"We just cannot keep up". That's one of the most common answers manufacturers give us when quizzed on diesel car demand. It's come to the point where some manufacturers are forced into trying to convert some of their diesel customers to petrol variants despite the fact the oil burners are far more profitable. That pretty much sums up the huge demand for diesel vehicles which has prompted Toyota to offer a budget diesel product in the new Etios Liva diesel.
Keeping up appearances
The diesel Liva is a dead ringer for the petrol and only the keen eyed anoraks would spot the differences. Take the grille for instance. It's the same unit but just that the diesels get a body coloured piece sans the chrome strip. Squint a little more and you'd notice the lack of front fog lamps. The other significant change is the 14 inch steel wheels that are an inch down on the 15 inch alloys on the top of the line petrol.
What's it like inside?
The interiors are fairly fresh with an all black theme. The dash and door plastics are a dark grey while the seats are now black. The steering isn't the flat bottom affair from the petrol that we happen to rather like. Nevertheless it's a nicely designed unit that feels great to spin between the hands. There are downsides though, like the glaring omission of both a stereo and a rev counter. Apart from that it's the standard Etios/Liva fare with acres of room in the cabin and boot
The big change
The engine is a reworked version of the 88PS D-4D unit from the Corolla Altis. The variable geometry turbo from the Altis has been swapped for a fixed geometry unit to keep costs to a minimum. Resultant power output is 68PS at 3800rpm while there's 170Nm of torque. Toyota is particularly proud of the flat torque curve of the engine with max torque available from 1800 to 2400rpm. But what they're really kicked about is the mileage figure of 23.59. Which happens to be one of the highest in the segment. And more importantly 1kmpl more than the new Swift diesel.
The engine delivers its power in a very linear fashion and there's neither much lag nor a strong kick from the turbo. The Liva isn't much of a speed demon but she's more than happy pottering around at slower speeds. The even spread of power and short travel clutch make the Liva diesel an easy car to drive in city. The engine does however struggle at higher revs and could've done with a bit more poke up top. NVH levels are surprisingly high as well and far too much engine noise filters into the cabin for our liking.
What's it like to drive?
The test route chalked out for us at the launch event was a smooth 13km stretch of winding road. Now 68PS doesn't sound like much and we weren't surprised to find the Liva has to be manhandled to things really moving. You have to work the 5 speed manual to extract the most from the engine. That's when you realize the shift action while short is rather notchy, not as smooth as the petrol. There's also significant body roll when hustled through the corners. The petrol Liva rolls around as well but the added 60kgs of engine weight hasn't done any favours to the already soft front end. Ride quality though is still as comfy as the petrol.
The tentative final word
Space, comfort and driveability were the company's primary targets with the Liva. In that respect the car is spot on. But is that enough? Is the car good enough to take on its rivals, especially the excellent new Swift? Only time (and the October issue of OVERDRIVE) will