By on September 4, 2012

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 To cover up the outdated design, Toyota has added bits of chrome here and there.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 The dashboard is outdated and the quality levels are quite bad.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.

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35 Comments on “Review: Toyota Etios, Indian Spec, In India...”


  • avatar
    slow kills

    This exactly meets my expectations from Toyota. I guess the world is optimistic or I am not.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    i’d be the last person to defend Toyota in this but surely the design specs for this car put things like durability, reliability, space efficiency and low costs as primary concerns.

    Steering feel? is that important at all? it’s not a four door Toyota 86

    I cannot defend idiocy as no centre dome light (what happens when you try to enter at night???) and i feel they have tipped things too far into the 3rd world but overall I like Toyota’s singularity of purpose here.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    “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.”

    It would sell by the millions in the US.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      It already does. Hello Corolla. Hello Camry.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Have you driven a Camry SE? My girlfriend has a 2012 4cyl SE and I was mightily impressed by how well body motions are controlled. The ride is actually a bit too stiff in my opinion, especially for someone like my girlfriend who doesn’t care about these things. Steering has zero feel, brakes are decent.

        I’m curious about price as well, perhaps the single most important number about this Etios. I kinda like it, harkens back to Tercels and Corollas of yore.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Aha, the Toyota Echo. Reincarnated.

    It’s a tough little blighter, whatever its shortcomings. Was extremely popular with mimsers in Canada, but bombed in the USA. Hard to say whether the Yaris is actually an improvement, but they don’t seem to sell like the Echo did, and early Yarises sold in Canada really had a cheapo interior, and a growly engine that seemed to live in the passenger footwell judging from the apparent source of noise. Horrible.

  • avatar
    dejal1

    Cry me a river.

    My 1st 3 cars (bought new) didn’t have air + power windows. The 1st 2 didn’t have power steering. The 1st 2 I installed the radio myself. I didn’t get a CD player until 1998. This is in the affluent USA (though not so much anymore).

    If automakers are making cars in this class, then the buyer for these cars are on a relatively tight budget. If you want to play you’ve got to pay. This looks pretty good for a entry level car.

    Car looks fine to me. Toyota ought to see if there is a market for this in the USA. I’m betting they could move 30-40,000 a year for people looking for transportation.

    The fact that the marketing is not working for you is meaningless.

    Are you the target audience?
    Is the marketing working? That’s the only thing that counts. What are the sales figures?
    Is Toyota meeting the #s?

    • 0 avatar
      strafer

      In case you hadn’t noticed, time marches on.
      My 1st 3 TVs didn’t have remote + stereo. The 1st 2 didn’t even have color. The 1st 2 i installed the roof antenna myself. I didn’t get a VCR until 1988. This is in the affluent USA.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      I think there’s a big misconception that cheap has to equal dull and boring. This is simply not true. If a bit of engineering elan is thrown toward the car in development, cheap can be fun, too. Cases in point: Honda CR-X, Suzuki Swift GT (and current not-for-US Swift), Mazda2. They may have all had/have cheap interiors and obvious cost cutting in many places, but they all were developed specifically to create a fun driving experience in spite of their sticker prices.

      This car may be fine for 95% of drivers, or it may not. But using its cheap price and emerging market development goals as excuses for poor dynamics just doesn’t cut it.

      • 0 avatar
        Truckducken

        Right you are. I think the author is trying to make the point that the Toyota is cheap and it sucks, whereas there are other cars that hit the same price point and are not a styling and performance travesty. However, he never really compares the Etios to said other vehicles, so I guess I need more data to be convinced either way.

      • 0 avatar

        The other car in the same segment (similar price point) is the Suzuki Swift sedan. That is the third highest selling car every month and the Etios does not even feature in the top 20.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    Remember that for cheap cars, their main competition is often used cars. If the car is too unattractive, consumers can simply buy a used car from one class above. So Etios main competition is probably a used Yaris…

    BTW poor quality Toyotas aren’t new to us in Indonesia. The first generation Toyota Avanza was pretty awful…

    • 0 avatar

      MrWhopee, the Etios is not even cheap, that is the major issue. Had it been priced aggressively, than the quality would have been overlooked.

      • 0 avatar
        MrWhopee

        Not cheap? But wasn’t that its raison d’être? Why else would they spend money creating a car especially for the emerging market? Why not just bring the Vios (Yaris 4-door)?
        So how much is it priced anyway, and what’s the competition at that price?

        The first gen Avanza was a big success despite its awfulness, because it was cheap.

      • 0 avatar

        Because they don’t want to bring the Vios. The Vios could be brought but margins would be less perhaps. Pricing starts at $10,000 and the competition offers much more similar money.

  • avatar
    John

    The whole raison d’etre for this car is it is built to a price. The article does not include the price, which makes the article fairly useless. Why no publish the price, and challenge Honda, Hyundai, Kia, and heck, even Ferrari to make a car that costs the same, has the same amenities, and carries four adults?

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    Car might be ugly (it is), but at the end of the day it will sell. Those 3 ovals in the grille count.

    If you still don’t believe it will sell, see what has happened with the Logan, which already has like 3 offspring.

    The Logan itself is not an example of an expensive interior, but it looks more “tasteful” than the Toyota.

    And I can’t believe they didn’t put in the roof lamp. As the interwebZ saying goes: pics or it didn’t happen.

  • avatar
    ProfessorSlow

    Sounds like they should’ve made it a Scion.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    “A center instrument cluster for instance allows to adjust more cheaply from RHD to LHD.”

    This is patently false in this car. The gage cluster isn’t symmetric to where I would work from LHD to RHD. My first gen MINI cluster WILL do this because it is symmetric, but that clearly doesn’t apply to this car. Just look at it and imagine what you’d have to change for this to work on LHD. I guess it is easier to parrot misinformation than to actually look at something and make a judgement.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      Right you are. Even if the gauges are mounted so that they angle toward the driver (a la Yaris/Echo/Saturn Ion), the dash is symmetrical so that the gauge pod needs to simply be switched out for one angled slightly in the other direction to change from RHD oriented to LHD oriented. The Etios’ whole dash design is asymmetrically designed with RHD in mind, negating the benefit. Perhaps, knowing India’s insane traffic, a case could technically be made for the whole time-it-takes-to-look-from-the-road-to-the-gauges argument (and India’s drivers are less ingrained with the dead-ahead gauge layout US drivers have been accustomed to for a century), so there’s that. But ease of changing from LHD and RHD simply cannot be a reason for central gauges in this instance.

  • avatar
    PenguinBoy

    “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.

    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.”

    I can see why Toyota wants a part of this fast growing market, but aren’t they risking brand dilution with this thing? I wonder if this would have been better off being sold under a different brand.

    I suppose if people buy an Etios and are happy with it, they might “move up” to a Corolla – but if Etios customers aren’t happy with their purchase they might go elsewhere next time round. If this happens often, eventually Toyota will be a bit less of an “aspirational” brand…

  • avatar
    Viquitor

    I’ve seen the Etios, brazilian-spec. Down here it still is just as ugly, but the build quality is not that bad. The materials are cheap, but it is well assembled.

    What I can’t live with is its weird instrument cluster.

  • avatar
    Oelmotor

    Who cares about looks, handling and gimmicks if 90% of your driving is limited to 20 km/h, because of the traffic congestion and poor road infrastructure. If the Ethios is durable and reliable enough to survive India`s metropolitan areas, then it is a winner.

    • 0 avatar

      Toyota has already recalled the Etios once for faulty filler hose pipe. More than half the sold quantity were recalled at that time (roughly 41000 units).

      Toyota shamefully did not call this a recall and instead termed it special service campaign.

  • avatar
    Magnusmaster

    Even on a cheap third-world car the design of the dashboard is inexcusable. Why are the instruments on the middle? Why is the instrument cluster non-symmetrical? Why does the driver have one air vent and the passenger three, seemingly placed at random? Almost every single cheap third world car on the planet has a decent instrument cluster (even the Chevy Agile, one of the worst built cars on the planet, with the cheapest plastic you can possibly find and built on an ancient platform has a traditional instrument cluster, despite having both LHD and RHD versions). How could Toyota get wrong something so basic even GM does right?

    • 0 avatar
      Garak

      Central instrument clusters were pretty popular in Euro and some Japanese cars a couple of years ago, they’re supposed to be “safer” and “more ergonomic” than traditional panels. I think it’s a load of garbage.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        Personally, I prefer center or offset instruments. For me, it’s just one reason. If you have a thick steering wheel rim, you can adjust the wheel into any position you want and nothing is ever blocked. I have cars with both styles and trust me, it’s not long before the traditional style gets to be annoying.

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    If the goal is to have a decontented cheap car to sell in third world markets, why not just sell a mildly facelifted late-90′s Tercel? The tooling is fully amortized and it’s arguably a better car than anything that came after it at that level of Toyota’s lineup. That approach has worked well for years, with Falcons, innumerable Fiats, and more recently a previous generation of Jetta.

  • avatar
    spw

    Well, they do sell well, love it or hate it. Toyota has uprated the capacity several times, latest several days ago:

    NEW DELHI–Toyota Motor Corp. said it will invest $164 million to boost production capacity by 50% at two factories in India at a time its local sales are growing faster than many competitor’s.

    Toyota’s sales, though, have been outstripping the sector. In the April-July period, Toyota sold 59,153 vehicles, or 38% more than a year earlier. In the same period, the local unit of Suzuki Motor Corp. sold more than five times as many cars as Toyota, but growth was slower at 5%.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443686004577634650239013404.html

    While i personally dont like Etios, just like I dont like Logan, if you are trying to pass off as reviewer, you should try to be objective about it…


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