Heavy is the new crown

The B-SUV segment is the largest in the South African automotive industry, and the Urban Cruiser has been the pack leader ever since its introduction a few years ago. With the latest iteration of this popular model, Toyota is looking to continue this dominance. ANTON WILLEMSE JNR shares his initial impressions.

Since its introduction in 2021, Toyota has enjoyed great success with its B-segment SUV, the Urban Cruiser, boasting a market share of 19 percent thanks to a great product at a great price. The Urban Cruiser was one of my favourites within the segment and as such I was very excited to drive the all new 2023 model.

First impressions are everything

It was no secret that the previous Urban Cruiser was a rebranded Suzuki Vitara Brezza. This time the situation is quite similar, with the recently launched Suzuki Grand Vitara being its new twin. However, unlike the previous generation, the Urban Cruiser isn’t just a rebranded Suzuki but a more collaborative product between Suzuki and Toyota.

To this extent, the new Urban Cruiser looks vastly different to its so-called twin. The design screams modern Toyota and there is a definite family resemblance to the RAV4 and Fortuner, just in more of a fun-sized package. The front end has changed entirely, with a more streamlined light design and a large, aggressive grille giving the Urban Cruiser a stoic and stylish look.

The newcomer has also bulked up, gaining 370mm in length, with a corresponding growth in wheelbase of 100mm to 2 600mm. It is also slightly wider and taller than its predecessor. One of the best parts of the previous model was its great ground clearance, which has been improved for the current model to 210mm (from 195mm).

The interior also received a complete overhaul, and this is where you see an even stronger Toyota influence. The cabin offers a good combination of style and practicality. It is predominantly black, with subtle touches of silver, from satin-plated trim insets and chrome door handles to metallic-tipped ventilation controls. High-quality black striated cloth upholstery is featured throughout the interior. At the centre of the cabin sits a completely revamped dashboard with a seven-inch infotainment screen which allows for wireless Android Auto and Apple Carplay, and the driver has seamless control of the infotainment system via the multi-function steering wheel.

Performance to match the looks

Under the new skin of the Urban Cruiser sits Toyota’s now familiar 1.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine with an output of 77kW of power and 138Nm of torque.

The first variant I sampled was the range-topping XR Automatic and it was a real treat, especially compared to other gearboxes within the segment. The four-speed auto box in the Urban Cruiser is refined, and although it isn’t particularly inspiring it does the job comfortably and efficiently, as does the five-speed manual. The engine works well with both gearboxes, so it’s down to preference really. Fuel consumption sits at a 6.9 litres/100km (not far from Toyota’s claimed 6.1 litres/100km).

The Urban Cruiser sits on brand-new architecture, which was developed alongside Suzuki. The suspension system features MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear. The set-up is designed to work in all environments. The previous model was a great all-rounder. It performed well on both gravel and tar and the same goes for the new model. Like all other aspects of the new Urban Cruiser, Toyota took what worked and doubled down, and the result is a great handling vehicle that strikes a good balance between control and comfort.

A boost in safety

Most Urban Cruisers are bound to be mom mobiles, destined for school runs and weekend getaways, so naturally, safety will be a prime concern. One of the new additions is VSC (Vehicle Safety Control) and HAC (Hill Assist Control) on all models. In addition, XR models gain side curtain airbags alongside the standard passenger and driver airbags. And as per standard for most modern vehicles, the new Urban Cruiser comes with ABS, ISOFIX and an alarm/ immobiliser system.

In conclusion

The new Urban Cruiser certainly has big shoes to fill. The previous model was a significant success, and the new one is by no means reinventing the wheel. It’s more of what worked for the previous model and that’s a good thing because why fix something that ain’t broke? Toyota is expecting it to do well within the segment and I tend to agree, simply because it’s a great product at a great price from a popular and trusted brand.  

Model line-up & pricing

• Urban Cruiser 1.5 XS MT: R 329 400

• Urban Cruiser 1.5 XR MT: R 347 400

• Urban Cruiser 1.5 XR AT: R 369 900

*All Urban Cruiser models are sold with a service plan of 4 years/60 000km. A 3-year/100 000km

warranty is also provided. Service intervals are pegged at 12 months/15 000km. Customers can purchase an additional service plan and warranty options via the 220-strong dealer network.

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