 rpm, which is great for mileage.

toyota etios review legroom

Photo: Legroom is adequate at both front and rear in the Etios

The electronic power steering makes turning the car extremely easy and precise. It is tilt adjustable, but to a very small degree only. The car goes around corners confidently without upsetting its poise. However, due to the minimal use of sound damping material in the car (such as door beadings and wheel-well matting), road noise tends to creep into the car and the horn also sounds pretty loud inside.

The suspension is well tuned to handle rough terrain. One could hear the sound from bumps and pebbles inside, but didn’t quite feel them. Even over rumble strips the car happily kept all passengers in comfort. Ground clearance at 170 mm is also more than adequate for most speed breakers. Brakes are precise and bite sharply.

The Toyota Etios VX version we got for this review comes with an integrated 2-Din DVD, MP3, USB audio system, with steering-mounted controls and a separate remote as well. It also has a 12V power point in the dash. However, using the USB system requires a separate cable that connects to the rear of the system. It has four speakers mounted in front, with no provision for speakers at the rear (without having to cut metal under the parcel tray). Sound quality from the system was par for the course.

The mileage…

We had our road test car for only about 120 kms, and didn’t get to precisely measure the mileage in that duration. However, the digital fuel gauge just dropped a couple of bars despite some heavy footed driving, and one can easily expect a mileage of over 12-13 kmpl in the city, though Toyota claims 17.6 kmpl (ARAI-certified) overall mileage. As the kerb weight of the Etios is only 930 kg, its power-to-weight ratio is comparable to cars with higher engine capacities, and great for mileage. With the rising cost of petrol, it’s nice to see an engine that delivers on mileage without compromising on drivability.

Engineering features…

So just how did Toyota manage this feat? That brings us to the areas of cost saving, which to you the consumer translates into a very affordable car overall. By using a single wiper, Toyota has reduced maintenance costs slightly, and production costs quite a bit. Toyota has used thinner gauge sheet metal for the bonnet, boot-lid and roof, but has engineered these parts in such a way that they do not compromise on structural rigidity. The roof, for instance, has a ribbed design which makes it sturdier. The chassis members and frame are of solid steel, but the steel “skin” is thin over them saving on weight.

The cover over the spare wheel is also thin and collapses if heavy luggage is placed on it. There is no matting under the boot lid and just a thin cloth between the rear seat rest and boot, which is why one hears more road noise (and rattling luggage in the boot) in this car. The seats are made of a plastic base with a thin layer of foam and fabric over them. They are comfortable, but just don’t look as meaty as seats we have been used to so far.

There’s only a single reversing lamp again saving on cost. (OK, it’s just one bulb, a holder and a bit of wire, but every rupee counts!).

The underside of the car is also neatly packaged, with shields over critical components preventing unnecessary maintenance costs, showing the extent to which this car has been engineered for India.

What to expect…

So is the Etios worth the wait? If you are looking for a practical car that’s easy to drive, and great on space, the Etios checks all the right boxes. The rear seat legroom and shoulder room is better than its rivals. The engine is peppy and requires less frequent gear shifts, with the promise of decent mileage. The looks and design quirks will grow on you and there’s nothing a little bit of personalization and customization cannot fix (think extra matting and seat covers). That’s again an accessorizing trend that’s typically Indian, and Toyota is playing to the gallery here. This is the cheapest Toyota in India so far, so the company can be forgiven for coming down a notch or two from its traditional quality offerings in trying to keep costs low. If you are looking for a budget sedan, keep the Etios as one of the top three cars on your list to check out.

Toyota Etios VX petrol technical specifications

ENGINE

Engine Capacity : 1.5 litres (1496 cc)

No of Cylinders : 4

Power : 88.7 bhp @ 5600 rpm

Torque : 132 Nm @ 3000 rpm

Mileage : 17.46 kmpl* as per ARAI

Tank Capacity : 45 litres

DIMENSIONS

Length : 4265 mm

Width : 1695 mm

Height : 1490 mm

Weight : 930 kg

Boot Space : 595 litres

Ground Clearance 170 mm

Wheels : 15 inch

Tyres : 185/60

Turning Radius : 4.9 meters

SUSPENSION

Front Suspension Independent McPherson Strut

Rear Suspension Non independent Torsion Beam

BRAKING

ABS and EBD as options

ENTERTAINMENT

DVD Audio System with AUX & USB

SAFETY

Dual Air bags

Safety Collision Absorbing Body

Side Impact Beams

Crumple Zone

The Toyota Etios is available in four trim levels and options namely the J, G, V and VX and in six attractive colors: Symphony Silver, Harmony Beige, Serene Bluish Silver, Vermilion Red, Celestial Black and White.

Toyota Etios variants and prices: (ex-showroom Delhi)

Model Colors Interiors Price
Etios J White, Silver Black Rs. 4.96 lakh
Etios G All six Black Rs. 5.46 lakh
Etios G + ABS, EBD All six Black Rs. 5.96 lakh
Etios V + ABS, EBD All six Black & grey Rs. 6.41 lakh
Etios VX + ABS, EBD All six Black & red Rs. 6.86 lakh