What makes the Etios Cross?

BRIAN BAS­SETT finds out on good roads and bad in the Etios Cross 1.5 Xs

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

THE av­er­age South African mo­torist is not hav­ing an easy time at present with a poor econ­omy and a de­pre­ci­at­ing rand.

Many fam­i­lies have had to shift from two cars to one and that ve­hi­cle must multi- task, serv­ing both the fam­ily’s daily needs as well as be­ing able to face rougher road sur­faces in or­der to take care of hol­i­days and bad roads.

Toy­ota has taken care of th­ese needs when it built and sold the Etios Cross in In­dia and ex­ported the ve­hi­cle to the likes of South Africa, Brazil and In­done­sia.

To date over 100 000 units have been sold in In­dia alone.

Deon Olivier, new car sales man­ager at McCarthy Toy­ota in Pi­eter­mar­itzburg, al­lowed us to use the ve­hi­cle for a few days and we of­fer him our ap­pre­ci­a­tion.

Styling

The Etios Cross has a chunky, nonon­sense de­sign in­tended to pro­ject the car’s tough­ness and all- road abil­ity.

The front end is quite good look­ing with its ro­bust grille, out­lined in steel and crowned with a cen­trally- placed Toy­ota badge.

The large, ef­fec­tive head­light mod­ules flank the cen­tral car­touche and at the lower front end there are two use­ful fog lights.

The sides and back are less in­ter­est­ing as they are clad in un­painted black plas­tic, which can take a beat­ing from na­ture, so hats off to the de­sign­ers in this case.

The rear is less bland, as it has two large light clus­ters and a rear spoiler. The roof has two steel rails which al­low fam­i­lies to at­tach a lug­gage car­rier for longer hol­i­days. It also re­in­forces the car’s rugged look.

In­te­rior

The in­te­rior is un­com­pli­cated but not quite min­i­mal­ist.

The plas­tics are hard, but of ex­cel­lent qual­ity and the build qual­ity is very good.

The dash­board is dom­i­nated by four ad­justable air vents, while the cen­tral dash­board, fin­ished in pi­ano black, is pleas­antly un­con- ven­tional with the rev counter and speedome­ter cen­trally placed and il­lu­mi­nated in blue at night, which is some­how quite com­fort­ing.

The main con­trols are sup­ported by a dig­i­tal in­for­ma­tion sys­tem, which pro­vides all the in­for­ma­tion the driver needs.

There is no multi- func­tion steer­ing wheel, but the tilt- type, three- spoke wheel is pleas­ant to han­dle and the con­trols are er­gonom­i­cally placed so the driver is not in­con­ve­nienced.

The in­te­rior is fin­ished in black and is a lit­tle dark for my taste, but this is re­ally a mi­nor point. The four- speaker au­dio sys­tem with ra­dio/ CD/ USB and Blue­tooth is quite ad­e­quate and did a good job play­ing the ABBA disk I used in the car for the time I had it.

The seats are very com­fort­able, ad­justable and cov­ered in a ro­bust, wash­able cloth, em­bossed with the ve­hi­cle name.

The driver’s seat can be raised which, com­bined with the ad­justable steer­ing, makes for easy, long dis­tance mo­tor­ing. The cabin is spa­cious and ac­com­mo­dates four large adults with ease.

The doors open wide so that even those large adults who are 70 plus have no prob­lem with ac­cess. The boot, of­fers 251 litres of space — about av­er­age for a car like this, but fold down the rear seats and you al­most dou­ble this.

Safety and se­cu­rity

The Etios Cross has most of the safety fea­tures you need — driver and pas­sen­ger airbags, ABS with EBD, seat­belts with safety an­chor­ages and an­chors for chil­dren’s car seats at the rear.

The car has the usual cen­tral lock­ing and im­mo­biliser, as well as child locks on the rear doors.

Per­for­mance and han­dling

The Etios Cross is pow­ered by Toy­ota’s 16- valve, 1,5 litre petrol en­gine, de­vel­op­ing 66 kW/ 132 Nm, which is ex­pressed on road via a five- speed gear­box.

The short gear­ing makes the en­gine torquey and the car fun to drive. Zero to 100 km/ h comes up in about 12 sec­onds and fuel con­sump­tion, de­pend­ing on driv­ing style and ter­rain is around 7 l/ 100 km.

Top speed is about 165 km/ h. In town, where this car will spend most of its time, the ride is com­posed; the steer­ing re­spon­sive with rapid feed­back, while mov­ing around in traf­fic avoid­ing the killer taxis is no prob­lem.

The ve­hi­cle’s size makes park­ing easy and, in shop­ping cen­tre park­ing, I never felt over­whelmed by the huge For­tuner parked next door. On the N3 the Etios Cross had to be re­strained, climb­ing to 130 km/ h if not watched care­fully.

The Cross is, how­ever a baby, compact cross­over with rough road pre­ten­tions

Firstly I took the car onto some of the bad farm roads in the Mid­lands and it han­dled th­ese with lit­tle trou­ble even cruis­ing along at 120 km/ h and kick­ing up huge amounts of dust, while hit­ting the oc­ca­sional pot­hole, with­out los­ing sta­bil­ity.

Then I drove along the tracks used by tim­ber trucks in the Kark­loof forests, rough rut­ted and wet from re­cent rains.

Once again the car punched above its weight and de­liv­ered great per­for­mance.

Al­wyn Viljoen, the Wit­ness mo­tor­ing editor, and I then ex­plored the rain- slick mud tracks around Fern­cliff, with bril­liant re­sults as the high revving en­gine proved able to pull the light ve­hi­cle over all the slip­pery slopes.

The Cross is a re­ally good car in the best Toy­ota tra­di­tion and plea­sur­able to drive. It will take you and your fam­ily just about any­where you need to go. It is also good value for money and you can pass it on to your chil­dren when they leave home.

Costs and the com­pe­ti­tion

The Cross will cost you around R177 000 and it comes with a three- year/ 100 000km fac­tory guar­an­tee and twoyear/ 30 000 km ser­vice plan. Also look at the Re­nault San­dero Step­way and VW Polo Maxx amongst many oth­ers.

PHOTO: COLNECT. COM

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