Review of my Toyota Etios (Model V)

It's time to write about experience of my newly purchased Toyota Etios car - as Odometer has crossed 2,000 kms. This may be called customer review also. I've tried to keep it full of points that are not mentioned on car reviews on magazine websites and online forums.

My old workhorse Indica DLE (deluxe, diesel) exceeded my expectation and served me for over 10 years, but its age started showing. Metal body started rusting at many places, though odometer showed just 54,000 kms and engine seemed to be in good shape. It was time to look for another workhorse.

I looked around for over 1 year; and selected Toyota Etios. Main reason for this selection was brand name synonymous with reliability, good space and good price. In fact, when it was launched I had taken a test drive and I had given up on it because of excessive noise and vibration on the road. Even various review confirmed same. I wanted a 4m long sedan with good space with minimum fuss car - at a reasonable price. I took test drive of various cars but no car was fitting in my expectation. So, when Etios Diesel was launched, I decided to get test drive. And I found it to be quite good and quiet car. Clearly, Toyota had taken steps to reduce noise and vibration. But, eventually I bought Petrol version because there was a price difference of almost Rs.2 lakh and simple back of the envelope calculation tipped the balance in favour of Petrol.

So, I started talking to Toyota dealers. During the course of discussions, I found that almost all sales executives feigned ignorance about the idea of Pre-Delivery Inspection (PDI) of the car. BTW, it's a good practice to check the car in the dealer's yard before it is registered in customers name with RTO and delivered. But for some unknown reason, all of them resisted all my attempts to get it. One dealer took the order with 50,000 advance and then refused PDI later. In fact, salesman got fired for his mistake of promising PDI! After much argument dealer agreed to give a letter confirming that if anything wrong is found at the time of delivery they would take the car back. But, I found that promise little risky and I cancelled the order and asked for refund. After much follow-ups and complaint to Toyota, refund cheque came after 15 days instead of usual 7 days.

Then I placed the order with Wasan, as it had a Sept 2011 car in ready stock in beige color. Once again issue of PDI cropped up - although it was agreed with the salesman. Upon my much insistence they got the car at their Vashi office. I went there, checked the car with the help of PDI check-list and made balance payment. Car came in four days after the promised delivery date. One of the ordered item viz., Side Visor was not in stock and I was advised to come back in few days.

Car came with 2 keys and 1 wireless remote. Remote is not integral part of the key. I find it useful because I give only remote key to the person who cleans my car! He can't start the car. That's good. Isn't it? One useful feature of the key is that it has a built-in transponder chip that prevent the engine from starting if a key has not been previously registered in the car's on-board computer. So, one can't start the car using a duplicate or any other car's key. It is called Engine Immobilizer system.

It is almost compulsory to order certain Toyota Genuine Accessories along with the car. I decided to go for Rubber Floor Mat instead of usual Fabric one - as it it easier to clean rubber than fabric. Fabric looked like as it will keep the dirt captured in it. Also I decided to not to go for Rear Door Lid Garnish - as seemed to me waste of 1,350. It is just a plastic decoration giving illusion of stainless steel.

Also, I ordered Tyvek Car Cover instead of usual Silver Car Cover made of plastic. Tyvek is a very strong and light weight fabric material developed by DuPont. I bought it because in my society's underground parking there is a water leakage from the ceiling during monsoon. But I found it difficult to put on the car cover with a strap to be put from bottom of the car and remove it everyday. One may break the Antenna on top of the car. Also, there is a possibility that car cover may get stolen. I simply started parking it at a place where there is no water leakage during the monsoon. So, car cover does not seem useful.

I did not order any other accessory like Sun Film or Under body Anti Rust treatment - as I found out that it is not required for my usage. Even my old Indica had not developed any rust on the under body even after 10 years! In hindsight, I find that decision to not to go for Sun Film was a good one because now Supreme Court has banned usage of Sun Films on cars. I wonder why it did not ban sale of Sun Films!

Car came with Toyota Protect with add-on Insurance from ICICI Lombard. Add-on covers Depreciation Waiver and Personal Belongings up to 10,000. It has 3 years or 1,00,000 km warranty. It has 3 free services. First at 1,000 km or 1 month, Second at 10,000 km or 1 year and Third at 20,000 km or 2 year. I have learnt from user forums that cost of consumables during free services is negligible i.e., 1k-2k.

I've used it now for about 6 months, driven it for 2,000 km, mostly in city with average of about 8 km per liter. I've learnt from few Team-bhp Forums that its ECM (Engine Control Module) is set to give better mileage after 3,000 km. Let's see, if this is true. But really it does not matter much because I don't drive much.

Less features than even my old Indica
A quick comparison tells me that Etios has less features than even my old Indica! Really? Yes. To start with my Indica had Autocop system, which I had bought along with the car. It would automatically lock all four doors when car started; and it would unlock them when car stopped. I miss this feature on my new Etios. Indica had reverse horn - which is useful for parking at my office's parking slot. I miss that too on this car. Third, during night time when head-lights are switched 'on' - on instrument cluster I don't see any indication of same. Of course, indicator is there for High-beam, Front Fog light and Turn Signal. In Indica, there were two indicators for head-lights. Fourth, there is no Time display on Instrument Cluster. Time display is on Audio System Panel. But I wonder what happens to 'G' model where Audio System is not there. In Indica it was right there in the centre below windscreen with switches to set time. Fifth, on new Etios I can't open co-passenger side door with a key because it does not have lock on passenger side. Sixth, front passenger side Glove Box does not have a lock. It just opens with a knob. In my old Indica, it could be opened only using a key. Seven, it does not have any anti-theft warning system. It was part of Autocop system I had purchased. I hope in future versions Toyota will take care to provide this simple but necessary features.

It has many features which are standard on any C class sedan viz., two front airbags, ABS with EBD, 15" Alloy Wheels with tubeless tyres, Rear glass defogger, Front side fog lamps, Power Steering, Tilt-adjusted steering wheel, Power Windows and of course 1495 cc, 90ps Petrol Engine, good leg and boot space, no hump on the back side - so that middle passenger can seat well, CD player with Radio, USB and Aux plugs, Tyvek car cover.

In comparison with Tata Manza features, it is a plain Jane. Main reason for choosing it was reliability. My old car, though was a good car, had many small quality issues e.g., once in middle of road while driving, the clutch just broke. Since I was going slow at about 10km speed on a upward slope - car just stopped. It turned out that a steel plate had snapped. I learnt that it was a regular problem with all Indica; and Tata never acknowledged this problem. Of course, I had liked the fact that Tata Motors offered to fit their V2 Upgrade Kit worth about 22,000/- free of charge to all Indica-V1 customers. But, they did not advertise or cared to inform customers on their mailing list. I learnt about it from a news report and got it fitted. But as a owner of old version, I expected Tata Motors to inform me about it. Tata Motors saved some money but was it worth? I'm not sure.

Good about the Car
Any way, back to Etios, it has good drive ability. Its steering wheel has good feedback and very smooth gear shift. But, reverse gear shift is hard and takes some time to get used to it. This fact is almost admitted in the user manual as well! My old Indica had much better reverse gear shift. Its rear-view mirror has option for glare-free operation.

Its air conditioner is very powerful and I usually keep it on 1 or 2 max. Air-flow is good and back seat passengers feel very comfortable.  It is able to keep Glove compartment cool by providing an opening; which can be kept closed also - if you don't want cooling. Car has enough number of cup and bottle holders.

Its braking is good and I got a chance to to test ABS with EBD once. It worked i.e., it gave few unnerving sounds with some vibrations and brake was applied with regular efficiency. I learnt that ABS with EBD does NOT make the car stop faster but it keeps the vehicle on the straight path, without going left or right. In fact, I learnt from the manual that car takes slightly more time to stop! So, car drivers need to be careful to brake little early when ABS is there.

Luggage space lights up automatically when door is opened. Space is really good. It was very useful when my brother came with 5 big and 3 small airline size bags. We could accommodate 4 big bags and 1 small bag in the boot; and rest on the backside seat. We drove home 3 adults, 2 kids and all the luggage.

Spare tyre in boot is sadly regular type i.e., non-alloy. Next to the spare tyre there is lot of empty space - where I keep my tiffin snugly. Also, notice the light blue colored thick mat/cushion to reduce vibration on right hand side. It is missing on left hand side. I asked the dealer, they checked another Etios in their workshop and said that also does not have it. So, it must be by design! Wow.

Instrument Cluster
It is located on the centre, instead of usual driver side - behind the steering wheel position. It takes few days to getting used to. Feature wise it is very very basic i.e., there is no Display Information System (DIS) found on other sedans. But, its color scheme is brilliant and looks very nice during night time. I sorely miss Distance to Empty feature. It was rumored that 2012 model will have it but it did not.

Its Odometer doubles as Trip Meter. It has 2 simple trip meters. On the same LCD, Fuel gauge Indicator has 8 digital bars. I find old analog meter on Indica better because it would give me much better idea of remaining fuel! Also, I notice that when meter is on last bar, it starts blinking automatically i.e., low fuel level warning; and I find it un-nerving. Why? Because Etios has 45 liter Petrol tank; so when last bar blinks it means that at least 5.6 liter petrol is there. And I could drive minimum 45 km before it becomes empty. But, still I feel that this digital bar is not showing correctly. Reason is that whenever I fill tank takes about 35-36 liters before it becomes full. I usually drive for about 5-10 km after the low fuel warning. So, I feel that either digital fuel meter is not showing readings linearly or there is a reserve capacity of about 4-5 liter in the last bar.

I just read in the manual that low fuel warning means approximately 6.8 liter petrol is remaining. Does it mean, scale is not linear or that reserve capacity is 1.2 liter? I would like to hear about this from readers.

Time of the Day Setting
I noticed that time shown on the audio panel was not correct. I tried to locate a way to change it in the manual, in online car forums etc. I called up Toyota helpline but they could not help. Finally after much trial and error I found that Press of 'DISP' button and holding it for few seconds - allows change of time. One has to press FFD or FRev to increase or decrease Hour/Min. Etios Owner's Manual has devoted 65 pages on Audio System but fails to explain such simple basic setting.

Ground Clearance
Etios has ground clearance of 170 mm against Indica's 165 mm. But, I find that it scraps the ground when driven over certain speed breakers - unless my speed is very low say 10-20 km/hr. It is bit surprising. Also, I notice that while waiting at signal, if some pedestrian touches it with slight force i.e., say he hits the car while walking fast, I can easily feel the hit with a sound. I had never felt this with Indica. I am assured by Toyota dealer that Etios is a sturdy car and it managed to survive occupants even when it fell down a bridge. I hope this is true.

There is a flimsy looking antenna meant for capturing radio signals on the built-in CD player. It is so flimsy that it broke when it was hit a little by low hanging shrubs near my office parking! Of course, antenna is working well even with whatever is left behind.So, may be, Toyota can save some money by getting rid of long hanging portion of the antenna!

Head-light Leveling Dial (Knob)
I noticed few problems with build quality. First, there is problem with adjustment of a dial that allows the driver to set the level of the head-lights. Manual says that it should be kept position 0 to 3 depending on number of passengers and presence of luggage in the boot area. I noticed that although I kept it on 0 after some time say few hours, it would automatically slip down to 2 or 2.5. I reported this problem during first service. But, dealer did not set it right saying this problem is with all cars and they have to open the entire dash board, taking up 3 to 4 hours. So, I should visit them once again after taking appointment.

Later I learnt  that this problem is there in many cars. Any way, upon my insistence, dealer collected the car from my place and returned it back in the evening. After repairing, dial has stopped slipping down to 2. But, after 1 or 2 days it slips to 1 - which is a setting meant for all seats occupied with no luggage! It's an example of bad quality item, which Toyota will not accept publicly.

Hose Pipe Issue and Fuel Efficiency of Car
One side talk here. Contrary to my expectation and "Q" standard of 1 hour service advertised by Toyota, when I reached for my first service at appointed time, dealer made me wait for 1 hour before they took my car for servicing. And it took them almost 3 hours for the first service. Of course, I had asked them to check if my Sept 2011 car had Petrol Hose Pipe Problem that was reported in Etios Petrol cars manufactured prior to 8th Oct 2011. Dealer told me that checked the database and did not find my car's VIN (Vehicle Information Number - a unique number assigned by each car mfg to every car). Details on how this issue is resolved by Toyota dealers can be found here.

Since my car was supposed to be manufactured in Sept 2011 (as per VIN - because among other things VIN tells month and year of mfg) - which is prior to Oct 2011 - I thought it is wise to double check it. Dealer told me that they did check and found the newer hose pipe. I believe them. They tried to explain this anomaly by reasoning that although VIN says it was mfg in Sept 2011 it was delivered to them in Dec 2011! They even told me to show their purchase invoice, but eventually they did not. It seems that in older cars due to this faulty hose pipe, fuel efficiency (FE) was low. Since my car is still giving 8 kmpl I still suspect that their claim may not be true. So, I requested for fuel efficiency check during first service. Dealer told me that I will have to visit them again, as concerned person was absent that day. I have yet not found time to take this test yet. But, I seriously look forward to FE of about 11-12 within city and 14-16 on highways - as reported in some user forums.

Toyota Genuine Accessories (TGA) and Parts
I notice that there is no transparency regarding pricing of Toyota Genuine Accessories and Parts. Each dealer quotes different prices, that too verbally and most of time fails to mention taxes and fitting charges. It's only when asked they give details of tax & fitting charges - again verbally. When I insisted on getting a written quote, I got a hand written quote on a plain paper without date. See attached scanned copy. Date which you see there is written by me, for my reference.

It is time that Toyota puts list of entire TGA and parts on their website complete with photograph, description and suggested retail price, along with suggested fitting charges (if any).

Back Side Seat's Plastic Lock
During first service, I checked with Wasan Toyota about Price and availability of TGA - Fabric Seat Covers. They said it costs about 3,200/- and is not available. They could not even tell a time frame by which it was expected. So, I searched around a lot and found that almost everyone was offering Artificial Leather seat covers. Finally I found that one party - Elegant Auto is offering Fabric seat covers. After some follow-up with them I purchased it from their Authorized distributor in Mumbai at about Rs.3,000/- They agreed to fit it free of charge at my place. I personally supervised the fitting and saw to it that he does it properly.
But, to my surprise, after about 6 weeks; my son who was sitting on the back side informed me that he heard some cracking sound once. I did not pay much attention. But, after 1 week when our family was heading towards Juhu they noticed that back side seat base was slightly loose and swiveling.

So, I decided to get it checked through the dealer because any way car was needed to be sent for repairing the Head-light Levelling Dial. Upon checking, dealer called me on phone to say that Plastic lock had broken. They told me that it was outside warranty because I had got seat covers fitted from un-authorised source. They said plastic lock was not available separately as it is integral part of seat base - I will have to purchase entire backside seat. They sent out a hand written quotation on an ordinary plain paper for Rs.8,000/-
I contacted customer care on Toyota Kirloskar's toll free helpline. One lady came on line and asked me if I have fitted seat covers from a third party. When I said 'yes'. She said I'll have to purchase new seat from the dealer. When I tried to reason with her, she said some expert person will call me but no one called up.
So, I contacted Mumbai office of Kirloskar Toyota. Customer care executive was very patient and listened to my story. I shared photograph of the broken plastic lock and hand-written quote given by the dealer. He confirmed that I'll have to purchase new seat but because TGA Fabric seat cover was not available and no time frame could be given; and also for the fact that dealer did not give proper quote; as a special case he would ask Wasan Toyota to offer 50% discount on the cost of back-side seat

Also, this person told me that they have received several complaints for the backside seats. And he claimed that each time it was due to seat cover fitted by un-skilled technicians. I told him that this fact conclusively points to a possibility that plastic lock is of sub-standard quality and/or non-Toyota trained mechanic are breaking the lock during removal/fitment of the seat. Assuming non-Toyota mechanic has not broken it; then also a possibility remains that it may break during removal/fitment of seat because of a manufacturing defect. Because in-spite of best manufacturing facility there is always a possibility that one plastic part would break out of 10,000 manufactured. One simply can't rule out this possibility saying non-Toyota mechanic had mis-handled it.

So, when I insisted on knowing exact reason for their not giving free seat replacement within the standard warranty, he asked Wasan Toyota people to make a visit. Wasan Toyota technician came and asked me what happened, removed the seat and took few photographs. Note that they did not show me or explain to me how plastic lock could have broken. They just found out what had happened. While leaving, they said they will share the photograph and their view of the situation with Kirloskar Toyota Motors (KTM).
After that even after my many reminders KTM did not care to tell me their finding, photographs and their opinion.
I'm surprised that in spite my many explanations, KTM failed to take note of following:
 1. Plastic lock had NOT broken during fitting of the seat cover, as I had personally supervised the operation.
 2. It broke only after about 2 months or so, during routine usage of the car.
 3. So, it can't be construed by any stretch of imagination that it broke due to mis-handling by a local vendor. Here it should be noted that car cover was fitted by a very reputed vendor's authorised distributor.
4. Since same complaint was found with many cars there is a possibility that this part's design or manufacturing quality is poor..
5. Seat is the simplest part of the car. And seat cover is simplest of all parts that goes in to making a car. Toyota claims that a fact of fitting a simplest of the simple part viz., seat cover from a outside vendor voids the warranty of the car seat? I argued with KTM - whether they or their dealer help the customer in fitting a seat cover that he has purchased from a third party? Their answer was no.

In such situation, what option is available to the customer so that he does not void the warranty? One can say that there is no option but to wait and purchase Toyota Genuine Accessories and get them fitted by authorised dealers. Does this not look ridiculous argument for something like a seat cover? This to me looks to be perfect case of pushing monopolistic trade practices. It may be fit case for 'Competition Commission of India'.
In contrast to this, when I purchased a Asus laptop in USA, I got the additional RAM fitted in it from their authorised service centre in India, without any cost. They do this free of charge so that laptop remains in warranty! Why can't Toyota follow similar practice?

I asked KTM to share photograph that were taken by Wasan Toyota and let a competent person explain to me, how this plastic lock could break 2 months after seat cover was fitted, due to poor workman ship.
I found that KTM people could not give single convincing answer to me as to how this happened and why they are you refusing to give me free of charge replacement under their standard 3 year warranty.

Suppose my car's door handle breaks tomorrow then ..
I started wondering - suppose my car's door handle breaks while opening the door then Toyota may ask me: "Is your car opened by anyone else?" I say - "Yes, it is opened by a person who daily cleans my car." And Toyota would say:  "Oh handle broke because it was mishandled by the person who cleans your car. That is not covered under the standard warranty; and we don't sell replacement handle because it is integral part of the door. Please change the entire door." I really shudder to think of such possibilities.
Any way, I asked KTM Mumbai's local person for contact details of his superior. He just kept on dodging reply by saying I should contact dealer for further details. Finally I told him that I will take up this with his higher management directly.

And after some effort on Linkedin I managed to get connected to a KTM manager - who is involved in Customer Care. I wrote a mail saying I'm a customer and would like to point out that there is no Complaint Escalation Mechanism at KTM. Is it by design or bad implementation?

And same evening, I got a call from dealer saying - due their efforts Toyota has agreed to give replacement seat free of charge. When it reaches their workshop, they will inform me.

In the mean time, I got a mail reply from this manager wanting to know details of my experience. What do I do? I'm not sure. May be I will share the details of emails or may be I will ask him to read this blog. May be I will do both.

Phew! Happy ending? May be.

In India, getting even a small thing done takes herculean efforts. Hope things will change with more and more people expressing their mind without any hesitation.

Update (30-Oct-2012)
On 19th Oct I went to Wasan Toyota for the seat replacement at 10.30 am (appointment time). After 40 min of wait I could tell them why I was there; and showed them the broken seat. After some internal consultation they asked me to wait. After waiting for about 1 hour I asked around for status. Concerned Service Engineer was not on desk, some one found out my job card and handed over me the copy. It said delivery time 1 pm. At 1 pm I was told it will take some more time.

So I finished lunch that I had brought with me, in their lunch room. Around 2.30 I went out near my car and found that something was being discussed among the dealership people. I joined in. Gist of the discussion was that it will take another 2 to 3 hours to complete the job. I told them that I am not prepared for such a long wait. They agreed to drop me at my office in their car; and deliver my car in the evening at my office. I accepted the offer and car was delivered to me around 6.30 pm. 

When I checked the back-side seat I found seat belt and three buckles were missing. After some checking car driver found them buried below the newly fitted seat! He pulled them out one by one by inserting his hand in the gap between the seat base and back! Well, do I have to say anything? This kind of incomplete work is very common in India. But I was not expecting it from a Authorized Toyota dealer.

After about 11 days, I got a call from Bloomberg UTV channel - Fight Back show, asking me if my complaint with Toyota was resolved to my satisfaction. I thought for a while; and remembered that I had marked copy of last few mails to Fight Back. But, I never heard anything from them. Any way, they told me that it was because of their effort that Toyota resolved the issue! Good. When I asked them for a proof they said they can't share it. Any way, it does not matter to me; whether I got the problem solved because of my efforts or with Fight Back's help. They took a short telephonic interview for few minutes about the incident. They may air it on their Fight Back TV show, which is usually telecast on Sat 7 pm and Sun 6 pm. Even some recorded episodes and user comments are on their website. It's a useful program and I watch it sometimes.

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