Why would I buy it?
- Easy to drive and live with
- Decently decked-up cabin
- Warranty of three years/one lakh kilometres
Why would I avoid it?
- Doesn’t offer new-age features
- Looks could have been better amongst tough rivals
- No diesel engine option
When you say you drive a Toyota, certain aspects like peace of mind, reliability, and good resale value come as a no brainer. The same can be said about the Urban Cruiser, albeit it isn’t as expensive on your pocket as other Toyota SUVs. In truth, competing in the lucrative and cut-throat sub-four metre segment, the Urban Cruiser comes as an underdog. It is unlikely to be the first choice, but shouldn’t be steered clear off really.
Engine and Performance
Offered with the Toyota Urban Cruiser is a single-engine option – a 1.5-litre naturally-aspirated K-Series four-cylinder petrol engine. It makes 103bhp of power at 6,000rpm and can be had either with a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. The one you see in the picture is the latter. This new motor also does duties on quite a few vehicles currently and has proven to be not only refined but also quite amiable to drive. It’s silent on the idle with no vibrations whatsoever to a point that you’d need to double-check whether or not the engine is on.
Pull the lever to D and there’s enough grunt to get going with ease. Although the max torque of 138Nm is accessible in the mid-range, there’s no lag or delay from the motor even lower down the rev-range. The Urban Cruiser picks up the pace with ease and in a linear manner. It’s relatively light too – tipping the scale under 1,130kg – which further helps in quick response without any delay. And so it is quite easy to keep pace with traffic in the city driving conditions. Show it some open roads and the free-revving motor will easily reach the redline with no hassle. But you won’t need to wring it so much since the strong mid-range will see you through most overtakes and at highway speeds.
Thanks to its well-balanced four-cylinder configuration, the K15 motor doesn’t vibrate harshly even when you keep it at a boil all day. You do, however, hear some amount of grumbling from the four-banger but not an unpleasant growl. As for the gearbox, the four-speed unit is a breeze to use. At first, it might not sound adequate, but in real-world driving, it suffices. The shifts aren’t exactly butter-smooth, but they aren’t a reason to complain either. It shifts appropriately and never makes you feel that you are missing out on the action when driving quickly. It likes to shift close to 2,000rpm or earlier.
But, put your foot down and it will hold on to the gear for longer. It also keeps the motor in the rev-range when driving hard and even on downshifts it responds nicely with no noticeable lag. There’s also 'L' and '2' selectable modes on the lever for times when you are encountering steep climb or are on the ghat sections. It holds on to a lower gear without upshifting, hence providing the necessary punch. Sure, when you plan on hooting it around, there will be a few occasions when the gearbox will run out of its couth. But apart from that, there’re no complaints from the cordial transmission.
Ride and Handling
Although set on a firmer side, the ride on the Urban Cruiser is far from being uncomfortable. It manages to absorb small irregularities and bad roads with good poise. At slow speeds, you might feel harsh bumps and sharped creased potholes on the inside. But go faster and the ride does improve considerably, taking in bumps and undulations with much better composure. It rides on 215/60 section tyres which further help its comfortable ride quality. And thanks to its 198mm ground clearance, you won’t have to think twice before taking on those massive speed bumps or taking it out where roads cease to exist.
As for the steering, its light and easy at slow speeds. It’s also fairly responsive going just two and a half turns lock to lock but it isn’t direct with some amount of lag off-centre. What’s good about it, though, is how effortless it is to drive in the city and to park as well. And it does weigh up nicely as the speed increases too. Stability at high-speeds is good but could have been better. We also found the brakes to be responsive with a very little fade despite this being automatic. To sum it up, the Urban Cruiser is an easy-to-drive car that is also easy to live with.
Interior Space and Quality
Step inside and the Urban Cruiser has a familiar air to it. There’s an all-black cabin that’s welcoming and straightforward with a function-over-form approach. There are hard plastics used all around with only a single silver insert over the glovebox and a piano-black surround on the centre console breaking the monotony. You sit upright on well-cushioned and supportive seats with good visibility all around. That combined with good ergonomics help the Urban Cruiser’s easy-to-drive persona. Behind the steering wheel sits a twin square-pod instrument cluster. But the monochromatic MID screen in the centre looks old and so very last generation – especially when rivals are offering all-digital clusters these days.
As for space, there’s ample head and knee space even for taller passengers. The same can be said about the rear seats with generous under-thigh support and an upright backrest angle. You could seat three here but it won’t be comfortable for a longer duration. You don’t even get rear AC vents – something which is now offered in hatchbacks costing much less than the Urban Cruiser. The fabric seat upholstery on offer might not be likeable for some buyers. On the upside, it is a practical cabin with storage space on the centre console, inside driver’s armrest, two cup holders, large door pads, sunglass holder, twin glove box, and cup holders in the centre armrest for rear passengers.
Lastly, there’s the boot space which at 328litres is at par with others in the segment. It has a large loading bay with a fairly squared-off room for a large suitcase and a couple of medium-sized suitcases with room to spare for a duffle bag or backpacks. As the seat gets a 60-40 split-fold, it also adds to the practicality.
Features and Safety
What we have here is the range-topping Premium trim which is available with LED headlamps with auto function, rear parking camera, LED fog lamps, 16-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels on the outside, and features like push-button start, leather-wrapped steering wheel, auto wipers, cruise control, auto AC, electric mirrors, and cooled glovebox on the inside. The seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system mounted on the centre console is colourful, simple to use, with a nice touch and just the necessary amount of information.
What’s more, it also is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. In terms of safety, the Urban Cruiser comes with dual airbags, ABS and EBD, speed-sensing door locks, hill-hold control in the automatic, adjustable height for the front-row seatbelt, and various warning lights as standard.
Now to address the elephant in the room, the Toyota Urban Cruiser is a rebadged Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza. We expected some more cosmetic changes to set the Toyota apart from the car it is based upon, but the Japanese carmaker had contented with just a tweaked grille. Apart from that, everything else has remained unchanged – so it doesn’t harm the Urban Cruiser to be based on the highest selling sub-four metre SUV out there. But wearing a Toyota badge has its benefits - higher warranty (three years and one lakh kilometres compared to Brezza’s two years/40,000km), better after-sales and service reliability, and an overall hassle-free ownership experience. On the downside, unlike some of its rivals, there’s no option for diesel engine and never will be. Also, it’s stuck to an old-school torque converter automatic when most of the competition has switched to AMT, or even DCT for that matter.
As mentioned above, the Urban Cruiser is not likely to be the first choice of someone looking to buy a sub-four metre SUV where competition is fierce with well-established players like Ford EcoSport, Tata Nexon, Mahindra XUV300, and newfound capable rivals like Kia Sonet, Hyundai Venue, Nissan Magnite, Renault Kiger, and more on their way. But the merits of the Urban Cruiser triumph over its shortcomings and that definitely shouldn’t be overlooked.
Pictures by Kaustubh Gandhi