Review: Refreshed Toyota Etios Liva 1.5 Petrol TRD Sportivo - India's hot hatch?

03/04/2013 - 23:33 | ,  ,   | Anjan Ravi

Toyota Liva TRD Sportivo's front bumper is overdone

Toyota has just refreshed the Etios and the Etios Liva in India. Through the refresh, Toyota say that they've listened to customer feedback and have spruced up the exteriors and the interiors. Apart from that, the Etios Liva also gets the Etios sedan's 1.5-liter petrol engine to give it some added oomph. Does this mean that India's hot hatch is now a Toyota?

We went and found out.

The Exteriors: 

I've never been a fan of the way the Etios sedan looks. Which is why I find the Etios Liva to look a bit better. It is better proportioned, especially at the rear. In the refresh, Toyota has altered the front grille and introduced a new design to the rear tail lights and the front head lamps. The ORVMs have indicators as well.

Toyota Liva TRD Sportivo looks good in profile

Front of the Toyota Liva TRD SportivoRear profile of the refreshed Toyota Etios Liva

[Toyota Etios Liva with the 1.5-liter petrol engine will be sold only in the TRD Sportivo variant]

Rear tail lights redesigned on Toyota Etios LivaHowever, the Etios Liva with the 1.5-liter petrol will be sold only in the TRD Sportivo variant, the one you see here. Which means that you get an aero kit that includes front, rear and side skirts, a rear spoiler and smoked alloy wheels with a gun metal finish. What you don't get are turn indicators on the ORVM, front fog lamps, a rear wash/wipe and the chrome strip at the rear.

Why Toyota do not want to offer these features that you otherwise get in the 1.2-liter petrol is beyond reason.

[Left - Tail lights of the refreshed Toyota Liva look better than the outgoing model]

While I'm inclined to criticize Toyota for the still evident cost cutting such as the single wiper, I can't help but think this TRD Sportivo does in fact look good!

My favorite bit is the alloy wheels, they look really expensive and add that 'hot-hatch' feeling to the car.

Redesigned front head lamp on refreshed Toyota LivaRedesigned front grille on refreshed Toyota Liva

[Left - Refreshed Toyota Liva gets discreet changes to the head lamp; Right - While the front grille also boasts some tweaks]

Toyota Liva 1.5 TRD Sportivo Side skirts[Top - 1.5-liter TRD Sportivo Toyota Liva comes with a good body kit]

So far, the Liva is doing pretty good.

Toyota Liva 1.5 TRD Sportivo Gun Metal FInish Alloy WheelToyota Liva TRD Sportivo's ORVM does without turn indicators

[Left - Gun metal finish alloy wheels look good. Right - No turn indicators on the TRD Sportivo Liva]

Rear of the Toyota Liva TRD SportivoRear spoilers of the Toyota Liva TRD Sportivo

[Left - TRD Sportivo Liva does without rear wipers. Right - Gets a sporty rear spoiler however.]

The Interiors: 

Toyota say that they actively listened to customer feedback and then went about tweaking the interiors. While it is an improvement over the previous car, it is still miles away from cars such as the Hyundai i20 or the Maruti Swift. The VW Polo stands lightyears ahead.

Toyota Liva TRD Sportivo does without two-tone interiors
Center console of the refreshed Toyota Liva. Note the non dual-tone color scheme for the 1.5-liter petrol.

The central console now features blue lighting and looks a little better. The air conditioning knobs are upgraded and feel better. That being said, the knob came right out in my hand in this test car. Fit and finish is a bit sloppy. As I said before, there is still a long, long way to go, but it is an improvement over the previous model.

Instrument cluster of refreshed Toyota Etios LivaAC knobs are redesigned

[Left - Refreshes for the interior include blue lighting and color scheme for instrument cluster and new AC knobs (right)]

New music system on the refreshed Toyota LivaNew music system on the refreshed Toyota Liva

[Left - Driver seat height adjustment and a [Right] new music system are included in the refresh as well]

The steering wheel does not feature buttons. The dead center is a bit mis-aligned as well. Also, the horn of the Liva makes more noise inside the cabin than outside which is an irritant. The door trims do not feature the faux-wood finish that you otherwise get in the 1.2-liter variant. What you do get is the new music system which offers a slot for your CD, AUX, USB and Bluetooth. The sound from the system is just average.

No faux wood trim for Toyota Liva 1.5No steering mounted audio on Toyota Liva 1.5 TRD Sportivo

[Left - No faux-wood finish on the Liva TRD Sportivo and [Right] steering wheel is devoid of any music controls]

Another improvement through the refresh is the addition of a separate headrest for the front seats. This TRD variant also comes with contrast stitching which looks good. Seat comfort is good as well and the fabric used on them feels pleasant to sit in.

Front headrests on the Toyota Liva TRD SportivoGearbox is not the fastest or slickest

[Left - 1.5-liter petrol gets exclusive TRD Sportivo seats which look tasteful. Right - The gaudy red gear knob is no more! In comes a classier chrome-trimmed gate marking]

Toyota Liva 1.5 does without electric ORVMRear legroom is very good

[Left - Flimsy stalks for ORVM's even in the top end variant. Right - Rear seat space is excellent.]

Controlling the ORVM’s is done through flimsy stalks which are non-electrical. Overall, the interior of the refreshed Liva is better than before, but no where near that of the competition. It is still a disappointment.

Under the hood: 

Pop up the hood of this Liva and you’ll find the same 1.5-liter 4 cylinder petrol engine that you would find in the Etios sedan. This engine produces a maximum power of 90bhp and 13.4kgm of torque. That is as much power as you would get in the Honda Brio (88bhp).

The Toyota Liva TRD Sportivo's 1.5 petrol is a four cylinder unitToyota Liva TRD Sportivo 1.5 petrol engine

[Top - Same engine as the Etios sedan which is a 1.5-liter four cylinder petrol with 90PS of power 13.4kgm of torque]

Driving it: 

The Liva 1.5 settles in to a smooth idle a moment after it comes to life. Press the super light clutch and you’ll find yourself needing some effort to slot the gear. This is not the smoothest or most accurate gear shifter fitted on to a hatch. There are gearboxes way better than the Liva’s. For quick comparison, the Figo is the smoothest, the Polo the most accurate, the Swift is pretty slick and so is the Brio. The Liva lags a bit in this area.

Rev counter of the refreshed Toyota LivaTest car could not go beyond 130km:h

[Left - The engine's low end torque is simply brilliant; Right - Test car maxed out at 140km/h]

Release the clutch and the Liva rolls down the road smoothly. What is really good in this engine is the low end torque and the low end response. This engine is all about low end speed. Hence, city driving is a breeze. There is nothing called as a ‘wrong gear’ for city driving conditions. You can do very low speeds in 5th gear, step on the accelerator and still feel the pace quickening. In short, low end response is brilliant.

ABS works very well
ABS works well and the Liva TRD comes with dual front airbags also.

But a hot hatch is never about the low end response is it? It’s about the mid range and the top end power and the head rush that comes along. This is where the Liva 1.5 sorely disappoints. Revving the engine beyond 3,500rpm is a bit pointless. The noise the engine makes is not compensated by the increase in speed. Taking it to the rev-limiter is completely unnecessary.

Toyota Etios Liva Boot is reasonably sized
Toyota Etios Liva has one of the bigger boots in the hatchback segment and wins our brownie points.

Toyota say that the Liva will do the 0-100km/h run in 11 seconds.

I maxed out the Liva on a private road and found that it doesn’t go beyond 140km/h. Pretty strange considering that this 1.5L engine makes the Etios sedan hit 180km/h. In terms of performance, the Liva 1.5L is definitely not a hot hatch. Cars like the Honda Brio feel much better even though they have only a 1.2-liter engine. In fact, even the Hyundai i10 1.2 Kappa is a good performer itself.

Toyota Liva TRD Sportivo gets contrast stitching
Height adjustable rear headrests for the TRD Sportivo variant will be appreciated by tall family members.

Handling, Suspension and Braking: 

The handling of the Liva is pretty nimble. Thanks to the light steering, you can chuck it around corners quickly. Body roll is well controlled and the Liva doesn’t feel unnerving to drive spiritedly. The suspension does a great job compromising between ride quality and handling. Bumps and potholes are well absorbed and it takes a lot to unnerve the cabin of the Liva.

The grip from the 185/65 R15 tires is excellent. Hard braking results in the ABS stepping in to make sure that things don’t get out of hand and the tires have to be complimented for their ability to stick on to Mumbai’s slippery tarmac.

TRD badging on front bumper lipTRD Sportivo badging

[Top - TRD branded front bumper lip and rear bumper look sporty]

Fuel Efficiency and the Features:

As the Liva 1.5 was with me for a short time, a proper fuel efficiency test was not conducted. However, based on some rough calculations, the Liva 1.5 will do about 12km/l in city driving conditions.

The 1.5 petrol Liva can be had only in the TRD Sportivo variant as I said before. Which means that the body kit and the alloy wheels along with the special fabric seats come as standard. ABS and dual airbags compliment the new music system as well.

What you don’t get on the exteriors such as the front fog lamps, rear wash/wipe is only accentuated when you find out you don’t get electric ORVM’s, faux wood finish and steering mounted audio controls that you otherwise would get in the 1.2-liter Liva variant. Toyota should include these features considering the 1.5L is the flagship variant of the Liva.

The Verdict: 

Attention to detail in the Toyota Liva TRD Sportivo I want to like the Liva 1.5. The spacious cabin, the TRD body kit, the low end grunt of the engine are going in favor of the car. However, Toyota’s stubbornness to offer a premium interior (or even an interior where everything fits properly) is something I really do not like.

Add to that the essential features we have to come to expect as standard in a top end variant of a premium hatchback is not available on the Liva 1.5.

The Liva 1.5 TRD Sportivo comes in at INR 6.13 lakhs (ex-showroom Delhi). At the end of the day, I feel as though I would get a better deal in the Honda Brio (which is reasonably priced at INR 5.29 lakhs ex-Showroom Delhi) if I were looking forward to a hatchback with good performance.

While the refreshed Liva is definitely an improvement over the previous car, it still has miles to go before I can consider it for a purchase. Toyota HAVE TO improve the interiors most importantly.

What I Liked: 

  1. Very good low end grunt from the engine
  2. Spacious cabin
  3. TRD Sportivo kit looks good

What I Disliked: 

  1. Very cheap and low rent interiors 
  2. Engine lacks top end grunt
  3. Several essential features missing

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