It has been proven that to make an Etios ‘sporty’, one needs to invest a lot of time, money and effort into the process, as well as have a vast knowledge of how to setup all the components so that they complement each other and deliver on the final driving experience.
RSI no, Sport yes!
The locally developed Etios RSI, which is a privately run development, has created a rather feisty turbocharged model, which, while not rebuked entirely by Toyota South Africa, has simply been described as not appealing to the segment it competes in.
Despite this, Toyota has had go at making a sporty version of the Etios themselves, albeit one not as extreme or, sadly, with the same level of poke as the RSI. Focused towards buyers wanting something special on a budget with running costs being preferred over outright performance, the Indian built Etios now boasts some unique details and a Sport badge to set apart from other models.
What is the sporty factor?
Compared to the RSI, Toyota’s take on a sporty Etios is limited to its exterior with the most prominent being the bi-tone paint finish, which in the case of my tester came in the form of a black roof contrasted by a Glacier White hue. Aside from this, unique touches to the Sport include a black grille, pillars and mirror caps and the same 15-inch alloy wheels as the Etios Cross. While not as radical as the RSI, the Sport, in some regards, does live up to its name.
Interior is basic but user friendly
Inside, the Sport’s changes are comparatively minor with the sole difference being the new Optitron instrument cluster, which, while still centrally located, gets a new tachometer and sweep-style speedometer. Backlight in orange, it still comes across as a feature out of the 1980s, which fortunately does not extend to the standard equipment spec sheet.
Like the lesser Sprint, the Sport gets a Bluetooth enabled sound system with Aux and USB inputs, electric windows, dual front airbags and ABS with EBD, but the overall feel of the interior ventures on the cheap side, although again, one shouldn’t expect leather and soft touch materials at this price point.
Does it have the go worthy of the badge?
The big question is though is whether the Sport indeed lives up to its name; the blunt and somewhat predicable answer to this being a resounding no. While it looks the part, everything mechanical is unchanged, meaning its retains the 66kW/132Nm 1.5-litre petrol engine, which needs a fair amount of revs and rowing of the five-speed manual gearbox to keep the momentum up.
That being said, the Etios in general has always felt rather nippy to drive and it does return some elements of enjoyment at times. It’s small, loves to rev and enjoys being thrown about. It’s very unlikely that an Etios owner will drive like this, but when the mood takes you, it will leave a smile on your face.
Toyota products have always had a history of being reliable and holding their values well, but also somewhat forgettable to drive. At R178 800, the Sport provides a fair chunk of car with decent level of dynamisms, but all things considered, opting for the base Xi or even the Sprint makes for a more worthwhile option.