Introduced in March this year, Toyota’s Urban Cruiser consistently racks up just short of 1 000 new units every month but tends – in conversation – to be referred to in the singular, even though there are model grades and a choice of manual or automatic.
So, this review takes a look at the 1.5 Xs manual and the 1.5 Xr auto – not as a ‘shootout’ but more a reflection on the options available to buyers in the small SUV space. The Urban Cruiser is the second product of the Toyota-Suzuki alliance (following the Starlet) and I leave any comparisons in that sphere out of the contest of this exercise.
As a mid-range model, the Xs boasts keyless-entry with push start, power windows all round, tilt-adjustable steering, power-adjustable mirrors, LED headlamps and LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL) as standard.
The exterior features alloy wheels, roof rails, body-coloured door handles, power-retractable mirrors and rear window wiper with demister function.
Occupants are not left out of the equation, with auto air-conditioning, a secondary glove compartment, rear armrest and 60:40 split backrest. Rear Park Distance Control (PDC) and reverse camera, offer drivers additional peace of mind.
At R277 300 this variant has an impressive specification offering, considering the top-of-the-range Xr gains LED fog lamps, automatic headlights, cruise control, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, rain-sensing wipers, dual 12-volt power outlets, front armrest, leather steering wheel, two tweeter speakers, glove box illumination, a cooled storage compartment, map reading and front foot well lights, as well as luggage compartment illumination.
What the Xr gains falls into the ‘nice-to-have’ luxury bracket while the Xs sticks to absolute vitals – the add-on price for the flagship around R49 500.
Seated behind the wheel, the differences are not that noticeable and in both cases the workspace is comfortable, neatly packaged and everything the driver needs logically laid out and close to hand while, just as important, forward and side vision is clear.
Even for those not so vertically challenged, there is ample leg and headroom in the cabin to provide a proper driving position, whether going ‘stick’ or just the two-pedal version.
Both have a touchscreen infotainment system that incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, allowing smartphone connectivity. Text and messaging-service messages can be read out to the user, with speech-to-text functionality ensuring safe communication while driving. Bluetooth, Aux and USB inputs are also catered for.
The black fabric seats feature a honeycomb pattern, with the rest of the interior finished off in hard-wearing black, featuring a textured pattern. Large door pockets, glove compartment and additional oddment binnacles provide convenient storage spaces.
The big visual difference between the two options is on the outside where the Xr can be specified with bi-tone paint options. Other than that, they both have the identical large radiator grille with two horizontal slats and centred Toyota badge flanked by chrome accent strips and LED projector headlamps.
Also, both are equipped with 16-inch alloy wheels shod with 215-60-R16 tyres with a full-size spare wheel in the boot.
The Urban Cruiser is powered by a 1,5-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine delivering 77 kW and 138 Nm and, while Toyota claims fuel consumption of 6,2 l/100 km, my test cycle showed the manual at 6,4 l/100 km and the auto at 6,7 l/100 km.
Not a huge amount to choose from and much of the buying decision will likely come down to the convenience of the auto in heavy traffic conditions versus the joy of driving with the manual option.
The two models share a traditional McPherson strut front suspension layout, with a Torsion Beam design in the rear so ride comfort, road manners along with wind, tyre and road noise are identical and, perhaps, a tad above the average for the class of vehicle.
The Urban Cruiser is just that, a runabout designed for city life. While fully capable on the longer journeys, it does struggle a bit on steeper inclines and runs out of breath quite quickly when pushed hard. That said, it is quite lively and responsive to directional changes.
The safety and security specs include anti-lock braking and EBD, side protection beams, driver and passenger crash bags and ISOFIX. An alarm and immobiliser system are also included.
All Urban Cruiser models are sold with a 3-services/45 000 km service plan. A 3-year/100 000 km warranty is also provided. Service intervals are pegged at 12 months/15 000 km