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.