There are times in every man’s life when he has to make a choice.
And when he’s a petrolhead, that means deciding whether you’re going to be a Japanese or European “fan boy”.
(Sorry ladies, I know it’s Women’s Month, but the vast majority of car nuts are boys.)
So, we have to opt for commitment to Japanese or European cars. And, for most guys, once that commitment is made, there is no turning back.
A Mitsubishi Evo fan won’t often look at a BMW and followers of the German cars look down their noses at Asian autos.
As for me, I’m stuck in the middle, because I have a souped-up Toyota (currently off the road) and a 10-year-old BMW. I like both of them equally.
But when I was called upon by my senior to take the Toyota Etios Sport and give my impressions on it, there was a twist.
He wanted to know, he said, what I thought of the Etios (which is Japanese, although the factory which makes it is in India) compared to the VW’s extremely successful previous generation Polo Vivo, which I drove late last year.
About 57 years ago, Toyota introduced itself to the South African market, and has since been hailed as one of the most reliable and durable cars around.
In 2010, the Etios – which is Greek for spirit – arrived here and is a popular car at the affordable end of the market.
Through the years, there have been many versions of the Etios, with the Sport being the latest one.
The limited-run Sport – only produced for four months – gets its essence from the Etios Sprint and both share the 1.5 petrol engine common to all Etios models.
The two-toned 15-inch rims come from its Etios cross sibling. The roof, spoiler, and pillars get a black metallic treatment along with side mirrors and the front fascia.
You get to appreciate the small detailing that makes the Sport stand out from its siblings and the car is eye-catching even when it quickly passes you by on the road.
Look, I’m not the type that likes grabbing the attention of the masses, but turning heads is what it’s all about with this Etios.
The small detailing has also found its way into the interior, with a retouched cluster showing a digital rev gauge next to the speedometer … something that got me reminiscing about my father’s old-box shape Toyota Cressida.
Sadly, the Etios Sport, being a cheapie, does not come with a trip computer, only a trip meter. This means you can see how far you’ve gone, but not your average fuel consumption or your range.
Oddly, there are no steering controls that some of its siblings are equipped with, but Toyota probably made
up for this with electric windows all-round and an easy-to-use Bluetooth stereo system.
This comes with an aux and USB port attached and four speakers mounted up front, although it’s not as good as some of its rivals.
That 1.5 motor spurts out what sounds like a puny 66 kW sound, but with 132 Nm of torque and a slick five-speed gearbox, it’s quicker than I expected.
It’s priced at R178 800, so you would expect a few flaws. I did not like the plastic plastered all over the interior and the sound of wind noise when you hit speeds of more than 100 km/h.
So, it’s down to that time in my life when I have to decide: how does the Etios Sport stack up against the previous generation VW Polo Vivo?
The VW has three colour variants, while the Toyota has just two – but they offer pretty much the same equipment along with safety features like ABS and dual front airbags as standard.
While the Etios comes standard with minimal options, the VW can be given a few extras at the cost of your pocket.
The VW only comes with a three-year/120 000km warranty, but Toyota offers a three-year/100 000km warranty and a two-year/30 000km service plan.
I’m still sitting in the middle when it comes to car loyalties, but I can tell you that in this case, the Etios Sport brings it home for the Japanese.