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Toyota Etios Cross First Drive Review

Snapshot: We drive the Etios Cross in both petrol and diesel avatars to see if it lives up to the hype of being ‘different’ from its Liva siblings.

With no new small cars on the offering anytime soon, Toyota has done the next best thing possible to boost sales of the Etios — given it a more stylish exterior that helps it stand out from the crowd. Toyota hopes this style quotient will attract young buyers. The Etios Cross is essentially the regular Liva with an overdose of body kit and plastic side cladding which gives it a meaner looking SUV stance that you simply can’t miss. The pseudo-SUV looks are just that, there are no mechanical changes under the body.

Exterior
Toyota wants the Etios to get away from ‘radio-cab’ looks. The Cross gets a more prominent face. The face is dominated by the silver skid plate under the bumper and the pseudo bull bar. There is a new set of fog lamps along with subtly redesigned headlamps. Rubber cladding runs on the lower part of the car’s body all across. You also get roof rails to augment the SUV looks. The rear is dominated by the ‘Etios Cross’ badge, which really ensures that whoever is driving behind you, won’t miss out that this is in fact the beefed up Etios and not the regular Liva hatchback. The car also gets roof rails and special 15-inch alloy wheels, which Toyota calls diamond cut design. All these give the car a purposeful stance and plenty of personality. Toyota hopes that this will give the car the edge it needs over rivals.

Interior
Unlike VW, which decided to keep the same beige cabin for the Cross Polo, Toyota has thankfully decided to dump the beige interiors from the regular car and decided to offer an all-black cabin. The interiors look sporty but there isn’t any design change here. Toyota could have done more with the gauges, which simply look cheap and surprisingly even the top version doesn’t get automatic climate control or electrically operated side view mirrors. On the plus side though, the flat-bottom steering wheel is nice to hold and also gets the audio controls on it. The seats are supportive and the air-conditioner worked well even in Delhi’s 40 degree-plus heat. You also get a massive 13-litre glovebox, which is air-cooled. It’s ideal for stowing cola cans for long journeys. The stereo gets Bluetooth connectivity along with a USB port. The rear bench can accommodate three passengers with ease. The flat floor means that the central passenger at the back has plenty of space to keep his feet at. The boot is well shaped but the suspension does intrude a bit into it. You get a parcel shelf as standard on the top version.

Engine, Transmission and Performance
The car is available with three engine options. You get a 1.2-litre petrol with 80bhp, a 1.5-litre petrol with 90bhp and a 1.4-litre diesel with 67bhp. We drove the latter two. The petrol engine is good on refinement and is very responsive to throttle inputs. Power delivery is good and you are never found wanting for extra performance when you need to overtake a slow moving vehicle, making it a peppy performer. The 1.4-diesel is shared with the bigger Corolla Altis. This engine doesn’t have the mid-range punch you normally associate with diesel engines in its segment but offers good responses from low revs making it a good bet in the city. When pushed hard there is generous delivery of power but the cabin can get a bit buzzy. The gearbox action is very positive and slick as well and this along with the light clutch means that driving this car in the city isn’t a chore.

Ride, Handling and Safety
The Etios Cross feels well planted on the road as speeds increase. Take it out on the highway and you will get a confidence inspiring ride. In the city, the suspension manages to keep most bad road surfaces away from the cabin with the suspension absorbing most of the bumps. The handling is pretty decent too. Though not exactly sporty, the steering gives plenty of feedback from the front tyres and there is some fun to be had for the keen driver in this car with very little body roll on display as you go through fast corners. In terms of safety, the top spec version comes with dual front airbags as well as ABS with EBD.

Summary: Prices for the Etios Cross start at Rs 5.76 lakh for the base 1.2-litre petrol while the diesel starts at Rs 6.90 lakh(both, ex-showroom, Delhi). If you are in the market for a hatchback but want something different from the usual then the Etios Cross fits the bill. It looks refreshing, comes with Toyota’s reliable service network and promises to offer low running costs. Just don’t decide to go off-roading in it.

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