I’ve always heard that Toyotas are fuel-efficient cars. My point of reference before I jumped into the new Etios 1.5 Sport were the countless Toyota Quantums I have seen being pushed for more than 30km while the fuel tank reserve light is flickering and screaming for a refill.

So when I got an opportunity to test-drive my first Toyota, I had one great expectation - fuel efficiency.

I really couldn’t care much about any other feature of the car but wanted to see how much money I was going to cough up for fuel.

I did a few short trips in the Pretoria CBD and had to take a 110km trip outside the city. I filled the tank, and hit the road. After 70km, the fuel needle had not moved.

It started to sink in why the many people in my circles appreciate Toyotas. I had once again appreciated having an ignition. My previous conviction was that all cars should have an engine start-button and a key-sensor.

I think I'd forgotten how forgetful I can be. Knowing that I had to put the key in the ignition and turn it to start the car gave me much-needed peace of mind. I generally spend more than 10 minutes looking for the car keys in keyless cars. I spend another 10 to 15 minutes out of the car to find a key I thought I had misplaced.

But with this Etios, I knew that the key was in the ignition, saving a valuable 20 minutes on all my trips. I was happy. This felt like an achievement.

However, the best part was when I gave my 23-year-old cousin Boipelo a ride to Pretoria from home.

I had to be the mini-petrol head (something I'm really not), and give her some advice on what vehicle she should choose as her first car.

I'd already spent four days in the Etios and enthusiastically told her: “Look no further, this will be a great first car that you'll never forget.”

The first thing that she enquired about was the fuel consumption of the car.

This question, of course, came as no surprise, because fuel hikes in South Africa have become unbearable and tough on the hip pocket.

They come when we are least expecting them, and for someone who has just started working I thought this was an important question.

At her age, one wants to party hard and go a distance for the fun, while spending as little money on fuel as possible.

I wasn't speaking out of the excitement of driving my first Toyota.

I was genuinely suggesting that she consider the Etios because she would thoroughly enjoy it, and drive to as many Sho't Left! destinations in the country as she possibly could.

Just like I did.

In the morning, I'll be in Limpopo, in the afternoon I'll spend time in Mpumalanga, and boom, I will join my friends in the North West for the sundowners.

It won’t be super-fast, but the 66kW-powered, 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine kept me cruising.

They said I love being on the road (which is true), but it wouldn't be possible without a car that wasn’t fuel-efficient.

So even though I don't run the risk of being doubted that “I know my car”, as the Toyota Quantum guys do, I'll have enough space for the groceries, with an ample 251litres of boot space.

I'm sold. This Japanese brand remains a heart winner, even for young folk such as myself.