Always quite competent, the Toyota twins get tiny tweaks to make them even better, making it harder for us to imagine if anything better is even possible, as we find out
Toyota certainly knows how to make good cars, about this, there can be no doubt. But budget hatches and sedans are something the Japanese auto giant hadn't really attempted till a couple of years ago. But when the company did venture into this territory, it did so with much gusto. Armed with Etios sedan and the Liva hatchback, Toyota pretty much managed to revive its fortunes in India and a testament to that lies in the fact of the two jointly selling over 1,45,000 units since 2010.
Meant as no-nonsense offerings in the entry-level sedan segment (the Etios) and the premium hatchback segment (the Liva), these two cars have pretty much hit the nail on the head when it comes to most aspects of what makes an automobile appealing in a country where the expectations from one's car are nothing short of flying to the moon, and that too on a single tank of gas.
Recently, the company launched updated versions of both the sedan and the hatch in what seems to be a departure from the usual "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" policy that most auto makers seem to adopt. As brilliant and as practical as the Etios and Liva are, they did suffer from a slight love-it-or-hate-it reaction from a lot of car buyers, most of which boil down to the cars' rather unconventional styling. So these updates bring about a few small visual changes which we think should go a long way in increasing these cars' universal appeal.
The first thing Toyota has done is drop the top end VX (petrol) and VXD (diesel) trims in both the Etios and Liva. Now this is not actually a bad thing. What you do get in return is an optional "safety package" in the V and G trims of the petrol Etios and Liva, as well as in the VD and GD trims of the diesel Etios and finally in the GD trim of the Liva diesel.
This safety package offers front airbags as well as ABS for those braking emergencies and is a welcome addition to the mid-level trim. And to top it off, just like the petrol models, both the diesel Etios and Liva get an entry level JD trim.
The differences one finds on the exteriors are rather subtle, but once you spot them, the cars suddenly start looking much smarter. The first thing you notice is the refreshed front grille, with little protrusions ("aero fins" as Toyota calls them) along the vertical slats giving it a slightly sporty appearance. The same "aero fins" can also be found on the revamped taillight clusters of both cars.
The ORVMs have lost their boxy appearance and have now been replaced with sleeker, more streamlined units which gel much better with the overall design. And the top end trim levels also get built in turn indicators in these new mirrors. Apart from these, there are some minor updates such as a new side protection mold, but other than all of these details, the appearance is pretty much unchanged. That being said, all these little changes come together in making the Etios and Liva just a little bit classier than they did before.
The biggest changes are on the insides though. Gone are the (what some may consider) whacky red and black interiors, which are now replaced by a 2-tone premium Ash Brown treatment throughout the cabin. Overall, this change in colour schemes adds a sense of conventionality and class to the interior, slightly reminiscent of what one finds in other well established Toyota cars such as the Corolla, and something that should really do wonders to broaden the appeal of the Etios and Liva. There are some other nice touches around the cabin as well.
The instrument cluster maintains its central position, but now features a blue shaded background - a significant improvement over the slightly garish all-plastic treatment found earlier. The front seats now have adjustable head restraints while the rear seat head restraints get bigger pillows. And joy o' joy, the driver's seat now gets a height adjust option. The mid range models feature a new music player with USB connectivity while the new audio unit for the top end trim comes with Bluetooth, USB and aux-in options. No climate control option yet, but the A/C knobs have been worked on to feel more premium than before.
Overall, these updated cars feel rather fabulous. There are a whole plethora of mechanical changes to go with the aesthetic improvements as well, such as thicker insulation and hydraulic engine mounts for reduced NVH levels, an updated exhaust system, slightly increased ground clearance, stronger bumper retainers and an enhanced suspension.
But even with all these changes, you'd be pretty hard pressed to notice much difference in the way the new Etios and Liva drive compared to the previous models. Not that this is a bad thing as these cars were always brilliantly refined and comfortable to drive. And when you factor in all that this pair offers and as well as their attractive prices, you would really struggle to find a better all round entry-level sedan or premium hatch in the country. And that's a fact!