Sport. Having been applied to everything from pukka high-performance machinery to the most mundane of entry-level runabouts, there’s something about this moniker that has always resonated with buyers. Whether or not the vehicle in question is actually “sporty”, the market can’t resist the status and undertones of the letters S-P-O-R-T.
And so to Toyota, which has recently put its entry-level Etios under the knife, also launching an all-new Yaris – and in the process having launched range-topping Sport derivatives of each.
I was lucky enough to have driven them back to back, which gave an indication of Toyota’s relative intentions for these two city runabouts.
Priced at R178 800, the Etios Sport is, in fact, a limited-edition model. The Etios sells more than 1 000 units per month, it certainly doesn’t need a special model to boost its market penetration. However, the appeal of the Etios Sport lies in its individuality – it’s dual-tone colour scheme combines with the gloss-black grille and door mirrors, while carbon-fibre-look panels in the front bumper and a large hatch spoiler add extra spice. Fifteen-inch alloy wheels (disappointingly, the same as those fitted to the Etios Cross version) round off the package.
Unfortunately, the interior is basic Etios – comfortable with lots of space and good-quality plastic fittings, but nothing special. Like the rest of the recently-updated range, the Etios Sport features new Optitron instrumentation with its orange backlighting and digital-sweep tachometer – very sporty, in an ’80s sort of way…
Priced R109 900 higher up (that would be R288 700), the Yaris Sport tops the range of the all-new Yaris lineup launched locally in February. Based on the Asia-spec Yaris (as opposed to previous models sold locally, which were European spec), it is immediately apparent that the new Yaris is physically bigger than the outgoing model – by 165 mm in length and 5 mm in width. The new model fits in better with the rest of the local Toyota range.
Bespoke styling elements, such as bigger front-bumper air intakes, a roof spoiler, side skirts and (stuck on) red highlights front and rear, mark this as the Sport derivative. Inside the rather roomy interior, you get large, well-bolstered, comfy leather seats with red stitching, while the rest of the design is minimal and conservative. The quality is good overall, though some elements jar … such as the “stitching” effect contouring the plastic dashboard, and the flimsy boot lining.
Both models are powered by the 2NR-FE 1,5-litre four-cylinder engine. In the Etios it produces 66 kW and 132 Nm; the Yaris offers up 13 kW and 8 Nm more. While not overly powerful, this unit feels smooth in both models. But, in the lightweight Etios it feels far more willing… While both units drive through five-speed gearboxes with positive-feeling shifts, the Yaris could’ve benefited from a six-speed unit with shorter ratios to help it rev a bit more enthusiastically and boost the feeling of sportiness…
The rest of the relative driving experiences leave drivers in no doubt that “Sport” is but a badge on the boot… Both vehicles feel benign when tossed around – the Etios exhibiting more body roll than expected through the bends, while the Yaris’s suspension setup is too floaty at the front and too firm at the rear; affecting comfort levels over bumps, too. As expected from it’s budget-car roots, the Etios is the less refined of the two when on the road and would rather not cruise at highway speeds, though that really wouldn’t put off buyers in its price bracket.
The upshot of being perhaps less sporty than expected is that both vehicles return very good fuel consumption figures. The Yaris is claimed to consume just 5,9 l/100 km on the combined cycle, the Etios only 6,0.
While Toyota is clearly of the opinion that buyers care less about how their Sport models drive and more about what they get with the name, both models come with just about all you’d expect from vehicles in their respective price brackets.
Both models offers up a driver and passenger airbag, anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, ISOFIX child-seat anchorage, remote central locking (keyless on the Yaris) with immobilisers, Bluetooth phone connectivity as wellas aux and USB input, electric windows and air-conditioning.
This is electronic on the Yaris, in which you also get automatic halogen projector headlamps; power-adjustable mirrors; LED rear lights; auto-locking doors; curtain, side and driver knee airbags; brake assist, hill-start assist and Vehicle Stability Control; and steering wheel-mounted audio controls linked to a touchscreen infotainment system with six speakers, navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and WiFi connectivity.
A notable omission to the Yaris is that of rear parking sensors.
So, do these models live up to their “Sport” monikers? Well, neither does from the point of view of offering a sporty-feeling drive… However, priced a mere R2 500 more expensive than the Sprint model, the Etios Sport offers added individuality that’s worth the outlay. It’s priced among some stiff competition, but it’s easy to see why the Etios is as popular as it is. All Etios models come with a two-year/30 000 km service plan and three-year/100 000 km warranty.
As for the Yaris Sport, it’s priced among possibly even stiffer competition; many of which offer a little more kit, better levels of quality, a better ride and, yes, more in the way of “sportiness”. Buyers would get better value and save more than R30 000 on the 1.5 Xs version, which loses out on few features that matter. Both will offer the same three-year/45 000 km service plan and three-year/100 000 km warranty.
CyberStoep rating Etios Sport: 7/10
CyberStoep rating Yaris Sport: 6/10