While Toyota SA pioneered the local compact crossover segment with the original RAV4, it was quick to point out at the launch of the new Etios Cross that the company is also first to offer a contender in the new sub-B segment crossover niche. Fact is Renault actually beat it to the prize two months before with the launch of its R159 900 Sandero Stepway. Furthermore, Volkswagen’s CrossPolo (R241 000) and Suzuki’s charismatic Jimny (R212 900) were also pioneers in the budget segment and have been around for several years but as a result they now command far higher prices against the likes of Ford’s Ecosport and Renault’s Duster.
Regardless who was first, the segment (and choices within it) is growing and that’s great news for consumers. The Cross hits the dealership floors at just R100 less than its French counterpart and will rely on the fact that it is well, a Toyota (albeit one built in India) to sway interest in its direction. While the Etios hatch has largely regained most of Toyota SA’s losses in the sub-B segment when it replaced the Tazz boasting a 30 per cent market share and selling more than 45Â 000 units over the last two years its customer profile remains largely female.
With the Cross, Toyota hopes to appeal to more male buyers with its stronger design elements. Visually, a more macho front face, matt black grille design and bulbous bumpers complete the butch makeover together with side cladding embossed with Etios Cross logos. At the rear, the back door features a garnish strip (also with embossed Etios Cross logo) and too gets a matt black bumper with a trapezoidal silver grey, ribbed scuff plate to match the front. Other visual elements unique to the Cross are its ‘puzzle piece’ reverse light lenses, roof spoiler, multi-spoke diamond-cut 15-inch alloys and a set of roof rails able to support 50 kg of luggage or a bicycle.
While the newcomer’s ground clearance and suspension remain unchanged, the standard Etios hatch is already higher than all its hatch rivals due to Toyota’s cautious approach to the condition of our local roads. Apart from the visual changes inside and out, there’s little discernible change to the Etios on-road manners over that of the hatch. One still feels the car is built to a particular price point (like most in this market,) but its stilted dynamics aren’t that compromising and most will have little issue with its humble character on the daily commute. Against its rivals, the Cross, like the Etios hatch retains several highlights, starting with its willing 16-valve DOHC 1.5-litre engine that comes standard and is mated to a five-speed manual transmission. Outputs are pegged at 66kW and 132Nm of torque while Toyota claims an average consumption of around 6.0 litres/100km.
With a 562-litre best-in-class boot capacity and a multitude of practical interior storage binnacles (including a 13-litre glove box with a cooling function,) the Cross offers a dimension of practicality over the preceding sedan and hatch variants. When one adds additional specification including ABS, EBD, dual front airbags, an immobiliser and Toyota’s two-year or 30 000km service plan, affordability will also be a key purchasing incentive. Ultimately, the Etios Cross will only add to the Etios current success. As affordable and user-friendly as its standard brethren, Etios Cross also offers first time buyers who prefer the image of an SUV a new alternative to the madding crowd.