DRIVEN: New Toyota Urban Cruiser aims to continue the sales success story

Published May 2, 2023


By: Mpho Mahlangu

Cape Town – The all-new Toyota Urban Cruiser was first revealed to South African media in January 2023, and we have now sampled the new crossover in Cape Town.

With a 2023 Urban Cruiser having just hit the local market, the all-new model forming part of the global alliance between Suzuki and Toyota has its eyes set on continuing the sales success story of the model it replaces.

The new crossover now boasts significantly larger dimensions than its predecessor, measuring at 4 365mm in length, with a wheelbase of 2 600mm. Inside, the larger dimensions are most certainly welcome, with more cabin space and leg room for rear passengers. The boot capacity, at 353 litres is commendable, with myself and my driving partner able to pack our overnight luggage easily with sufficient room to spare for more items.

Cosmetically, the Toyota Urban Cruiser has undergone a major overhaul. Standard fitment across the range includes slim LED daytime running lights and bi-halogen headlights below. The taillights also benefit from LED technology. 17-inch steel wheels are employed on the entry level XS model however XR models benefit from 17-inch alloy wheels. Although styling is a subjective topic, the Urban Cruiser is undoubtedly a handsome SUV in my opinion.

Locally, only three models will be on offer: An XS, XR and XR AT. All models offer a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. The touchscreen is fairly decent in its responsiveness to touch inputs, with the integrated reverse camera boasting decent quality.

The XS model also offers keyless entry with push button start, automatic air-conditioning, rear parking sensors, dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, Hill Assist Control, Vehicle Stability Control and ISOFIX anchors at the rear.

The XR models further benefit from niceties such as cruise control, two extra speakers resulting in a total of four, side and curtain airbags for a total of six, black roof rails and the option to specify vehicles with a two-tone paint scheme.

Only one engine will be on offer: Suzuki’s tried and tested naturally aspirated 1.5-litre petrol engine which delivers 77kW and 138Nm, driving the front wheels. Two transmission choices namely a 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic are available.

I drove both derivatives at launch and whether traversing through a busy Cape Town CBD or out on the open road, the manual derivative proved to be the transmission that I would easily opt for.

The engine and transmission pairing in the 5-speed manual work well together and dare I say that the Urban Cruiser offers somewhat of a fun driving experience. A sixth cog would however be a welcomed addition to the 5-speed manual transmission, as the vehicle sits too high up in the rev range for my liking when cruising on the national highways.

We did drive it at the coast, however, so keep in mind that being a normally aspirated engine it will lose around 17% of its power at Gauteng elevations. For that reason we’ll reserve judgement on its performance at altitude until we’ve tested it in Joburg.

On road comfort is commendable, with road imperfections barely penetrating the cabin. Noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) levels are also particularly low, with only some wind noise being experienced.

The Urban Cruiser is a great product, offering arguably the best value for money in its highly competitive segment. Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM) say that the Suzuki Grand Vitara, which the Urban Cruiser shares a platform with, isn’t their competitor by any means. I could however argue that the entry level Grand Vitara GL offers better value than the Urban Cruiser XR.

Coming in at R339 900, the Grand Vitara offers automatic LED headlights, partial cloth, and artificial leather seats and most importantly, a better warranty and service plan (200 000km and 90,000km respectively) over the Urban Cruiser XR.

Considering the specification of the Suzuki Grand Vitara GLX however is where TSAM don’t consider themselves competition, as offering similar specification would lead to the Urban Cruiser’s asking price stepping on the toes of its own Corolla Cross.

Could the Grand Vitara GLX then become a potential headache for TSAM and their Corolla Cross? That’s a story for another day.

The Urban Cruiser is priced as follows:

Toyota Urban Cruiser XS MT: R329 400

Toyota Urban Cruiser XR MT: R347 400

Toyota Urban Cruiser XR AT: R369 900

Included in the asking price of the Urban Cruiser is a 3-year/ 100 000km warranty and a 4-year/ 60 000km service plan.

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