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Car Review: Toyota Etios Liva TRD Sportivo

Wednesday, 16 October 2013 - 1:40pm IST | Agency: OnCars.in

Toyota Etios Liva TRD Sportivo

Prize: Rs 6,11,833

Design Review

Good: With the bigger engine from the Etios sedan, the Liva turns into what most would describe as a pocket rocket. It's good to drive and the black interiors should make the boy racer in you happy. It looks good too

Bad: Not a premium hatchback by any means.

Verdict: If you want to go old-school, give diesel hatchback a run for their money and listen to the very vocal 1.5-litre petrol engine, this is the car to go for.

So how do you make a car more desirable? You can either make it look better, make it drive better or maybe you could just plonk in a bigger engine so that it becomes a bit more exciting to drive. Now the car we have here, the Etios Liva, might not be a out and out looker but yes, it manages to look desirable, especially if you have a thing for JDM cars.

The first thing that came to my mind when I saw the Liva was the simplicity in its design, which to every car enthusiast out there appeals in a similar way a clean canvas does to an artist. Think about it this way: a couple of engine upgrades and appropriate suspension tuning later, you'll have one of the hottest hatchback cum sleepers out there! Toyota, in all senses, wasn't in a mood to let my imagination run wild. Hence the car was launched with 1.2-litre petrol engine. And much like my expectations, the petrolhead in my head went into depression until recently, when Toyota's plans of launching a 1.5-litre Liva surfaced.

Say hello to the petrol engined Etios Liva Sportivo! Not an entirely new product but the Liva now gets the 1.5-litre petrol engine from the Etios sedan, a TRD Sportivo bodykit, smart looking alloy wheels and dark interiors. The car will be made available in two colours: Ultramarine Blue and White. We got to test the latter and trust me it looks good at first. The 15-inch wheels look great, the overall appearance is sporty and in white, like I said, it looks great. But the bodykit not so. After spending a couple of hours driving, you get out of the car to take a quick break, only to notice that the bodykit actually makes the car look a bit less appealing. While it's not an eyesore but it would have been great if the design of the extended FRP parts gelled well with the overall design. 

Apart from that, the car is not much different from the other Liva's you've seen till now. It looks good and if you've got a liking for simple designs, this one will surely win your heart. Thankfully the car doesn't get the chrome inserts below the headlamps (like the ones in the new Etios sedan). It doesn't have a very loud front, the only thing that makes it noticeable is the bodykit. Single wiper stalk too looks good on the car. The overhangs aren't too big, which works in favour of the car, hence making it look more surefooted.

The silhouette gives away the car's origin. It's neither too muscular nor too curvaceous, the Liva Sportivo belongs to the group of understated cars that won't let you know about how fast they can go, they won't give the slightest of a hint about what lies in the engine bay and the competition won't even know what hit them…you get my point, the cars we kids from '80s and '90s grew up seeing! The black B-pillar, the bodykit and slightly flared wheel arches make sure the car doesn't look boring from the sides, and it does not.

Two creases, one running from the front wheels to the rear and the other from below the A-pillar till the rear tail-lamp (known as Shoulder Line) add character to the car's side profile. The rear of the car, like the rest of the car, is simple at best. Not boring but not too dramatic either. The fake rear diffuser might not work in any possible way but it's black and thus adds contrast to the white car. There aren't other design changes made to the car and thankfully since Toyota hasn't included any large stickers, the Liva Sportivo stays true to its understated image. 

If you're as meticulous as I am, you're going to love the 'TRD Sportivo' badging you find on the aero kit. It just goes on to tell that the car's a bit more special, a bit more focussed and a bit more close to the enthusiast than anything else in its vicinity.

Performance Review

Diesels are more laid back, while petrol engines have a ceaseless urgency in them, that makes them more fun to drive, even on a routine basis. And such an engine coupled to a good gearbox, packaged to fit in a stiff chassis is the basic ingredient for a fun to drive car. Etios Liva looked like one such car. But the engine options included a 1.2-litre petrol and a 1.4-litre diesel. No thanks Toyota, I have better options in the market if I'm looking for a hotter-than-usual hatch (please keep in mind that the term 'Hot Hatch' is still not defined in the Indian automotive dictionary). But Toyota recently decided to widen its portfolio in India. Hence they took the 1.5-litre petrol engine from the Etios sedan and placed it into the Liva's engine bay.

The engine makes a healthy 90PS of power and a not so impressive 132 newton meters of torque. While the figures might not look as impressive considering it's a 1.5-litre engine, the car is a real pleasure to drive. The adjustable seating position helps you find the sweet spot between too high and too low, the gear stick is in the perfect reach, the view of the road ahead clear and placement of pedals correct. Although I missed the flat bottom steering wheel from the Etios sedan, it's light and suitable for city traffic. Although this electronic power assisted unit is not as weighted as my hands would have liked, it doesn't disappoint badly. But that's one of the things that changed my view towards the car. 

The quality of gearshift is smooth and trouble-free. And the same can be said about the engine but there's more to it. The engine likes to be revved. There's an intoxicating induction noise. Add some sweet mechanical clatter to it and that's what TRD Sportivo is all about. It makes you stay a gear lower than usual, because your ears won't accept anything less and your right foot won't be happy with lower revs either. The suspension is not out and out stiff, it absorbs potholes but at the same time, will react to your sharp inputs too. The car runs on grippy 185-section 15-inch rubber.

Disc brakes up front and drums on the rear work effectively in conjunction to stop the car that weighs 925kg. On the safety front, the car comes equipped with dual front airbags, anti-lock braking system with EBD (electronic brake distribution) and an impact absorbing body structure. 

Most of the goodies are shared with the regular Liva hatchback, it's the powertrain that makes this car a lot more spirited and lively than the regular Liva.

Conclusion: My idea of the Toyota Liva Sportivo has changed quite a bit. At first glance, I was made to believe that it's a sublime hot hatch, uncompromising and totaly focussed. But as we spent more time with the car, it was soon clear that this is a very practical alternative to the ubiquitous diesel hatchbacks out there. It didn't take much time to get acquainted to the car.

Although the long term effects/side-effects are almost impossible to learn in a short period of time, we did come to know about the car's plus points and negatives. To start with, it's a very accommodating car, not intimidating at all. And at the same time, it's not all that focussed. You see, the Liva Sportivo is a compromise between an economical hatchback and a fun to drive car.

It has all the right ingredients a car requires to qualify for a lively car but at the same time, it makes sure that you won't break your back as you take your car over bad road surfaces. Had it been a bit more driver focussed, it would have made a nice alternative to…wait a sec, this car belongs to a very niche market and it doesn't have a lot of rivals out there. It looks like a proper sleeper and trust me, it will be a great base car. Stiffen up the suspension, plonk in a bigger engine and make it the best performing hot hatch in your circle. Till then, enjoy the simplicity of the car and the addictive engine noise! 

The million dollar question now! If I were given a chance to buy it at Rs 6.13 lakh, ex-showroom New Delhi, will I do so? It would be insane if I said no. Look, we already lack proper petrol engined fun cars in the market. They are either too expensive or aren't fun and that makes this Liva Sportivo a more tempting buy. Toyota, please take my money!

Read the complete review in OnCars.in.

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