The Toyota Etios Cross competes at the end of the market where the idea has the most merit. Spending R159 800 to own something that sets you apart from the crowd is far more understandable than paying more than twice that just to pretend you like roughing it. And because the vehicle is designed for Third World conditions, what rough road ability it has – like its ground clearance – were there in the first place, so the “crossover” cost is kept to a minimum.
The Etios Cross is really the top-of-the-range Etios rather than a different derivative and customers now have a wider section of Class-B vehicle to choose from in the Toyota stable. It has therefore benefited from upgrades across the range before it even gets the makeover that earns it its unique name.
Common then to the Etios range is the 16-valve DOHC 1.5-litre engine and five-speed manual transmission. The output of 66kW and 132Nm is quite acceptable whether dressed as the angry urban warrior or posing as the entry-level flower child, which incidentally costs more than R30 000 less and underpins the success of the range. Toyota were acutely aware that the Etios would have to do a lot to appeal to the first-time buyer. Ironically, a first new car often comes at a time when transport needs are acute and expenses soar as families take root. So, for example, the rear seat is a bench and the car can carry five quite comfortably. In addition, the Etios boasts a multitude of practical interior storage spaces.
More importantly, there is ABS, EBD, dual front air bags and an immobiliser.
Given the the Etios Cross is really an extreme styling package, it is worth bearing in mind that without going that far, you get colour coding across the range for door mirrors and handles across the range. Step up to the Xs model and you get a new front-seat design as well as a reprofiled rear-seat design. Then there is a lights-on warning (there is nothing worse than pushing after gym), as well as seat belt and door-open warning buzzers. Power windows, fog lights and remote central locking are all still standard before stepping up to the Etios Cross.
Once you do, however, you add a whole new level of cool, or hot, depending on how you understand those adjectives.
In profile, the Etios Cross gets the full “off road” treatment in the form of black cladding (with embossed Etios Cross logos), which extends halfway up the doors. Silver-shaded accent garnishes adorn the lip of the cladding.
Protruding matt black over- fenders clad the wheelarches, further amping up the newcomer’s “SUV” persona. The redesigned side mirrors feature turn indicators, while the back door gets a stylish garnish strip with embossed Etios Cross logo. Mirroring the front, the rear gets a new matt-black bumper with a trapezoidal silver-grey, ribbed scuff plate. The tail lights are also unique to the Cross. The outside is beefed up even more by a roof spoiler, multi-spoke diamond-cut 15″ alloys and a set of roof rails that can support 50kg of luggage.
Inside, the Cross gets all-black interiors with new sporty seat fabrics featuring special white stitching and embroidered Etios Cross logos. The dashboard receives piano-black metallic finishing and chrome detailing around the air vents. This is not quite as spectacular as the changes to the outside, but functionality wins over form in this respect. In fact, it is enhanced by an upgraded double-din audio system – as with the unit found on Xs models, this system comes with USB and AUX-in ports but adds extra functionality in the form of Bluetooth.
The price includes a two-year/30 000km service plan.