Luxury, affordability, and then there's some other weird stuff, too.
Toyota is one of the world’s largest automotive manufacturers, with a product line-up broader than many others could even dream of. It offers everything from comfortable commuters to back-to-basics sports cars, and even extreme off-roaders, with utility pickups thrown in for good use. But elsewhere in the world, the brand offers or has offered dozens of models that you’ve likely never heard of, and are likely to never see unless you crawl through the underbelly of some seriously strange countries.
The humble Etios is a budget Toyota hatchback and sedan aimed at select Asian markets like Indonesia, as well as other developing markets such as South Africa and Brazil. It’s a front-drive compact powered by a 1.5-liter 4 cylinder engine with modest outputs and a frugal outlook on fuel economy. The Etios is a far cry from the lavish offerings we get here – compared to US spec Toyotas its downright poverty-spec – but in many countries it provides an affordable means of transport with low running costs.
You’re familiar with the Yaris nameplate – it’s sold in the USA after all. So why is it appearing on this list? Well in Thailand,South Africa, and a couple of other markets, there’s an altogether different Yaris available. It’s built larger than the locally available Yaris, with fairly striking design elements such as Corolla-inspired headlights and taillights. Available in hatch and sedan form, it’s actually more of a real Yaris than the Yaris we get – as particularly the models formerly sold as the Scion iA are actually based upon Mazda underpinnings.
Toyota boasts a strong presence in emerging third world countries, particularly those that promote private means of transport. However, the Toyota Avanza is one model that caters to semi-public transport by offering seating capacity for 7 people, resulting in frequent use as a taxi cab in markets such as Indonesia and South Africa where it’s particularly popular. Designed by subsidiary, Daihatsu, the mini van is front engined and rear-wheel driven, but don’t expect great driving dynamics. It’s tall and boasts soft suspension, designed to cater for high occupancy, and poor road surfaces.
The Toyota HiAce, or Quantum in some markets, is a large van available in several configurations. It can be had as a panel van or a passenger van, in varying wheelbases, seating orientations, and roof heights, making it practical as both a people mover and as a work van. The Quantum finds particularly high usage in commercial applications when it comes to ferrying people, with the van finding use as the main form of public transport as ‘taxis’ in South Africa and other markets.
The Aygo is a city car sold predominantly in Europe by Toyota. It’s the fruit of a three-way development plan with French brands Citroen and Peugeot, and shares underpinnings with the Citroen C1 and Peugeot 108 city hatches. The Aygo’s name is a play on “I go”, and is designed to appeal to a younger generation of buyer than many of their other vehicles. As such, the second generation has been designed with an almost cartoon face, with inspiration for the design being taken directly from Japanese manga comics for their youthful appeal.
The Toyota Crown Majesta is a full size luxury sedan that has been in production since 1991. The flagship has been sold exclusively in Asia, with its underpinnings being closely related to those found under the skin of the Lexus GS – albeit stretched for greater interior room and luxury. It shares much with both the GS and Lexus LS, including the 4.6-liter V8 engine shared by all three at some point, though the Crown Majesta is exclusively all-wheel drive.
Toyota’s Japanese product line up is extensive, catering to a range of buying needs. The Mark X caters to the mid-size market and has done so since 2004. But it’s not entirely foreign, as it shares a large portion of its underpinnings, including engines, with the Lexus IS, RC, and GS sedans and coupe models. Under Toyota’s recently formed GRMN performance division, a manual gearbox is offered, though in standard guises, a range of V6 motors are paired with automatic gearboxes for a luxury orientated mid-size sedan.
Since 1997,Toyota sold the Harrier mid-size crossover in Japan. When exported to the rest of the world, the Harrier was badged as the Lexus RX. At that stage, Lexus wasn’t sold in Japan. But when the third-generation Lexus RX was launched in Japan, the Harrier evolved into a standalone model based on its own platform. That said, it retains many visual links with the Lexus RS. Powering the Harrier are a range of 4 cylinder engines; naturally aspirated, turbocharged, and hybridized for various applications – all of which are mated to a CVT gearbox.
Toyota has produced some awkward looking vehicles over the years, but the equally as awkwardly named Alphard may take the cake. The full size luxury van is available in 7- or 8-seat configuration with either 2.4- or 3.5-liter engines and either front- or all-wheel drive. But the styling is what makes the Alphard most memorable. Visually, it embeds itself into your memory as if burned into your eyeballs with acid. Whilst it might not be the most stylish Toyota around, it does give us hope that it might at any moment transform into an Autobot.
The Toyota Rush is a compact crossover and a product of badge-engineering. It’s actually a Daihatsu Terios beneath the badge, but was released as a Toyota in Indonesia due to the brand’s strength in the Indonesian market. A 1.5-liter inline 4 cylinder engine does duty under the hood, driving either the rear or all four wheels. Smaller than the Toyota RAV4 and C-HR, the Rush closely rivals vehicles like the Ford EcoSport.