By: Jason Woosey
Designer mud jokes aside, if you aspire to own a fully-blown SUV one day but for now you're prepared to settle for a more affordable compact hatch that's been dressed up in an “off to the bush” body kit, there is a growing array of cars that will help you fake it 'til you make it.
As if to reiterate that this new Toyota is a purely urban adventurer, Toyota didn't even see fit to raise the ride height - although the 155mm ground clearance it shares with the regular Etios is relatively generous for a hatch.
Where the Etios Cross does go all out is in the “looking like an SUV” department. In fact, the Etios Cross looks decidedly angry.
At the front end it comes with a completely new grille and bumper design that mimics a large bull bar while the side is swamped in black and silver cladding and the rear end gains a suitably bold matt black bumper with a silver scuff plate as well as bespoke tail lights and a rear spoiler.
A STEP TOO FAR?
The Etios Cross is likely to polarise opinion, however, and if you ask me I'd say they've gone way overboard with the plastic cladding, particularly on the side. That said, I've always been a fan of clean, harmonious design and you might like things a bit more on the wild side.
Among its nicer features, the Cross does with 15-inch “diamond cut” alloys and the obligatory roof rails. What's more, beyond the standard colours you can order Inferno Metallic (orange) or Jet Grey Metallic - both exclusive to the Cross.
So you never forget what you're driving, Etios Cross logos are embroidered on the black fabric seats and stylists continued this theme with a matt black finish for the central dashboard. This section also incorporates a built-in double-din audio system, complete with USB and auxiliary ports and Bluetooth connectivity.
Other standard amenities include air conditioning, power windows front and rear, remote central locking, dual front airbags and ABS brakes.
The Etios Cross is powered by the familiar 1.5-litre 16-valve normally aspirated petrol motor, good for 66kW and 132Nm, a claimed 11.3-second 0-100km/h dash and 6.0 l/100km combined consumption. This engine is easily the car's strongest link and provided adequate pep, by entry-level standards, on the Gauteng launch route.
The other impressive trait is its compliant ride quality - no doubt a result of the Etios being designed for developing countries and built in India.
The Etios Cross is yours for R159 900, including a two-year/30 000km service plan.
1.5 Xi hatch - R127 800
1.5 Xs hatch - R136 800
1.5 Xi sedan - R134 500
1.5 Xs sedan - R143 000
Etios Cross 1.5 - R159 800
GWM C20R 1.5 (77kW/138Nm) - R174 999
Renault Sandero Stepway (66kW/135Nm) - R159 900
VW Polo Vivo 1.6 Maxx (77kW/155Nm) - R175 300