'It reminds me of the Maruti Esteem”. I distinctly remember the comment from one of our judges during the 2011 BSM COTY evaluation, after driving the Toyota Etios. At that point, I figured what the Etios was, because prior to that, I was trying hard to find a parallel or a thought process behind the car. And that one phrase perfectly summed it up.
Most of you are already talking about it as a jazzed up, new-gen Renault Logan from Toyota, and I assure you that you are not wrong. It’s designed to look simple, with straightish panels and fairly bland overtones. The rear seat is large and comfortable and the trunk is huge (I can’t think of any sedan, with its rear seat in place, that has a larger boot than this). Yet, there’s so much that has gone into the Etios that I can’t help but wonder what went through the minds of countless Japanese and Indian engineers in 2006, when the car was first conceived.
In fact, this car is late by a good four years. Toyota originally planned to have its small car for India by 2006, and in a lengthy cover article in a leading business magazine in 2000, they chalked out their India plans post-Qualis and explicitly mentioned its plans of an India-specific car in ’06. But Toyota seemed to put it on the back burner for one reason or the other and it’s only today, at the fag-end of 2010, that the car has finally seen the light of day.
All along, the benchmarks for Toyota changed. The Esteem became history, and in its place came the Suzuki Dzire and the Mahindra Renault Logan — an ideal car for India that has suffered because of joint-venture issues. Both these cars defined the concept of the entry-level sedan, and Toyota observed them keenly. In fact, in an interaction with a senior TKML executive a year ago, he mentioned in more than just passing that the Logan did influence the path of the Etios.
The true competition for the Etios, at least in the numbers game, is the Maruti Suzuki Swift Dzire. Maruti, for the last two years, seems to be running overtime, trying to squeeze out every second of efficiency from their overworked production plants to churn out at least one Dzire more than the previous day. Yet, there is a waiting period for India's largest selling sedan. And now, the Etios threatens to turn the tables on it, but can it?