De­spite of­fer­ing the mildest of facelifts, the Sprint is still a re­minder of what good value the Etios range is


SINCE its launch, the Toy­ota Etios has been a prime ex­am­ple of safe, value-for-money mo­tor­ing, a much sought-after com­mod­ity in an age where new ve­hi­cles are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly un­af­ford­able to the av­er­age con­sumer. It may not have quite the fin­ish or fea­tures of Ger­man ri­vals, but it com­pen­sates with power and packaging.

While the range’s top model re­mains the Etios Cross, de­scribed by Toy­ota as an “ur­ban ad­ven­turer”, the new Sprint re­places the out­go­ing Xs mod­els and should con­tinue to gar­ner wide ap­peal with its en­hanced grille and large, lower air­dam. Foglamps are fit­ted into the lat­ter, a use­ful ad­di­tion given the wet, misty con­di­tions that blan­keted much of our launch drive in the Eastern Cape.

Not much has changed at the rear, how­ever, and I would’ve thought that per­haps a tweak to the tail­lamps would have made the Sprint more dis­tin­guish­able from the others.

While the base Xi makes do with steel wheels, the Sprint of­fers 15-inch al­loys and ben­e­fits from the ad­di­tion of elec­tric win­dows, re­mote cen­tral lock­ing and a height-ad­justable steer­ing wheel. Add to that air-con and a sound sys­tem, as well as sub­tle im­prove­ments that have been made to the in­te­rior qual­ity over the years, and the Sprint pro­vides most of the ba­sic crea­ture com­forts. Side mir­rors must be man­u­ally ad­justed.

Rear space is su­pe­rior to most, al­though the boot re­mains fairly small and on the sedan the rear seats do not fold down, so if it’s util­ity space that you need, rather opt for this hatch.

As ever, the best part of the Etios pack­age is the driv­ing ap­peal. For a bud­get run­about, it de­liv­ers a sur­pris­ingly sporty will­ing­ness to punch above its weight. A slick gear­box and good low- and mid-range torque make you want to for­get fuel econ­omy and have some fun. Know­ing this, the Toy­ota team let us jour­nal­ists loose on the East Lon­don Grand Prix Cir­cuit … only for one lap each, mind, but the Sprint han­dled the clas­sic cir­cuit very well.

On the rest of the jour­ney to Port El­iz­a­beth via Port Al­fred, the ride qual­ity dis­played that typ­i­cal Toy­ota com­pli­ance and the ba­sic sus­pen­sion sys­tem han­dled the oc­ca­sional pot­hole with ease. Even the steer­ing feel is ac­cept­able for an elec­tric setup. The cloth seats, mean­while, are great for long-dis­tance com­fort.

Dual airbags and ABS are stan­dard, and we no­ticed that Isofix points are now part of the pack­age, too; it’s a safety fea­ture of in­creas­ing im­por­tance to dads and moms. A two-year/30 000 km ser­vice plan is stan­dard, giv­ing you three free ser­vices at 10 000 km in­ter­vals.

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