What makes the Etios Cross?
BRIAN BASSETT finds out on good roads and bad in the Etios Cross 1.5 Xs
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.
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.
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.