Toyota Rukus –

13 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »
Toyota Rukus

Toyota Rukus

Kit for the money

Not so much

Self-conscious aesthetic

Self-conscious marketing

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0

Price, Packaging and Practicality: 4.0/5.0

Safety: 3.0/5.0

Behind the wheel: 3.5/5.0

X-factor: 3.0/5.0

–Toyota tilts at trendy youth

In keeping with its odd looks, the Rukus is an odd car for Toyota. It reflects a strategy of attracting younger buyers that the company needs to adopt, for one simple reason: the average Australian Toyota buyer is 54 years of age.

That age figure suggests the company is missing out on a share of the market’s most sought-after sector: cashed up middle class Gen Yers. Automakers have long known that the younger they get buyers in, the more likely they’ll stay loyal to the brand. That’s BMW’s thinking behind its resurrection of the MINI brand; the flip-side lies in the maturation process Subaru has put its WRX through as that car’s cult following ages.

So the Rukus is Toyota’s tilt at the funky set, and none too subtly. The local campaign started with profile building events at the recent Sydney Fashion Week and a launch at a trendy Darling Harbour nightclub complete with Moby soundtrack (Moby is what old codgers like myself believe to be hip young peoples’ music) and constant reminders of how edgy, funky, quirky and bloody-mindedly, trail-blazingly different it is.

The car is already well established in the US as the xB, under Toyota’s yoof-skewed Scion brand, and in Japan as the Corolla Rumion. The company says it has developed cult followings in both those countries, with extensive customisation industries growing around it.

Toyota’s initial sales expectations here are modest — 150 to 200 units a month.


–Plenty for the money

This is no Yaris/Mazda2/Getz crusher: Toyota is pitching the Rukus at well cashed-up youngsters. It’s available in three ‘Build’ levels, straddling the $30K mark. But even at base level they’ve been pretty generous.

Build 1, at $27,490 plus on-roads, comes with keyless entry and start, wheel-switched cruise, six airbags, stability control, digital speedo, aircon and a decent audio setup with six speakers, USB and auxiliary inputs and bluetooth connectivity for not just phone but wireless audio streaming. It’s good for all the usual formats — MP3, WMA and AAC.

For $29,990, Build 2 upgrades the interior trim to include leather accents and the air conditioning to include climate control, while the audio gets a six-CD player and nine-speaker output, all controlled through an orange-lit centre screen.

For another $1800, Build 3 ($31,790 ) adds a sunroof.

All models come with a four-speed auto transmission (Toyota has decided against offering the five-cog manual transmission available overseas) and 16-inch alloys standard.

Toyota expects the base model to account for 60 per cent of sales.

–Pretty fly for a brick

For what is essentially a Corolla in a bigger box, Toyota has been generous under the bonnet.

The Rukus gets a 2.4-litre four. Its 123kW at 6000 rpm and peak 224Nm at 4000rpm represent 23 per cent power and 28 per cent torque advantages over the Corolla’s 1.8 litre engine. What this amounts to in standing start and midrange acceleration benefits has not yet been announced, but the short launch drive suggested a clear margin.

It’s perhaps a pity Toyota has decided against bringing the five-speed transmission here — it could be quite an enjoyable ride with the engine’s extra poke. The front discs are ventilated to help quell it.

The company claims combined cycle fuel consumption of 8.8L/100km, with Euro IV-compliant CO2 emissions of 208g/km.

–It’s a brick. No apologies

This car is more about packaging than perhaps any Toyota sold in Australia to date. Kicking off the company’s new pitch to younger, more style-conscious buyers (along with the Prado-based FJ Cruiser for muddy types), the Rukus is nothing if not distinctive.

With its brickish silhouette bearing a squatness reminiscent of the Austins and Morrises of the 1960s and early ’70s, the Rukus looks impossible to roll. It comes as a surprise, then, that its 1525mm front track is identical to the Corolla hatch, while at the rear it’s 2mm narrower (1520).

Also surprising is its aerodynamic prowess. Its 0.32 drag coefficient puts it in the same league as the RAV4. If that’s nothing to write home about for the company behind the 0.26 Cd Prius, it’s pretty good for a chunk like this.

The Rukus shares the MC platform underpinning the Corolla and the RAV4. Quite appropriate, for in Toyota’s words, it straddles the market between a family car and an SUV.

Although its wheelbase is identical to the Corolla’s, it forgoes current conventions of pyramidal glasshouse with raked windows for flat, slabby sides with an upright Mini-style windscreen and low profile side glass.

The result: a deliberately polarising visual statement with altogether larger proportions than the Corolla and loads more interior room.

Toyota Rukus

Despite a proliferation of black plastics, the interior is airy and the seats (six-way adjustable for the driver) were comfortable for our short stay. Rear seat leg room is reasonably generous; it’s comfortable for two adults and adequate for three.

Time at the wheel was limited on launch day, but early impressions are that the ergonomics, even though unusual, are sound. Central instrument binnacles polarise (the Echo/Yaris’ has always aroused debate, and the original Nissan X-Trail’s had disappeared in the second generation) but this is a car Toyota freely admits is designed to elicit love-it-or-hate-it responses. It’s clear and easy enough to read.

There are plenty of handy storage spots inside, including a clever wet-and-dry bin under the boot floor. Bootspace is a reasonable 310 litres with the rear seats up, expanding to 1331 when they’re down, with a broad expanse of flat floor.

Part of the vehicle’s sales shtick overseas has been its potential for customisation. At the launch, sales and marketing head David Buttner said youngsters might see it as a blank slate on which they could let their imaginations off the leash. To make the point, the company handed cars (Ruki?) to a couple of designers to work up for the Fashion Week events.

To help buyers out, the company has designed the car with fittings for quick, easy accessorisation — for example you can clip on a roof console directly, without modification. If Toyota’s wish for a cult following is fulfilled, expect the list of factory and aftermarket nic-nacs to swell. The company is already spruiking the benefits of ‘genuine’ accessories.

–Full kit for the money

The Rukus comes with a decent panoply of safety technologies — enough to match anything for the price. Front, side and full-length curtain airbags, stability and traction control, ABS, brake assist (BA) and electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) are all standard.

The car has not been subjected to official NCAP or ANCAP testing, so Toyota wasn’t committing to crash numbers beyond asserting it was confident it would return decent results.

It would be strange indeed if the Rukus didn’t match the current Corolla’s five-star ANCAP status. (But given the recent — pardon — ruckus surrounding the Camry having to share four-star status with Chinese manufacturer Great Wall’s clearly inferior X240, strange things can happen.)

–Plenty, but none

The Rukus is different enough from the Corolla and the RAV not to cannibalise those models’ markets.

The most obvious competitor for the Rukus is Kia’s Soul. which has the disadvantage of a much smaller (1.6-litre) petrol engine and the advantages of a much lower entry level price (early $20Ks) and manual and diesel options (the latter being the terrific 1.6 litre oiler from parent company Hyundai’s i30 CRDi). Arriving here last year, it fulfilled Kia’s sales expectations, with more than 400 sold.

While it has ditched any idea of importing its Cube. a direct Rukus competitor, Nissan has been pitching its more conservative base Dualis into the same market as Toyota is eyeing off for the Rukus — young singles and families looking to bridge the gap between conventional hatch and SUV.

–Promising performer

The launch event drive program took place on a closed course on smooth concrete, so it’s too early to draw conclusions about ride, handling and true behaviour on urban streets and the open highway. But with lots of bollards to swerve around on a rainy day, initial impressions were positive.

At 1400kg, Rukus is around 140kg heavier than the Corolla, so the bigger engine comes in handy. More so because it ends up with a superior power-to-weight ratio to the Corolla. It gets off the mark reasonably smartly and appears to enjoy changing direction, staying reasonably composed with surprising grip and not much body roll taking tight turns in haste.

Toyota’s local technical people in Melbourne have recalibrated the electrically assisted power steering unit specifically for Australian conditions.

For more comprehensive evaluation, watch Carsales Network for the upcoming seven-day road test.

Read the latest Carsales Network news and reviews on your mobile, iPhone or PDA at .

Toyota Rukus
Toyota Rukus
Toyota Rukus
Toyota Rukus
Toyota Rukus
Toyota Rukus

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