I certainly don’t recall the Toyota Etios, the company’s second smallest car after the Aygo, being this refined. Slated to close the hard-to-fill hole created when the popular Toyota Conquest/Tazz was sent to pasture after a great innings mind you, offering the people of this country cheap, cheerful and everlasting means of transportation, the Etios is part of an on-going and unusual two-tier stop gap solution to recreate the magic of the Conquest.

By offering both Etios and Aygo at virtually similar segments and pricing, urged on by the modern day buyer who’s curried demands could never be addressed by a single model line-up, the two types of buyers earmarked is either the family-minded individual who is looking for space, decent pace, low running costs and the peace of mind of owning a Toyota wrapped in an affordable pricing pack. These are Etios people – while the Aygo covers younger buyers who need the same set of values but in a more compact and decidedly funkier, Takalani Sesame cute package.

Quite recently Toyota showed us yet another strange way of doing business in the information age. In creating the new Etios Sprint – a new model with a completely different aesthetic design from the current range – the company has split the line-up into three different looking cars under one nameplate. Essentially, you now have a choice between a trio of Etios. There is the entry-level which, sadly for you, is rental company material with an old face; the Etios Cross that wears a pseudo-off-road dress and, also has its own, unique face; or you can go for the Etios Sprint with its distinct differences and yes, a new and completely unlike face too. And it comes in both hatchback and sedan shapes.

I recently mulled over the unusual debutants while barreling down a scenic B-road laced with plenty of fast corners towards the eccentric student village that is Grahamstown. There is a discernible bump-up in comfort and refinement above the regular car, immediately defining its role as the luxury line of the range not just through its drive quality, but through its specifications and generally better looking cockpit.

It’s a good drive be it slow or fast and if I’m honest, quite fun to hustle fast. Perhaps in a move to rationalize the Sprint in its nameplate, the front wheels claw tightly into tarmac with a surprising tenacity. Now, it’s not only compelling as a daily drive with a modicum of sportiness but, it’s fit enough, despite the lack of cruise control outright power, to brave even for epically long journeys. The rest of its mechanical bolts and nuts, including engine and transmission are retained from the old, or rather, the other car. In the Etios Sprint though, it seems the enhancements done to the car include oil in its suspension bits replaced with cream and honey and its tyres filled with Angel’s breath, which is quite all right in our books.

1.5 Sprint Hatch        – R172 600

1.5 Sprint Sedan        – R180 500