It seems like Toyota had already broken the mould with the Etios LIVA even before the hatchback’s launch. How? Well, normal practice for most manufacturers at least in India has been to launch the hatchback first and then stick a boot on to it after a few months. So it did come as a bit of a surprise when the extremely spacious Etios sedan was launched first in India. Toyota opted to hold back the hatchback. It’s here now though and the Toyota Etios Liva promises to not only live up to its suffix but also to the ‘breaking the mould’ theme in many more aspects. While the Etios Liva may not seem overly revolutionary at first glance, over time it will truly prove to be just so.
For starters, it sports a different engine compared to its sedan sibling, for more reasons than just efficiency. With a 1.2-litre engine under the aggressive front end, the Etios Liva also attempts to make the most of the excise duty concessions that the Indian government offers small cars. But the word ‘small’ itself is a paradox here because despite the Etios Liva fitting the bill as far as external dimensions are concerned, it is quite the opposite on the inside.
Design & Style: Happy face or angry bird?
The press release for the Toyota Etios Liva says that the car’s front was designed to look like a happy face. Now, everyone’s favourite angry birds may or may not have been around when the car was penned, but there’s no denying that the two do look similar. And that is not necessarily a bad thing. It means that the Etios Liva has a certain cuteness to it and despite the fact that it shares the same front end as the Etios sedan, the Liva looks more appealing owing to the rounded hatch at the back. That’s really where the magic of the Liva is. The rear end design is simply a delight to behold. It makes the front end look complete, something that the sedan could never manage. Two corner-mounted tail lights do the trick to give the Etios Liva not only a beautiful aura but also a very sporty stance. The car has a long wheelbase and pretty good ground clearance, but the overall design (Read : Design and Style) of the car camouflages both aspects extremely effectively from the outside so as not to appear jarring in any way. Read about how we think the new Etios Liva will fare against the existing competition here : Read : Liva Competition Check
If the exteriors are aggressive, yet cute, the interiors live up to the car’s name beyond doubt. The complete set is a straight lift from the sedan which means it comes with the same vertically mounted central air conditioning vents and the chilled glovebox. The central instrument console is also carried over and we must say it does give the car a rather interesting dimension. The sporty theme is extended all the way from the seat fabric and the door trims to the steering wheel and the central dash layout. But then again, that was bound to happen considering that the Etios sedan was always a very nice car to be spending time in and the Liva’s insides are more or less an identical match.
Engine & Transmission: Efficiency is the key
There was a lot of talk of the Liva getting the big 1.5-litre engine from the sedan, but anyone who knows the Indian market would know that the hatch would be looking to exploit the maximum benefits of the excise duty concessions that the Indian government has on offer for small cars. That means that under the Etios Liva hood is a 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine (Read :Engine & Transmission). On paper, it isn’t all that bad, 80PS @ 5600rpm and 104Nm @ 3100rpm. In fact the figures are pretty close to most of the competition and better than some as well. Coupled with the Liva’s approximately 900 kg kerb weight, it should also make for a great power-to-weight ratio to score high on performance. But somehow, that’s not the case because the Etios LIVA's brief seems to be rather straight forward – better efficiency. With the gear ratios matched to make life in the city easier, the car does feel peppy enough at low revs and accelerates cleanly off the line, but the excitement tapers off much too soon and you really need to work the engine to get past 120km/h.
Our instrumented tests did see the car cross the 150km/h mark but it took a lot of patience and even more stretches of empty roads to get there. The 5-speed manual gearbox may be the culprit here with gear ratios more conducive for city driving rather than highway cruising. But that does have a rather positive effect on its fuel efficiency. The ARAI certified stat reads 18.3kmpl cumulative but real world conditions should see you get about 14.3kmpl in the city and 16.1kmpl on the highway. Considering the prices of petrol today, that’s a welcome proposition indeed! All through the test, the Liva’s gearbox provided positive feel and slick shifts all the way to fifth. Predictably, the Liva didn’t scorch the acceleration runs, taking over 17 seconds to cross the 100km/h mark.
Vehicle Dynamics: Quality bits all round
The Etios LIVA is pretty long, with a 2460mm wheelbase, Apart from liberating more room on the inside, this also makes the car more stable. The car sports a MacPherson strut set-up on the front and a torsion beam at the back that soaks in almost everything that Indian roads can throw at it. The Liva is certainly capable of handling more power from the engine when it comes to handling as well. Uphill drives prove this point but the Liva does delight on tight downhill runs, though not as much as some of its other more focused handling competitors. But the best part is that Toyota has not compromised when on the safety aspect. So all the four variants of the Liva feature ventilated discs up front and drums at the back, ensuring crisp and sure braking. The 170mm ground clearance spares the underbody any hits and scrapes on the tallest of ill-constructed speed-breakers. While the lower two variants, the J and the G, sport 14” tyres, the top spec V and VX features 15” ones which not only make them look good, but also greatly enhance the handling as well as ride comfort (Read : Living with it).
Living with it: Practicality to the max!
It may take a while to truly love the Etios Liva’s looks, but considering that we spend a lot of time playing angry birds in our lives today, most young people should take an instant liking to the car owing to the similarities in appearance. Then again, it doesn’t really perform as well as we would have liked it to, especially with the 1.2-litre engine running out of breath on the highway. But the flip side to that is the amazing fuel efficiency both in the city and on the highway. But the Etios Liva’s appeal stretches way further than just looks or performance. It is probably one of the most practical small cars we have seen. With space that could put many a car to shame not only in its segment or a segment higher, but also in some much bigger cars! Kunal Khadse, our photographer wasin the front seat with his legs fairly stretched out and there was some knee room to spare, I could fit my 5’6” stocky frame rather easily in the back bench and still have about six inches of knee room to spare!
The doors open wide making for easy ingress and egress and the benches are rather comfortable too. The rear one especially, can easily seat three adults and there’s more than enough room for tall folks too. If you thought all that would affect boot space, think again. The Etios Liva boot is massive and can devour a whole lot more than just your luggage. I could easily fit in there with the hatch closed! To top it all, it’s a Toyota, which means there’s more than enough of reliability and quality than you’ll ever need. Peace of mind and ease of operation is what you get with the Etios Liva. That’s a luxury in our oh-so stressful times!
Verdict: A new high on comfort!
Considering all of the above and the price (Toyota Etios Liva pricing revealed) tag that the Etios Liva sports, it sure seems like a quiet revolution in the small car segment. While most people might not be able to appreciate the car’s importance and value immediately, those who do will remain eternally happy with their decision to buy it. The Etios Liva is a big car in a small package and coupled with legendary Toyota reliability and quality, it should offer quality service to its owners who will revel in its roomy interiors and comfortable seating. This is certainly not the car for someone looking for a super fast mile muncher. But in the context of your monthly running bills, the Liva will definitely bring on the smiles. Maybe that’s what Toyota meant when they said that the Liva was a happy faced car then!
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