Bought a BHPian's Toyota Etios: 1 year report of the "clever" car

This car is one of the most cleverly designed automobiles I have seen and I am surprised that few people understood this cleverness.

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Since Dileep took the plunge to go for a newly launched Jimny, I took the Etios off him (Toyota Etios 1.5L Petrol : An owner's point of view. EDIT: 10+ years and 100,000+ kms up!) last year in August. The odo read 51,500 at the time. In my first drive over the twisty roads in Dehradun I could feel that the suspension of the car had gone a tad soft and the engine, which was never pushed beyond a point was a bit hesitant in the lower rpms. The clutch was also slightly shuddery just as we lift-off. We drove it to Delhi in intermittent rain via the scenic but congested highway that passes through Haridwar. On the Meerut-Delhi expressway I felt that the car was a less stable than I would have liked due to the aforementioned suspension and beyond 100kmph was not as reassuring as it should be.

A few things I did immediately after I reached back:

  1. Got a steering cover stitched and that covered the slippery plastic of the original steering grip and helped lend more control and ease in driving.
  2. Replaced and upgraded the 7-year old Bridgestone 185/60R15 tyres with Ceat Securadrive 185/65R15 (including standard alignment and balancing).
  3. Cleaned up all brake rotors and drums and checked the wear on the pads. The car still sported the original pads and they still had a healthy chunk left—a tribute to Dileep’s excellent driving.
  4. Replaced the engine oil and transmission oil

All this had an immediate effect in improving the characteristics of the car. The mileage improved and at the time it was ready for a pollution check in November 2023 I managed to extract 20kmpl from it in Delhi itself (in Delhi’s Autumn weather without AC). On open highways I could get as much as 21kmpl with AC and with luggage and three passengers.

Oil was changed once again at 57k mark with excellent ZIC 5w40 fully synthetic oil that I could source from a dealer in Kashmere Gate. Alas, the company has folded its business and this oil is no longer available. Right around this time I got the rear shock absorbers replaced and also added 1” coil pads at the rear thereby improving rigidity and lifting the car by half an inch (notice that due to shock absorbers pulling the setup together and also the weight of the car on the wheels, adding 1” to the length of the coils results in only marginal rise in the stance of the car but actually makes the coils a bit more compressed adding to the stiffness). This has tremendously improved its driving dynamics around corners and made the car feel more planted. Along the way, the throttle body was also cleaned (DIY at home) and molybdenum compound was added in the newly replaced gear oil making gearing more slick and smooth. Except for an instance in May 2024, when the battery went kaput in Mukteshwar, Kumaon (we have a cottage here) after it was left parked for over a week in cold conditions, the car never gave any problems at all and has had consistent performance. This is now my go-to commuter and highway cruncher.

I like several things about this car. First, due to its intentional lightweight design it feels easy and nimble to drive and thus evokes a lot of confidence in any driving situation. Second, the engine and componentry is well-designed and time-tested (it has many Land-cruiser switches and components) so parts don’t generally fail. The engine that is grunty at low end makes it quite tractable—a characteristic I associate only with very well-designed and well-engineered powertrains. Engine components and serviceable parts are all easily accessible so that service and even DIY maintenance is easy and hassle-free. I love the centre console which, contrary to general misconception, is not generic for both left and right drive models but, instead, is designed for people like us in middle age to have better visibility due to being a little distant (the Echo on which the Etios is modelled had a digitally far-spaced readouts for this purpose). In this way, this car is one of the most cleverly designed automobiles I have seen and I am surprised that few people understood this cleverness. What Toyota produces and sells today is far more mundane and pedestrian than its launch products like the Qualis and its segway into the mass mid-level segment the Etios. Incidentally, I owned the first privately registered Qualis in Delhi in year 2000 and till the Etios considered that as the best automobile I ever owned.

Some photos below and a link to the video that my son created for it:

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