Little known to many, Toyota’s first venture out of their home country was in Brazil. Over 50 years ago, they built factory here in which they manufactured a version of their Land Cruiser, called it Bandeirante and kept on building it, unchanged, for almost four decades. When the Brazilian market opened up (ever so slightly) in the 90s, Toyota was relatively quick and soon had a second factory in which they built their Corolla. That was it. Until the Etios arrived.
Convinced by recent policy changes in Brazil that make the life of a car importer miserable unless factories are built on Brazilian soil, Toyota built a new plant near Sao Paulo, and started to crank out its BRIC-car, the Etios. The Etios was originally launched in the eye of BRIC, in India. Now, the car comes to the B. In Brazil, the Etios is aimed at the very heart of the market, the compact car. It already causes heart palpitations.
Last month, Toyota took the car on a road show, dubbed the Etios Connection Experience, exhibiting the sedan and hatch versions at chosen locations in major cities. Brazilian enthusiast site Bestcars reported that Toyota was fishing for pre-orders during the roadshow, saying that the car would cost between R$35,000 and R$48,000 (US$17,500 to US$24,000), depending on engine and trim level.
Presumably, Toyota did not get of pre-orders it hoped for, and embarked on a novel marketing strategy. Toyota discounted the price before the car was launched. According to a new Bestcars report, at the official wine and dine fest for the press, Toyota shocked the assembled Fourth Estate by announcing that the car would cost between R$30,000 and R$44,700 (US$15,000 to US$22,350) , depending on engine and trim level, of course, you know the routine.
Instead of rejoicing at the $2,500 deal, the Brazilian motor press pounced on the matter, and said the car is sold cheaper because of its lame design. Says Bestcars:
“Without a doubt, the price reduction is due to the market’s reaction to the model’s static presentation, be it at the Connection shows throughout the country, be it to pictures of the car divulged through the press.”
All I can say is that I went to one of these shows and the car’s design is, at best, quaint. As Bestcars put it after their test drive:
“It is not easy to fall in love with the Etios’ design. The car reminds one of models from the 80s and 90s, with details of questionable taste like the grille and lights. They are similar to a Logan, and this is far from being a compliment.“
The center mounted instrument cluster appears to be universally hated by the press. Otherwise, the car does not seem to elicit strong emotions. An ambivalent Bestcars says that the manual five speed is precise and has good throws, but is not brilliant. The acceleration is acceptable, but nothing to brag about. Noise levels are fine, but exist. Steering is correct, but rather numb. Braking is progressive, but… must we say more?
Only the car’s India-proof suspension makes journalistic hearts beat a little faster. According to the reviews, the Etios handles the (bad) roads of Brazil quietly and competently, but is never too hard. Bestcars says the set-up is robust and well-adjusted to Brazilian conditions and that the car will probably last a long time.
Despised by the pundits, boring design, driving dynamics out of a lullaby, built to last, and already $2,500 less?
Toyota could have a winner.
After all, Renault is setting new sales records in Brazil with its likewise maligned Logan & Co.