It couldn’t have escaped notice that despite being a relative minnow (Maruti sells 16 times as many cars), Toyota commands incredible brand equity in India. For good reason: Its research-oriented approach has ensured not a single dud in a decade.
Etios marks Toyota’s entry into the volume segment in India.
The car looks unimaginative, with plain conservative lines that are typical of Toyota. Did you ever stick a Toyota poster on your wall? The best part is the nose with the chromed upper slat of the grille and vertical ribs in the bonnet. Toyota claims the Etios was designed to be a sedan first and then a hatch so the boot doesn’t look like a cut-paste afterthought. Unlike the Swift Dzire, the boot is well integrated.
Inside, it is plain stylistically but scores on practicality. There’s the glove box that can hold five half-litre bottles, and not at the cost of a passenger airbag. But the highlight is the steering wheel — a flat-bottomed sporty one with nice meaty grips in the 10-to-2 position (think Audi R8!). For those looking for an entry-level sedan the highlight will be the rear seat, which liberates an amazing amount of room.
There is an issue: A lot of road noise gets transferred to the cabin, particularly of water against the undercarriage.
The Etios felt sure-footed with good mechanical grip. The suspension is soft, which leads to a fair bit of body roll. It has an Automotive Research Association of India certified fuel efficiency of 17.6 kmpl. All will hinge on pricing and Toyota is making no bones about tagetting Swift Dzire. No matter how strong its brand equity, there are no plans to charge a premium for the Toyota badge. That means a starting price of under Rs. 5.5 lakh for the base ‘J’ version going up to Rs. 6.5 lakh for the fully loaded ‘VX’. If our predictions are right, Toyota will have no problem shifting every single one of the 70,000 cars planned in the first year.