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Liva and kicking!

Toyota’s first hatchback for India is here and it’s ready to create a big splash. The Japanese carmaker will hope the Liva is as well-received as the Etios saloon. But will the car be as successful with the boot chopped off?

STYLE FILE

Besides the absence of a big boot, the Liva retains the Etios’ look in entirety. This entails a lack of radical lines and the styling can be deemed conservative at best. Even then, the design does have some nice touches here and there that add a bit of flair to the Liva.

The rear three-quarter is the Liva’s best angle from where the well-defined shoulders and chunky C-pillars add considerable muscle to the design. Viewed side-on, this Toyota looks much better than the Etios saloon and the short rear overhang gives it a nice, well-proportioned silhouette. The large 15-in wheels on the higher V and VX variants (lower versions get 14-inchers) add to the car’s balanced stance. Observe closely and you’ll notice the raised suspension that contributes to an adequate 170mm of ground clearance. Roving eyes will also notice the ribbed roof, which, like on the Etios, is one of the Liva’s many rigidity-enhancing and weight-saving measures.

The Liva’s suspension setting consists of MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam axle at the rear. Fit and finish are good, as with all Toyotas. However, the feeling of being in a car that is extremely light and built to strict costs is something that you can’t shake off; reinforced by the 920kg kerb weight, making it the lightest hatch in its class.

INSIDE STORY

At 90mm shorter than the Etios saloon, it is hard to make out the difference between the two cars unless you look up the spec sheets. The interiors are decidedly spacious and that can only bode well for a car rivalling a hatchback like the Maruti Swift.

Large and wide-opening doors make entering and exiting the car easy, and the rear seat is generous with decent under-thigh support and a near-perfect backrest angle. The front seats have decent cushioning and superb lower back support too. The only gripe is the fact that there is no height adjustment for the driver’s seat. Outside visibility remains good though. The boot-space is restricted to 251 litres, good just for a small suitcase at best. The rear bench can be dropped down though, albeit without an option to split the seats.

The Liva’s dashboard is a direct lift from the Etios and it looks and works well with easy-to-read instruments, despite their unconventional placement. Bottle- and cup-holders are aplenty and the cavernous 13-litre glovebox, that comes with air-conditioning, keeps everything cool. Quality of plastics isn’t great and the AC controls with the slider air-con looks particularly dated. The garish red gear knob and the upholstery is particularly unappealing.

UNDER THE HOOD

The Liva’s light kerb weight and 79bhp add up to a power-to-weight ratio of 85.8bhp per tonne, making it the best among the 1.2-litre hatchback brigade. On-road performance, however, reveals a different story. Thanks to Toyota tuning the twin-cam 1197cc engine for fuel economy rather than pep, the Liva is slow off the line and takes time to gain momentum.

DRIVER’S DEAL

However, the Liva does manage to potter around in traffic with ease and once on the move, the engine feels relaxed, aided by the smooth-shifting gearbox. Refinement is acceptable for a small car, but then, some road noise does filter in at higher speeds. The car simply coasts over potholes and the stiff suspension tackles speed-breakers with aplomb. Highway mannerisms are decent too, except for the occasional windblasts at high speeds that slightly ruffle the car.

The electrically-assisted steering on the Liva is something buyers will really take to because the car is quite an able city commuter. The steering is generally quite communicative, except during hard cornering when you’ll find yourself wishing that it were a tad faster. The 185/60-R15 tyres work well and hard stops will turn out to be uneventful. Overall, the Liva’s behaviour on-road, though not exciting, is safe and predictable. And while ABS with EBD does not come on the J variant, they can be fitted on the G version and come as part of standard kit on the higher V and VX variants.

FINAL VERDICT

As a city runabout, the Liva will delight its owners. Spacious interiors, good ride quality and decent levels of equipment will be appealing at this price point, but the ace up the Liva’s sleeve will be its fuel efficiency, expected to be pegged at around 18.3kpl. Toyota has once again equipped its car with quality, reliability and low ownership costs. With a price tag that starts at Rs 3.99 lakh and hits Rs 5.99 lakh tops, Toyota definitely has a winner on its hands.

spec check

toyota etios liva

Price: Rs 3.99 lakh to Rs 5.99 lakh (ex-showroom)
L/W/H: 3775/1695/ 1510mm
Engine: 4 cyls in-line, 1197cc, petrol/ front, transverse, front-wheel-drive
Power: 79bhp at 5600rpm
Torque: 10.6kgm at 3100rpm
Gearbox: Five-speed manual
Suspension (F/R): MacPherson struts/ torsion beam
Brakes (F/R): Ventilated discs/ drums

Pix: Ashley Baxter

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