The TRD Sportivo version was launched to inject some zest into the rather sedate image of Toyota Liva. While the regular petrol variants have a 1.2 litre engine churning out 79 bhp, this one comes with a bigger 1.5 litre powertrain that generates 89 bhp. The torque is up from 10.6 kgm to 13.4 kgm. As Liva is simply the hatchback version of the Etios, the Sportivo variant gets the same unit that powers Toyota’s C segment sedan. And this was a simple work for the Japanese carmaker considering the mechanically similar nature of the two siblings.
Skoda also has a special, more powerful version of its petrol Fabia – the one with 1.6 litre engine generating 105 bhp. Understandably, it is tad more expensive than Toyota’s hatch but the two will be viewed as close competitors in this “exclusive version” category as Volkswagen’s Polo 1.6 has already been discontinued.
Let’s delve into the features that have been added to differentiate the Liva TRD Sportivo from the rest of its siblings. We also get a taste of the performance of Etios saloon’s 1.5 litre petrol engine in a hatchback car.
The Outside Impression
Most people looked at Liva as a better looking car than the sedan Etios. It has balanced proportions, very conventional styling, and the clean design lines do not offend anyone. And so the Sportivo also carries on with the body shell of the regular Liva but has sportier looking front bumper with curvy edges on its sides. The dollop of chrome from the first slat of the grille has gone but you will see a chrome lining on the second slat. There is no change in conventional headlamps and the air dam is also the same. It’s disappointing to see that Toyota does not provide a vital feature – the front fog lamps - as standard on this version of the car. The round cut-outs without the lights look odd. On the regular Liva, front fog lamps are standard with the top two trims (V and VSP). The hatch continues to have a single wiper that has large sweep to clean the entire windscreen.
The clean and conventional design of the Liva is best reflected when it is viewed from sides. TRD Sportivo gets roof rails as another mark of differentiation from the regular car and it also has more pronounced side skirts. It uses 15 inch, 12-spoke alloy wheels with 185/60 R15 tyres. The flap type door handles look rather dated. Toyota has done good to remove the tacky decals that were seen on the limited edition TRD version of 1.2 litre engine Liva. While the outside rear view mirrors (ORVMs) have been styled differently for the updated 2013 hatch, the TRD variant comes without integrated side turn indicators.
Moving over to the rear you will see that the thick chrome strips on the tailgate is missing here and so the TRD looks more sober than the usual Liva. The tail lights were revised for the facelifted Liva launched in 2013 and the TRD carries on with those new units. The faux diffuser with the rear bumper looks nice. There’s TRD Sportivo moniker on the right side of tailgate to give this Liva its special identity. You also get small TRD badges on the front bumper, on the side skirts and on the rear bumper.
Liva TRD Sportivo has the same colour palette as the Liva with 1.2 litre engine and so you have 7 subtle and vibrant shades to choose from.
The Inside Story
Unlike the beige interiors of the regular Liva, the TRD Sportivo has black and grey combination for its cabin. The instrument panel located in the middle of the dashboard is in black and blue colours now – the update that came with the 2013 facelift of Liva. What’s more, this blue shade stands out more sharply in the black and grey colour theme of the cabin than in the beige of the regular hatch. As for the angle of this cluster, the speedometer can be read from the driving position but the rev counter is not very easy to check. The gear knob has sleek silver finish.
The chunky three-spoke steering wheel is nice to grip and has well carved space holders for your thumb. There are no steering mounted audio controls. Blending well with the cabin design is the 2 DIN audio system that features CD player, Bluetooth and has Aux and USB connectivity. There are 4 speakers all of which are in front: 2 on the doors and 2 as tweeters on the dashboard. A little remote control is provided with this unit and so it can be operated from the rear seat. For the AC vents in Liva Sportivo, Toyota has given a glossy black surround and not the usual chrome rings. And although it is not automatic climate control, the AC works quite well. In the safety features list, there are airbags for driver and co-driver, and anti-lock braking with electronic brake force distribution.
Quality of seats has improved in the 2013 Livas - they have thicker cushioning and offer better back support. The height adjustment feature for the driver’s seat deserves praise and even very short drivers will not have any visibility issues. ‘TRD Sportivo’ is embroidered on all the seats and they have adjustable neck restraints. Toyota Liva has a wheelbase of 2460 mm as compared to Etios’ 2550 mm but the rear legroom is adequate and because the floor hump height is minimal, there is proper space for three people to sit at the back. The boot of this car has a volume of 251 litres. You can fold down the rear seat to accommodate more luggage but it does not offer split-fold convenience.
The Real Talking Points - Engine, Gearbox and Performance
TRD Sportivo shares its 1.5 litre, 16V, 4 cylinder petrol engine with the Etios saloon. It is tuned for 89 bhp at 5600 rpm and 11.88 kgm of torque at 3000 rpm. The power to weight ratio is 86 bhp/tonne which is better than most other petrol hatchbacks. It is interesting to note that with regards to kerb weight, the Sportivo 1.5 litre is 5 kg heavier than base variant of Etios.
Fire up the engine and you will notice that it settles into a pretty quiet idle. And then the pure driveability on offer pleases as the car makes progress on roads. You will like the delivery of torque that starts from low rpms. Liva TRD Sportivo picks up from crawling speed in second gear and from as low as 20 km/hour in the third gear. Indeed the second and third gears can be used through city traffic to drive the car like an automatic. The 1.5 litre engine also helps you to get away from speed breakers in second gear while most other cars do need a downshift to the first in similar situations. Also, you can shift into 5th gear at just over 50 km/hour and there are no complaints from the motor.
It is on the less crowded highways that this more powerful version of the hatch feels better to use. The acceleration is pleasing and makes it a very fast petrol car. It responds sharply to your throttle inputs. Liva Sportivo takes 4.79 seconds to go from 0 to 60 km/hour and 11.88 seconds for 0 to 100 km/hour. The mid-range has a punch and adds to the ease of overtaking in a jiffy. But this is not a high-revving engine like the ones in Hyundai i10 and Honda Brio. The rev-limiter cuts in at just 5900 rpm! On the highway at 100 km/hour, the needle on tacho hovers just below 3000 rpm. Also, the engine does not feel refined at speed and is very audible even in 2500-3000 rpm zone. However, there is noticeable improvement in the NVH factor of 2013 Liva as a whole when compared to the old (2011) model.
The 5 speed manual gearbox is sleek to use. It has appreciable shift quality, gates are well defined and throw is good. Liva Sportivo’s (and Liva regular’s) 5th gear is not very tall. As a matter of fact, all of the gear ratios are seemingly tuned short for effortless driveability in the city. The clutch has an uncommonly short travel and is easy to operate. It is practically light and this too makes the process of shifting gears a simple job.
The Ride and Handling Story
Liva’s suspension kit comprises MacPherson struts for front and torsion beam at rear. It is well calibrated without being either too soft or too stiff. And therefore the ride quality is compliant in the city even on rougher patches of the roads. The Toyota hatchback rides quite flat on the highways too and this keeps all the occupants adequately comfortable at different speeds.
The road behaviour is neutral and there are no nasty surprises. Grip levels are fairly good by Toyota’s (more familiar) standards – the 185/60 R15 tyres also deserve some credit in this regard. Liva TRD Sportivo 1.5 does not lose its composure when pushed hard into a corner. The body roll is also well in control.
In terms of handling it may feel fine on a stand-alone basis, but lags behind a Fiat Punto Evo which is also a better corner carver. The electric power steering wheel has a turning radius of 4.8 metres and it is easy to use at parking speed. Ambling in the city is also simple. But the unit does not weigh up sufficiently with increase in speed and that disappoints the driving enthusiasts on the expressways. It calls for a firm grip and reacts to slightest of inputs. There is no feedback at all. You may have to roll down your windows every time you want to check what the front tyres are actually up to! The working of ABS + EBD optimised braking meets expectations. The pedal has predictable behaviour and can be modulated easily.
The ARAI rated fuel efficiency of Liva TRD Sportivo is 16.78 km/litre. In the real world that translates into 11 km/litre in the city to 14.5 km/litre on the highways.
In this special 1.5 litre engine edition of the Etios based Liva, the good traits of the sedan have been more significantly transferred on to the hatchback. Certainly, the TRD Sportivo with extra power under its hood feels better to drive than the 1.2 litre engine variant. The ample cabin space coupled with effortless driveability in the city makes it a pragmatic small family car. What the Liva hatch (in general) needs improvement on is the quality of materials in its cabin and more feedback from the dead steering. Also, considering the price of Rs 6.57 lakhs (ex showroom, Delhi), which is just about Rs. 50,000 less than the top end trim of Etios Petrol sedan, we expected little more equipment in this version.
Value for Money: 3/5