There’s a serious question to be answered before you hunt down a new Toyota Etios 1.5 Xs – would you be content with the standard model... or would you prefer the armour-plated Cross version for a premium of R23 000?That, by my math, is a 16% upshift in price for what is, essentially, almost exactly the same car. They both come from a Toyota plant in India; each has the same 1.5-litre, quad-valve, four-cylinder, 66kW / 132Nm engine and five-speed manual gearbox; the cabins are the same except for embroidered seats in the Cross and a piano-black centre-facia finish.And no, it's not all-wheel drive or even bush-ready.BRILLIANTLY ETHNIC JOZIOh yeah, and the Cross’s armour comes with a load-capable pair of roof-rails and larger (alloy) wheels to give the whole package a rugged 4x4 look – which, to be fair, Toyota frankly admits is, certainly not the case. It also lifts the bodywork by a couple of centimetres.IMAGE GALLERY: 2014 Toyota Etios Cross The Etios Cross 1.5 Xs, launched this week (July 15 2014) in the traffic-rich, somewhat decaying yet brilliantly ethnic melting pot of central Johannesburg, is intended to be a youthful answer to the regrettably lookalike, er, look of small cars of the Noughties.The ‘plating’, of course, if thick plastic and is intended to repel car-park dings rather than hollow-points and thorns and its layered along each of the four doors and over the top of the wheel arches.Up front it continues around beneath the radiator grille and has some reinforcement from an A-shaped plastic bar reminiscent of a Toyota Hilux bakkie while more cladding protects the lower section of the tail hatch.An aerofoil hangs like an eyebrow over the rear window and up front the headlights have a treatment to distinguish them from the unarmoured model.WHAT'S FOR THE MONEY?Frankly, you’ll either laugh at it or love the car, rather like a puppy. My daughter, who’s 22, said ‘Want one!’ when she saw the pictures but then she says that about most things these days. Which reaction from the younger set is probably what Toyota is banking on with its projection of 120 sales a month in South Africa.For the record, the standard 1.5 Xs hatch costs R136 800, the Cross 1.5 Xs hatch R159 800, so the target market is the slightly better-paid younger set.So what else, exactly, do you get for that extra money? Well, here’s what Glenn Crompton, Toyota SA’s marketing boss, says: “The Etios delivers exactly what customers want – car-like efficiency and typical crossover styling traits at an affordable price.“It marks our entry into yet another category in the diverse and fast-growing sub-B segment of the car market. The Etios family now comprises a sedan, a hatch, and now the youthfully rugged Cross. Naturally it also comes with the globally renowned promise of Toyota’s quality, durability and reliability.”ENJOYED THE DRIVEFact is, the Etios range replaces the venerable hatchback Toyota Tazz after a production break of seven years or so; and the Tazz was itself a local continuation of the previous Corolla range.Buyers will like the 1.5 engine. It’s good for 100km/h in 11.3sec and general fuel-consumption of six litres/100km, its maker says, and is plenty powerful for the rarified Highveld air. I drove it all over central Jozi from OR Tambo and put in more than 100km in Mining Country around Springs during the one-day launch and, frankly, enjoyed the drive.The car has enough punch to keep a young driver satisfied and he or she will not, of course, have any trouble finding it in a car park.Here’s how Toyota SA sees the Etios Cross: “Thanks to a raft of body and cabin modifications and embellishments, the new Etios Cross allows buyers to tap-in to the tough image of an SUV without incurring the cost.“With the focus firmly on practicality and efficiency, the Cross is just as user-friendly as its standard brethren but with the added robust appeal of a crossover.” AMOURED OF ARMOUR?It’s based on the Etios Xs hatch, so already has electric power steering , aircon, four power windows, rear window demister and wiper, audio system with USB and auxiliary ports, fog lights (which on the Cross come oversized with integrated indicators), remote-controlled central locking, anti-lock brakes, two front airbags and an immobiliser and (sweet) just one very large front wiper.The Cross adds the aforementioned plastic armour, revised headlight clusters, re-designed external mirrors with turn indicators, front and rear scrape plates (just in case you decide to venture marginally off the tar), the roof rails that can handle 50kg and a very nice set of 15” alloy rims described as “diamond cut”.Six body colours are available – two of them (a vivid orange and grey metallic) exclusive to the Etios Cross.The cabin, apart from the ‘Etios Cross’ embroidered seating, gets the standard audio but adds Bluetooth capability and a piano-black surface. Chromed detailing outlines the air vents.'I LIKED IT - SO THERE!'Overall, a fun package that, despite misgivings about the ruff ‘n tuff faux off-road appearance and swearing not to like it, well, I did. So there.Here’s the full list of Toyota Etios prices (which include a two-year or 30 000km service plan and VAT)Etios 1.5 Xi Hatch (with aircon) - R127 800Etios 1.5 Xs Hatch - R136 800Etios 1.5 Xi Sedan - R134 500Etios 1.5 Xs Sedan - R143 000Etios Cross 1.5 - R159 800For more on the Toyota Etios range and other Toyota products, visit their South African website.