The Toyota Etios has built its name as a decent model for first-time car buyers and people who are looking for a safe and dependable run-around car.
After the launch of the Toyota Etios Sprint about a year ago, the Japanese manufacturer is now introducing a meaner-looking version of the top-selling hatchback, called the Etios Sport and I was out in Johannesburg to sample it.
Toyota sells about 1 000 Etios models a month where the hatchback models account for 65 percent of sales on average.
Based on the Etios Sprint, the Sport is a limited edition with production only set to last for four months.
Its dimensions remain the same as the Sprint.
Thus, you get the same 251 litres boot space with impressive leg room and head room inside.
The Etios Sport comes with a striking bi-tone colour scheme plus a “Sport” badge.
You can choose between a black roof and pillars paired with either glacier white or retro red lower body finishing.
You also get a black radiator grille, black exterior mirrors and a black rear-roof spoiler.
Sourced from the Cross model are 15-inch alloys finished in silver.
Step inside and you are greeted by an improved cabin although there is still a massive plastic touch.
What really caught my attention is the new Optitron instrument cluster which seemed to be a huge upgrade because the original cluster was rather old fashioned.
I did not get to spend too much time behind its wheel but sampled the drive on the back routes of Johannesburg.
The 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine from the Sprint model is nippy and delivers impressive shove even at low revs which is ideal for such a small car.
I cannot comment too much on how it drives until I get the car for in-depth evaluation but sampling some bumpy roads, it handled itself well.
Power is rated at 66 kW at 5 600 rpm and 132 Nm at 3000 rpm, accessed through a sleek five-speed manual transmission driving the front wheels.
I did not test the sprint from 0-100 km/h at the launch but Toyota says it can do that in 11.3 sec before hitting a top speed of 165 km/h.
The manufacturer claims fuel consumption is 6.0 litres/100km and CO2 emissions are kept at 136 g/km.
In terms of safety, the Etios received a four-star Global NCAP rating.
You get driver and passenger airbags, ABS, EBD, seat belts with pre-tensioner and force limiter plus ISOFIX provision.
The rear seats now come with a three-point centre seat belt.
All Etios models come with a two-year/30 000 km service plan, backed by a three-year/100 000 km warranty.
Pricing for the new Etios Sport is R178 800.
By Ntsako Mthethwa