Toyota Etios 1.5 Xs Sedan (2012) Driving Impression

5 Xs Sedan

As much as the Toyota Etios has drawn criticism for its awkward looks and seemingly flimsy construction (compared with Toyota’s usual efforts), these perceptions have hardly impacted its sales negatively. Anything but… The Etios has shot straight to the top of the sales charts and once again shows that Toyota knows the pulse of the South African motoring consumer. This does not mean the Toyota Etios should be immune to scrutiny, of course. The Etios 1.5 Xs sedan version is one of the most affordable booted four-door models on the market, but should you rather stretch the budget and buy something else? Let’s find out.

Not exactly pretty

If you thought the Toyota Etios hatch was an awkward-looking little car, then this sedan version may make your stomach churn. While things are reasonably presentable at the front, with comprehensive colour coding, integrated fog lamps and generic design, at the rear the massive boot has seemingly simply been tacked on without much consideration of the impact on the already challenging aesthetics. One onlooker commented that the rear end, with its upright light clusters, looked like a “slightly molten Renault Logan”. The chrome strip at the top which is supposed to boost the Xs model’s desirability actually just looks like garish garnish. Overall, with its big body (4 265 mm long) and small 14-inch steel wheels, this is not a vehicle that’s going to appeal on design.

Does that matter? Clearly not… judging by the sales.

In any event the unsightly rear contains what is arguably the Etios’s main selling point (besides the Toyota badge), namely a massive boot that measures nearly 600 L in size. It is also very squarely shaped, so can accommodate some pretty bulky items which is just as well, seeing as the rear seats can’t fold down. It is, however, also in the boot area where one can see just how cheaply the Toyota Etios is built – the cardboard and carpeting feel decidedly low-rent.

Otherwise, the cabin is pretty much the same as the hatch’s. Leg- and headroom all-round is class-leading, courtesy of a lengthy 2 550 mm wheelbase. It also gets the quirky facia with its centrally mounted instrumentation and odd-ball air-vents. Although the quality of the materials used in its construction may not be impressive, the Toyota Etios nevertheless makes a good initial impression, courtesy of carefully considered trim colours (predominantly black and charcoal grey) and an absence of rattles. The optional audio system also makes the centre section of the facia appear significantly more upmarket, so appears to be worth the extra spend. At the price the absence of remote audio controls is not a major problem.

Good standard specification

Given its low price, size and engine capacity, the Toyota Etios actually offers an admirable standard specification which includes important safety items such as dual front airbags and ABS. Some more expensive compact sedans do not offer these items as standard. Also included in the Xs package are: air-conditioning, electric windows, radio/CD player, power steering and a two-years/30 000 service plan. You do have to operate the mirrors by hand, however.

The steering wheel is only adjustable for rake but the relatively high seating position will be ideal for most of the target audience. The seats themselves feel a bit thinly padded, though, and lack noticeable lateral bolstering, but once again, this is not likely to trouble the typical buyer.

Willing engine

Like all Toyota Etios derivatives, this Xs sedan is powered by a 1.5-litre petrol engine that develops a strong 66 kW and 132 Nm of torque. Those figures may not be earth-shattering, but remember that the Toyota Etios weighs only 930 kg, and the five-speed manual transmission offers well-chosen ratios that help the driver to access the power there is very easily. The 0-100 km/h time of 11,3 seconds is very good for the segment and on the road the Etios feels every bit as lively as that sprint time suggests, if not even more so. The car’s light weight also has another positive spin-off, notably economy. Drive with restraint and you should average below 7 L/100 km, which is really impressive stuff. On the topic of running costs, the standard service plan is welcome, but keep in mind that the service intervals are set at a short 10 000 km.

With nicely weighted steering, a slick transmission and excellent damping, the Toyota Etios is a comfortable car to drive. Its suspension soaks up bumps well, and although road noise levels can be high, it “feels” like a refined, more expensive car in the way it suppresses road imperfections.

Toyota Etios 1.5 Xs - Verdict

With its unfortunate looks it’s hard to fall in love with the Toyota Etios, particularly this sedan version, but look beyond the superficial and you have a car that makes a great deal of sense to those consumers shopping for a spacious, affordable family sedan. Most importantly, a big boot is not the Etios’s only selling point – it is genuinely comfortable to drive and packs the important basic safety features, which few rivals can match at the price. No wonder it sells as well as it does…

We like:

  • Boot space
  • Cabin space
  • Ride comfort
  • Performance
  • Safety features
We don’t like:
  • Design
  • Some flimsy trim

Toyota Etios 1.5 Xs Sedan fast facts

Engine 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Power 66 kW @ 5 600 rpm
Torque 132 Nm @ 3 000 rpm
Transmission five-speed manual
Wheels 14-inch steel
Top speed 165 km/h
0-100 km/h 11.3 seconds
Fuel economy 5.9 L/100 km


Also consider:

VW Polo Vivo Sedan 1.4 Base:

More expensive than the Toyota and not quite as well equipped or as powerful, but has a far more solid feel to it and a classier, though smaller cabin.

Chevrolet Aveo 1.6 L:

Getting long in the tooth but soldiers on as a cut-price sedan offering. Not as spacious as the Toyota, but offers good performance and a quality feel. No frills transport.

Tata Indigo 1.4 Manza Ini:

Brand new on the market and not only unproven, but also quite expensive. The Manza lacks airbags and ABS, too. Unlikely to make a big impact in South Africa, but it does have a big boot.