Tag: Toyota

Affordable Adventuring in the Toyota Urban Cruiser

More recently, people have had an inherent yearning for adventure as a result of being cooped up under months of lockdown – getting out to experience the world around us seems more of an imperative now than ever before. Carmakers have paid attention and through the advent of the SUV segment have made adventuring into uncharted territory more accessible than ever before. However, capable SUVs that retain the comforts of normal cars cost a fortune, until recently that is. Alex Shahini spent some time with the new Toyota Urban Cruiser to determine if it can fill the gap and be a cost effective solution to adventuring. 

Small, nimble and cost effective SUV options that share underpinnings and technology with front wheel drive hatchbacks have flooded the market in recent years and while they are less capable in treacherous conditions, they still tick all of the boxes for amateur explorers in search of affordable adventuring. This is where the Urban Cruiser comes in, the most recent addition to Toyota in Mzansi. Significantly smaller than the RAV4 and CH-R models, the new option in their range has pricing starting at only a quarter of a million Rand. Which, considering what is included as standard equipment on the car, provides a strong argument for its value for money. 

This affordability comes at a price though. While the exterior holds a pleasant aesthetic with attractive proportions, there are certain comforts and amenities that have been sacrificed for cost saving. The high driving position and seats are comfortable with all dials and buttons in good reach of the driver but the cabin still felt slightly shortchanged. The dashboard and dials were composed of a small selection of cheap finishes while lack of interior illumination at night would leave me constantly fiddling around to find the window switches and steering stalks.

The list of features are commendable however, with our range-topping XR model getting additions such as automatic headlights, cruise control, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, rain-sensing wipers, dual 12-volt power outlets, front armrest, a touchscreen infotainment system, leather steering wheel and the inclusion of two tweeter speakers.

The driving experience on the other hand proved to be extremely comfortable for me and any passengers or pets I happened to ferry around. With elevated ride height providing ample visibility over the bonnetline any unavoidable potholes and road imperfections were accordingly dealt with by the surprisingly soft suspension. While the revvy naturally-aspirated 1.5-litre 4-cylinder motor had a comfortable and constant power delivery to its redline at around 6500rpm, it never felt greatly insufficient in its overtaking or pull-away ability, even with passengers on board and the limited torque it had. Where it did fall short on the road was its lack of a 6th or overdrive gear. At 120kmh the engine whine of 3800rpm would become audible in the cabin. Overall though, this compact option emulates some of its larger SUV siblings extremely well with its comfort characteristics. The passenger pooches wagging tails were a sure sign of an enjoyable journey. 

A combination of city and highway driving yielded just below the meagre 6.5l/100km figure albeit with very reserved driving. This is not a car that encourages or enjoys spirited bursts of open throttle and hash braking but rather instills a very calm and comfortable cruise – which is likely where it inherited its name from. Its short wheelbase made venturing tight parking lots and narrow paths a breeze while the rear-facing park distance control would automatically quieten the radio or media player so that the sensors would become clearly audible. This is an intuitive feature since there is no radial volume knob to reduce volume and repeatedly clicking the touch-capacitive screen can be a frustrating and arduous task. 

The angle of the infotainment screen occasionally caught a reflection from the rear passenger side window which would limit its usability, but most of the functionality on the device including Apple Carplay and Android Auto was simple and intuitive to use even with this limitation. The boot comes with ample space at 314 litres while the rear seats can fold down in 2 configurations. However low light situations would prove to be tedious with no illumination in the boot – even on our range topping XR model. 

From our time with the Urban Cruiser we experienced many livable niggles and limited refinement that enables this compact B-SUV to be so affordable, but how exactly is it so cheap? While the obvious answer from above would implicate the cheap interior materials for its low base price it actually has to do with Toyota’s global alliance with fellow Japanese automaker Suzuki. Both brands have gone into a mutually beneficial agreement of platform sharing which some may have already noticed with the local sales of the identical Toyota Starlet and Suzuki Baleno models. In exchange for technology and R&D, Suzuki provides Toyota with fantastic and affordable vehicles to slot into their range. Since these two automakers are in partnership, this also means part and die costs are shared which inevitably lowers the risk and end price of the final product.

The Suzuki Vitara Brezza and Toyota Urban Cruiser are two identical cars save from the bumpers and badges. While I believe the overall aesthetics and light features of the aforementioned models share a much more similar design language to the Suzuki Vitara Brezza.

Suzuki Vitara Brezza

Toyota have nonetheless incorporated their SUV design language from the Fortuner and RAV4 successfully into their iteration making it seem more like a butch SUV. 

Affordability and adventure should go hand in hand which the Toyota Urban Cruiser offers very well, if you can see past some of the livable niggles – this may be the right choice for you. The final result is a fantastic, accessible runabout, with a competitive price tag.

Toyota extends its Hilux and Fortuner Range

Toyota Fortuner

Updated Toyota Hilux and Fortuner

The ever-popular Hilux range has undergone the knife as a very mild refresher, the changes were very slight and more so to create a mild buzz over the introduction of the Xtra Cab model. Its no secret we love Toyota’s giant behemoths, the Hilux is fantastic at being a bakkie and does this very cleverly now with the added leisure element that the modern bakkie needs to have.

Whats new?

This leisure element has resulted in the updates to the interior of the range where the addition of more durable and soft touch leather armrests has replaced the material ones in the models before.

Toyota Hilux

On the outside, the front headlights have been updated to provide a more modern look, which secretly was the spec offered on European models from the jump but nevertheless, the addition of Xenon lighting with  LED driving lights provide better lighting and helps a great deal in the enhancement and creation of a “New Generation” look of the Toyota design mantra. A set of 18” alloy wheels fitted to 265-60-R18 all terrain tyres now come standard on the higher spec Raider models. No changes to the engines and transmissions but the addition of the 6-speed auto to the 2.4G4D engine should improve the drivability and everyday usability of the lesser diesel.

Updated Safety

The most important update to the Hilux range, is the offering of the safety features that where only exclusive of the more expensive models, with single cab SRX and Raider models now inclusive of the of Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) also incorporating Hill Assist Control (HAC) and Trailer Sway Control (TSC) safety systems.

Toyota Hilux

Xtra Cab

The new offering is the extended single cab version of the bakkie. The same variants of engines and transmissions will be offered and the range is completely identical. The addition of the 6-speed auto to the 2.4GD-6 engine is the only difference, and this should also improve the drivability and everyday usability of the lesser diesel.

Fortuner Updates

Much of the Fortuner remains the same but benefits from the same tech and convenience upgrades seen in the modern SUV. The major feature updates include the new electronic tailgate and a 220v electrical outlet on the 2.8GD-6 and V6 Petrol. The lights have been updated too and now feature LED lighting.

Toyota Fortuner

Again the lower spec 2.7-Litre petrol and 2.4 GD-6, received updated safety spec, with the addition of side and curtain airbags and will complement the range of passive safety systems.The New offering of the 6-speed mated to the 2.4GD-6 is translated to the Fortuner and will offer a good way to enter the range.

Toyota Hilux and Fortuner Pricing in South Africa

The Fortuner range starts art R 462,900, rising to R 675,600 with 8 model variants in between.

Single cab Hilux’s start at R243, 200 for the entry-level model, this rises to R435 700 with the top of the range Hilux SC 2.8 GD-6 RB RAIDER 6AT (NEW). In the Ultra Cab department, pricing starts at R365 300 for the Hilux XC 2.4 GD-6 RB SRX 6MT and rises to R525 500 for the top of the range 2.8 4×4 6 Speed Auto. Double Cab models start at R 394 700 rising to R 465 400.

 

Toyota Corolla RUNX TRD

Toyota Corolla RUNX TRD

We throwback and drive the Toyota Corolla RunX TRD

Those of you born in the late 80’s and to some degree the early 90’s will understand the shift in motoring focus from the high RPM small capacity atmospheric 20V engines, to the smaller, polar bear friendly turbo mills. See, back in what I’d describe as the good old days, the likes of the Sentra 200STi and Corolla RSI and RXI where the best way to get to places in a hurry. These were the ultimate in cheap, reliable, fast cars, far cheaper than the Germans and an absolute hoot with whizzy little engines with rather silly redlines.  Toyota knew this all too well as we loved the RSI and its 4AGE-20V engine, so much so that when they canned it and replaced it with the bloated Corolla, it was considered a great loss to the world of motoring, This was until 2003 when they slotted a 141 kW @ 7800 RPM and 180 N.m,  1.8-litre naturally aspirated 16V engine into the humble RunX, thus creating the RSi.

The Runx RSi has always been a car that I’ve wanted to own, having driven them plenty times both at the coast where they run GTI’s very close with a few breather mods, and up at altitude, where they run GTI’s very close once more. The drive I’ve always lusted over, however, is the more elusive TRD model. Toyota Racing Developments took the RSi and made everything just a little bit crisper and added some proverbial ‘Vuma’, with a short throw shifter and a set of TRD specific wheels. This lust led me to the hands of a generous owner, sporting a Black TRD with a 63mm sports exhaust,  IJEN cold air induction kit and lightened fly wheel, all mine for the day. Standard the car posted a 0-100 time of 8 Seconds and a top speed of 230km/h. Figures that don’t sound all too impressive, but in the real world this is a seriously fun car.

Driving Impressions

Picking up the car, the vehicle’s unassuming looks suggest nothing out of the ordinary and driving in town, it feels like the typical cold pudding drive that the normal models possess.  It looks like a typical RunX, no flares, no nostrils just some subtle touches like the rear spoiler and the larger wheels. On the inside, the same theme runs its course – the RunX has absolutely nothing interesting about the interior, just a small TRD logo on the on the floor mats and gear knob, but under the skin are stiffer springs and a TRD strut bar. This was very clearly a RunX before it was a TRD project. Interestingly enough, I enjoyed this, the calm nature of the car it was nothing to ring home about, a great ride, loads of space and a light clutch it was great, reminded me a lot of my mother’s Corolla of the same era. This was until a 1.4TSI Polo GTI appeared in my side view mirror at a red light. No sport buttons, no Traction Control to worry about just you and the car. The light turned green and I buried the tiny accelerator into the carpet. The front wheels scrabbling for grip as the Rev’s climbed 4000, 5000, all leading to the epic climax of the glorious VVTL-I system, which kicks in at 6200r/pm. The Variable Valve Timing and Lift-intelligent system transform the engine from potter around town mode, to ‘Kill all hatches’. The car changes it’s demeanour, a more aggressive cam profile takes over and it barks away viciously to the 8 300 rpm Rev limiter. The Polo was not far behind but through the aid of DSG, it was fast catching up but at no point did it ever make the pass. It was deadly close by the time traffic approached but more importantly, the young buck in the Polo was red with rage as though a 10-year-old grocery getter had vomited all over his Twin-charged GTI moniker.

The car is a proper riot, the engine comes alive the harder you push it and frankly, I did a fine job of kicking it about. Driven like this, the TRD is an incredibly quick car and the short throw shifter is precise and direct, very easy to bang the close ratios together in a delicious soufflé like treat.  The chassis feels light and agile like ones riding on the back of an excitable rabbit.  The steering is a tad bit light but is still very good at telling you where the front wheels are pointing.  A point to note is that unlike modern day turbocharged hatched, first-time drivers will be surprised at how hard you have to push the car to make fast progress, flat foot shifting at rev limit is the only way to ensure you stay in lift and the car doesn’t fall on its face. It required an incredible lack of vehicle sympathy as if you want to get the old girl in a hot and bother, you do have to be rather rough. Front end grip is bang on, as the grip is helped by the relatively light weight and the way the power is delivered means you can get on the gas earlier and enjoy the climb to the ‘Lift’ off that the car provides. If I had a single complaint it would be the tiny pedals that make heel-toe shifts somewhat a challenge but it’s very much an enjoyable car, still more than enough to surprise the smaller hatches and catch them out in the game of Robot Jousting. The engine loves to rev and rewards you for doing so but it’s rather easy to fall out of the sweet spot and kill all the fun. In 2017, the TRD is now ten years old but still possess the ability to teach the 2ZZ-GE a lesson. Not forgetting that it’s still a Toyota and on my quest to find one suitable for the test I came across many with over 300 thousand km’s on the clock. That still felt super tight and ran just like new.  

Toyota Toyota Corolla RUNX TRD Pricing in South Africa

Early pre-facelift RSi’s start at around R80 000 with later 2007 TRD models still fetching around R150 000. This is no small amount of money and given the way these need to be driven to deliver rapid progress, the issue of damaged transmission synchros and replaced engines will become common on cheaper and older models.

A major problem with the RunX RSi/TRD is that the engines are thirsty for oil and starvation of oil will result in almost immediate failure, but the only way this can happen is through an over-rev, but I loved the RSi and frankly still do. Nowadays, hot hatches are rather quick so one needs to be awake for you to get the car moving really quickly, but do it right and you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank!

Why the Toyota Hilux TRD prototype would be a major seller in South Africa

The bakkie market in South Africa has undoubtedly got a very loyal fan base. Month in and month out there are thousands of pick-ups sold in the country, with the two biggest competing brands being Ford and Toyota. Ford has risen to the top recently because not only is their offering very capable, the Ranger also looks very good. It’s the closest South Africans can get to a hardcore looking truck without paying the premium of importing something like a Dodge Ram. In fact I personally know people who have bought the Ford Ranger purely based on its looks. Most of them have probably not even used low range on their cars but as long as they look the part, their happy. Some have even taken their Fords to another level by adding the infamous Raptor kit, making it even more menacing in appearance.

36

The ruggedness of the Ford Ranger Wildtrack is something the Toyota Hilux is missing. The Hilux is a pretty car but note the use of the word pretty, something that shouldn’t be said of a bakkie. What the Hilux needed in South Africa was the look of the Hilux TRD prototype that was revealed two years ago in Bangkok. This Hilux is what our market needs because it looks fantastic. Flared wheel arches, a larger and more aggressive bumper and tasteful bits in black make for an aesthetically pleasing look. To add to that, there is black side skirting on the car and red stickers on the bonnet and on the side of the vehicle. The reason why this car would do well in the country is because the traditional bakkie buyer is not the only person interested in this type of vehicle nowadays.

hilux-trd2

The traditional buyer is one that is looking for quality and reliability, something Toyota has gotten right over the years. Generally, these buyers will use their cars on various terrains and the cars will be used to their full capacity. The newer bakkie buyer though is generally more lifestyle based, so the car needs to work well for a weekend getaway whilst doing a good job as a normal daily drive. As a result, aesthetic appeal has become of significant importance for many buyers hence the success of the Ford Ranger. If the Toyota Hilux TRD were to come into production and was sold in South Africa, it would be a great answer to the Ford. The merger of the reliable nameplate coupled with some amazing looks would make for a very appealing product. The question then is will Toyota make this rugged machine? If so our Toyota lovers would be very pleased. Especially since the range already sells a boat load every month.

hilux-trd

hilux-trd3

 

Subscribe to our bi-monthly newsletter for more content like this. 

Sign Up Here