The Toyota Etios is a tragic hero. So is its hatchback version, the Etios Liva. Launched in 2010 and 2011, respectively, these two cars had most things Indian customers wanted—frugal engines, roomy cabin, low sticker price, class-leading features—yet they didn’t really click with the masses. One, the competition kept on improving. Two, the design of the Etios range didn’t break new ground. And three, customers often complained that these cars’ NVH levels were high and refinement levels low. This week, Toyota added a third sibling to the family, the Etios Cross.
Unveiled at the Auto Expo earlier this year, the Etios Cross is Toyota’s attempt to cash in on Indians’ new-found love for compact SUVs and crossovers. The basic formula for creating a ‘Cross’ is: Take a hatchback and spruce it up with body-kit. Last year, Volkswagen tried the same with the Polo but didn’t really succeed. So, how is the Etios Cross different, and will it change Toyota’s fortunes in the small car segment?
The Etios Cross gets matte-finished black plastic cladding all around, a bold front grille, prominent roof rails, skid plates, blackened B-pillar, spoiler, diamond-cut 15-inch alloy wheels, ‘Etios Cross’ badging on the boot lid and sides, ORVMs with turn indicators and rear window defogger with wiper, all of which give the car a muscular look. The cladding makes the Etios Cross 120 mm longer, 40 mm wider and 45 mm taller than the Etios Liva, and the treatment ensures it stands out in the crowd. In fact, while driving on Delhi roads, we got eyeballs almost every minute and inquiries every 10 minutes.
The cabin, too, has been embellished. Piano black interiors, seats with ‘Etios Cross’ badging and white stitching, 2 DIN audio system, audio controls on leather-wrapped steering wheel, all of these make the cabin a happening place to be in. However, the car doesn’t get electrically-operated ORVMs. The car is very spacious and both front and rear seats are comfortable; the driver seat is height adjustable. The layout of the cabin, however, remains the same—the centrally-mounted instrument cluster may not be to everyone’s liking. The boot space is a large and usable 251 litres.
There is some good news here. The Etios Cross gets ABS with EBD, dual front airbags and, what Toyota calls, a collision absorbing body. It gets anti-corrosion steel sheet at areas prone to rusting, under-body coating and anti-chip coating.
The Etios Cross is available with three engine options—1.2-litre petrol (79 bhp), 1.5-litre petrol (89 bhp) and 1.4-litre diesel (67 bhp)—all mated to a five-speed manual gearbox.
Because the engines remain the same, the Etios Cross drives pretty much like the Etios Liva. The 1.2-litre petrol feels a tad underpowered, but the 1.5-litre petrol and the 1.4-litre diesel are fun to drive. At higher revs, the engine sound seeps into the cabin, which means Toyota still has to work on insulation. The suspension absorbs most bumps and brakes offer good stopping power. I have a question for Toyota, though. Can the Etios Cross come with a four-wheel drive or is the Indian market not ready for the same?
Unlike the Cross Polo, the Etios Cross isn’t a half-hearted effort at creating a crossover. The 1.2-petrol costs Rs 5.76 lakh, the 1.5-petrol comes for Rs 7.35 lakh and the 1.4-diesel retails at Rs 6.90 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). Compare that to Rs 7.75 lakh for the Cross Polo (it comes only in diesel variant) and you realise Toyota has played the price card very well. It is not much different to drive than the Etios Liva and the cabin is still noisy at high speeds, but the Etios Cross gets a lot of attitude and, I must say, is the finest version of the Etios range yet. It may not yet change Toyota’s fortunes in the small car segment, but Toyota has crossed the Rubicon with this car and the only way ahead is better quality levels in the Etios range.