Another lost opportunity for Toyota?

The addition of the 1.5 litre engine is welcome, but a mere nose job does not transform a small car into a crossover
By Sumant Banerji
| Updated on: 16 May 2014, 11:03 AM

When it was launched at the fag end of 2010, the Etios was supposed to be Toyota's bigticket entry into the meat of the Indian car market. Years of painstaking research and the company's unblemished record in India, however, counted for nothing as the Etios sedan and the hatchback Liva were found wanting on style, refinement and build quality.

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The evolution of the Cross vehicles, a moniker for small cars rehashed to look like a crossover utility vehicle, presented Toyota with an opportunity to even things out.

EXTERIORS: Old wine, not so new bottle The Liva was never a head turner. Unlike the Cross Polo (launched launched last year), the Etios Cross does manage to distinguish itself well from the small car. Changes include a prominent black plastic cladding around the body, and a re-designed facia with a fake bull bar. A notable — and welcome — omission is the smiling grille of the Liva. The Cross also gets skid plates, roof rails and blackened B pillars that gel well. The intention is to make the vehicle look more rugged and aggressive, which Toyota has somewhat achieved. Another welcome addition is larger 15-inch diamond cut alloy wheels. Look below the skin, and all these changes are shown up as cosmetic. One big miss: the ground clearance has been left largely unchanged (a mere 4mm more arising from bigger tyres), which means that you can forget about taking this car off the roads.

INTERIORS: Spruced up, but still insipid The interiors of the Etios were criticised as uninspiring. Last year Toyota made a half-hearted effort to spruce things up. But the Cross was an even bigger opportunity. In short, they missed the bus. The basic layout remains the same, and the tacky centre console has been retained. The quality of plastic leaves much to be desired. The strength of the cabin is the ample space, even in the boot.

DRIVE: Sorted, planted, with more grunt The Cross comes in three engine options — a 1.2-litre petrol from the small car, 1.5-litre petrol of the sedan and the standard 1.4litre diesel engine. The bigger petrol option is a bonus. It develops 10 bhp more than the 1.2-litre and also of fers more torque. Coupled with the refinement that only a petrol engine can bring, this variant is trigger-happy.

No modification has been made to the mechanics or suspension, so while it has limitations around corners, it is very pliant on rough roads and offers good ride quality. The diesel should have been the pick of the lot in a true-blue crossover, but since this is not, the turbo lag at low speeds and engine noise get highlighted. Its high fuel economy means it may still be the volume generator.

VERDICT: Not much bang for the buck India is ripe for a well-made Cross that offers decent off-roading ability without losing efficieny. The Etios Cross is a better effort than the Cross Polo, but misses out overall. The cosmetic changes do impart some novelty to a car fast becoming an also-ran, but it comes at a hefty price. A premium of ` 90,000 for the plastic cladding and roof rails and alloy wheels, with no major change in actual performance, is stretching the envelope a little too much.

First Published Date: 16 May 2014, 10:44 AM IST

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