Toyota is well known to develop quality cars but for the very first time, there is an exception. This exception comes in the form of the Toyota Etios, which lacks the quality Toyota is known for. The Etios is positioned as an entry level sedan in India, where it competes with the Maruti Suzuki DZire (Swift sedan), Ford Classic (last generation Fiesta) and Mahindra Verito (Renault Logan). Toyota’s reputation in India is such that people blindly swear by the brand. However, when the company launched the Etios, many people changed their very thinking about the brand.
Toyota is trying each and every way to sell the Etios, which is also available in hatchback guise (called the Etios Liva) The company has hired a cricketer as the brand ambassador, it launched a TRD badged limited edition variant, and even started a one-make racing series called Etios motor racing. But neither of this is working much for me.
The styling is boring and the Etios looks plain and boxy. Toyota has pumped in Rs. 3200 crore ($ 600 million) on the Etios project. When so much money is being invested, why has the styling gone for a toss? To cover up the outdated design, Toyota has added bits of chrome here and there.
Step inside and it becomes even worse. The dashboard is outdated and the quality levels are quite bad. There are abundant panel gaps present on the Etios. The AC vent positioning is all wrong and the instrument cluster is mounted in the center, something which we saw in the 1990s. The only good part about the cabin is the space. The Etios does offer abundant legroom for front and rear passengers.
Power comes from a 1.5-litre gasoline engine which produces 90 hp and 132 Nm. Power delivery is smooth. The motor is well insulated but gets gruff at high revvs. The steering and clutch are very light and make the Etios very easy to drive on congested roads. However, the handling is bad and the Etios has absolutely no feel. You simply get zero feedback. The ride quality is good though, and so are the brakes.
The Toyota Etios is a car which needs vast improvements. The vehicle is a testimony to the fact that you can’t leverage your brand name to sell below average products. The world is becoming smarter, people are becoming smarter and they understand glaring cost cutting. The Etios lacks a centre roof lamp, height adjustable seats/seat belts and electrically adjustable rear view mirrors. Toyota clearly needs to up its game if they want to capture the compact sedan space.
Faisal Ali Khan is the owner/operator of MotorBeam.com, a website covering the auto industry of India.
Editor’s note: As explained by Etios Chief Engineer Yoshinori Noritake, the Etios is custom-designed for the BRIC countries, and is designed so that many people in these markets can afford it. Toyota was very much aware that the car would clash with Toyota’s brand image. Said Noritake: “People aspire to a real sedan with room for the family. They tell us they would like a Toyota, but our price is much too high.”
The Etios is designed to be built at lower cost, and that exacts a price. A center instrument cluster for instance allows to adjust more cheaply from RHD to LHD. It is not for everyone. Noritake’s colleague Fujita who is in charge of the Corolla does not like it. Launched in December 2010, the Etios crossed the 100,000 unit mark in May and was the third largest selling sedan in its segment in the last financial year. Not too shabby for a car that had to battle with an overpriced image. The design spec of the car was to make people change their thinking of the brand.