Affordability, fun to drive and spaciousness were just three of the qualities Toyota fans came to love about the Toyota Tazz. Its discontinuation in 2006 left a big gap in the budget hatchback market which rivals were all too happy to fill.The Etios is a sort-of replacement; the Yaris, has become expensive so what was needed from Toyota was a new ethos based on budget-friendly cars. So, at last, here’s the Etios, all set to pick up the mantle dropped by the Tazz and take on the pretenders with its versatility, space - and price.'BIG SHOES TO FILL'Why not have simply brought back the Tazz? Toyota says that while the name certainly “carries a lot of weight, the brand was looking for something new, fresh, not just a redesigned model”.Calvyn Hamman, senior vice-president of Toyota SA sales and marketing, says the Etios is “an affordable, value-for-money vehicle. After all, the Tazz left us with very big shoes to fill”.Toyota Etios image gallery.The Etios was launched this week as a sedan or hatch in Xi or more high-end XS specification at prices dangerous to rivals, friendly to buyers: the hatchback retails from R115 800 - R120 900, the sedan from R121 800 to R126 600.The cars are worth a second look just for their price but can they hold a candle to their now well-established rivals? We’d vote a resounding yes.DESIGNThe Etios is unlike any other model in the Toyota stable, save for a touch of Corolla that’s had a little liposuction, but are their touches of its competitors? The grille assembly “smiles” and is accented by a large chromed strip but the bonnet creases suggest new Honda Ballade and the overall shape is reminiscent of Renault’s Logan.At the rear it’s fairly pedestrian yet sets itself apart from other Toyotas. I like the look of the sedan’s rear - it doesn’t have that “bolted-on as an afterthought” look that aesthetically sabotages some of its rivals.Both Xi and XS variants ride on 14” steel rims shod with 175/65 tyres but the higher-specced XS models get fog lights, body-colour external mirrors and chromed elements.Overall the Etios is not exactly a head-turner but the cars have enough character to hold their own against their dated rivals. If you’re not sold on their looks then step inside because that’s where they really shine.DRIVINGPowering the Etios is a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine capable of 66kW at 5600rpm and 132Nm with at 3000rpm. The engine is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox and fuel consumption is rated at a claimed six litres/100km for the hatchback and 5.9 for the sedan.No, the numbers didn’t stop us in our tracks either, but get behind the wheel of an Etios and an “adequate” car soon becomes rather pleasing. The engine’s rather sprightly and the suspension gives excellent handling through and over modest bends and undulations. The 155mm ground clearance will prove handy on gravel roads and the car glides smoothly over road irregularities.Steering is quite responsive despite the light feel to the steering wheel and the cars handle high speeds rather well; road noise minimal even at 120km/h. There’s no discernible shakes or rattles; certainly the Etios is a worth option for budget-conscious families or first-time car buyers. The relatively high fuel consumption can be blamed on the missing sixth gear the transmission so desperately needs; it peaks too early and that costs fuel.INSIDEThe cabin appears at first glance to be more of the same from Toyota with its grey-on-black plastics though new design elements are identifiable. The interior is all new with a horizontal design based around the centre console. The entire fascia is adventurous for Toyota, especially considering the centre console placement and design.The seats are unlike anything in the current Toyota range and I found them surprisingly comfortable given the tapered shaped at the top.Depending on your vehicle choice, you could have your own choice of multimedia from basic radio/CD to an integrated MP3-compatible unit with USB and AUX connectivity. The higher-specced XS models benefit from remote-controlled central locking, power windows, fog lights and better seat fabrics.Luggage capacity is listed as 251 litres for the hatch and 595 for the sedan. The sedan’s boot is especially large and well-suited to a family’s holiday needs. Toyota has also taken vehicle customisation to heart: Etios buyers can boost their purchase with a host of extras ranging from spoilers, mud guards and side skirts through floor mats, seat covers and gear-shifter knobs.OVERALLNissan Micra, Ford Figo, VW Polo Vivo, Renault Sandero... the Etios isn’t short of rivals. The common thread with most of its biggest competitors is price and standard fittings. Ford’s Figo has been doing well saleswise but, like the VW, it’s an old model redesigned and repurposed whereas the Etios is an entirely new offering.The Etios has all the space of a B-segment ride with the budget-friendly value of an A-segment vehicle. It might not capture buyers based on its design but it’s a practical family car that can comfortably seat five and has the power and maneuverability to make city traffic bearable.Toyota’s loyal following and faith in the brand’s reliability should help the Etios capture a good chunk of the market.PRICESEtios 1.5 hatch Xi - R115 800Etios 1.5 hatch Xs - R120 900Etios 1.5 sedan Xi - R121 800Etios 1.5 sedan Xs - R126 600Each comes with a two-year or 30 000km service plan and a three-year or 100 000km warranty.