From £15,685
Practical enough, but it doesn't really live up to its oddball looks

Our Verdict

Toyota Urban Cruiser 2009-2012

The Toyota Urban Cruiser is a slightly odd city car that's dull to drive, despite some good engines and a funky exterior

What is it?

This is the Toyota Urban Cruiser, a slightly odd-looking device that is the unofficial replacement for the three-door RAV4, a rival for pseudo-SUVs such as the Suzuki SX4 and Daihatsu Terios, a challenger for ultra-practicals like the Kia Soul and Citroen C3 Picasso – or all of them combined.

The Urban Cruiser is based heavily on the Scion xD, a 'trendy' family runabout sold by Toyota's youth brand, Scion, in the United States. But that, in turn, is based on the Japan-only Toyota Ist, which is, in turn, based on the current Yaris. Are you still with me on this?

Britain, for some reason, will do without the Euro-spec Urban Cruiser's rubber wheel arch cladding. Toyota GB probably thinks that the extra rubber makes the car look tacky, but removing it means that the heavily flanked Urban Cruiser looks a little slab-sided.

We'll get just two models in the UK: the 1.33-litre petrol variant tested here, which only comes with front-wheel drive, and a 1.4-litre diesel that is only available with Toyota's Active Torque Control four-wheel drive system. Both cars get six-speed manual gearboxes as standard.

What's it like

On the outside, Toyota has done a reasonable job of hiding the Urban Cruiser's Yaris origins (even its wheelbase is the same). With those tall sides, a shallow glassline and whopping great C-pillars, it's every bit the pseudo-SUV (the diesel 4x4 gets taller ride height, too).

Inside, though, the car fails to live up to its vaguely funky external styling. You sit high (although the steeing wheel remains oddly low), so you do get a relatively lofty view of the road ahead, and there's plenty of practicality. But acres of black plastic on the dash seem a world away from what the chunky looks promise.

There's room for four adults, although six-footers may find headroom an issue in the rear. And the rear seat not only splits 60/40 but also slides back and forth in pieces.

Around town the Urban Cruiser is relatively accomplished. The 1.33-litre engine is quiet and smooth, and stop-start helps to return excellent fuel economy of 51.4mpg and CO2 emissions of just 129g/km. The ride can feel fidgety, but major potholes don't crash through to the cabin.

At motorway speeds, meanwhile, the engine revs hard but its note fades away into a distant thrum. Wind noise is reasonably well contained, too.

The Urban Cruiser doesn't like to be rushed, mind you. The engine has less than 100lb ft of torque, so you'll end up thrashing it if you want to maintain steady progress on a B-road. There's next to no pleasure to be obtained from the steering, either; it's vague around the straight-ahead and the electric power assistance leaves it almost devoid of feel.

Should I buy one?

The Urban Cruiser should be on your list of candidates if you're looking for a runabout to cope with a couple of children and the rush-hour ratrun. But that area of the market already contains worthy candidates such as the C3 Picasso and Skoda Roomster, and the Urban Cruiser looks a little expensive in comparison, without offering an appealing dynamic alternative.

Join the debate


28 March 2009

A 1.33 engine? Cut the c##p Toyota, it's a 1.3! Am I the only person getting bored with Toyota...come on, make something interesting! Maybe a half decent follow up to the Celica or, if they can remember how, the Supra!

Sorry, that little rant there has been a long time coming.

28 March 2009

[quote tomberon]A 1.33 engine? Cut the c##p Toyota, it's a 1.3![/quote] I think you'll find that they call it the 1.33 to distinguish it from the previous older engines of 1.3lt capacity. This new 1.33lt engine is already appearing across the range in the Aygo, Yaris and Auris, just now in this Urban Cruiser and later this year in the iQ. According to my local Toyota dealer it will also form the petrol engine part of many of the Hybrid versions of their small cars like the Yaris and Auris that are planned for the future, so it is going to be around in one form or another in huge numbers worldwide in the not too distant future. He also siad that there were rumours that Toyota would be bringing back sporty cars again (like the MR2 and Celica) when they have more hybrid drivetrains with more power as they feel that the time is not right to introduce environmentally unfriendly sportscars right now. He seemed to think that Toyota realised now that their cars neede to be more interesting and hinted that this would happen over the next couple of years.

Enjoying a Fabia VRs - affordable performance

28 March 2009

[quote ordinary bloke]I think you'll find that they call it the 1.33 to distinguish it from the previous older engines of 1.3lt capacity.[/quote]

Should it not be called the 1.3.1 then according to modern etiquette?



It's all about the twisties........

28 March 2009

[quote TegTypeR]Should it not be called the 1.3.1 then according to modern etiquette?[/quote] I thought that system was only really used by computer geeks ? Might be a good idea though to avoid confusion - I can just visualise the badge on the back of the 4th or 5th generation model now "Toyota Urban Cruiser 1.33.4½ TR Super de-Luxe".

Enjoying a Fabia VRs - affordable performance

28 March 2009

I think the car is a proper digusting car; it is neither something or nothing....I think with Toyota it starts to show they are unable to develop true ground breaking cars and lead from the front (i include the iQ in that).

For years they just copied the western producers and now they have to start and think for themselves they are struggling; they have nothing that's really cool, nothing...all is just...well....just.....something......its not exciting, its not creative, its not appealing, its not is just......just.......bland; all there cars are just bland, really bland.

Toyota are just...dull, boring, cars; the only one I think of any merit is the Toyota Land Cruiser; they have another 4x4 out in the USA that looks reasonable go i.e. the FJ Cruiser....but that is like a small Hummer...Toyota are bald, dull and just not original in the slightest.....boring, boring boring, unoriginal bland offerings (in my opinion)...true I am not a Toyota fan, but as said before as a passive market observer, Toyota have pretended to be innovative for years and in fact they are just dull, boring and indeed, really, really bland.

Ps; you use 1.3.1 etc in report writing i.e. section 1.3, then a sub section being 1.3.1 etc; mcirosoft also used it for windows i.e. 3.0, 3.1 etc....but I pretty confident they did not start it!!! (it is well used in all manner of sectors etc!!)....although Toyota might try and claim they invented it!!!..

28 March 2009

So Toyota think that the general, car buying public will care so much about an evolution of a tiny engine so much that they feel the need to make a point by calling it 1.33. Who else does that? Car manufacturers are always evolving their engines but don't change the name in such a blatant way apart from the odd few exceptions. (eg. Ford's Zetec through to Duratec).

Of course I know its all just marketing and stuff that only the blokes who don't earn their bonuses will think of. It just seems to me that Toyota are so unconfident in their own products that they feel a need to make something as mediocre as a new version of an engine a big selling point for the car.

31 March 2009

[quote tomberon]It just seems to me that Toyota are so unconfident in their own products that they feel a need to make something as mediocre as a new version of an engine a big selling point for the car.

The words Toyota and Mediocre just seem to go together... Another worthy but dull car that will be incredibly reliable but dishwater dynamically, but everyone knew that before they even read the review - so did Toyota, and it'll probably sell mediocre levels in the UK if the slightly edgy stying doesn't scare off the Ageing Middle-England Toyota buying public.

This isn't going to win them new fans - Toyota just doesn't seem to want to take any riskes unlike Nissan.

2 April 2009

The wit and originality in these Toyota threads always makes me…, well laugh would be too strong a word. The 1.33 is much more than a revision to a 1.3. For a start it has a bigger capacity, hence the extra 0.03. In fact it is a 1.4 competitor in terms of power and torque. Then there is the stop & start. So, it is more powerful, more efficient and therefore cleaner and so cheaper to run and tax. Among its other advantages are smaller physical dimension. This makes it lighter, easier to package for more interior room and better crash protection. Oh, and it will be built in the UK. All in all it is quite an engineering achievement, but that probably doesn’t fit easily into a funny one-liner about how dull Toyota is so I can see why you overlook it.

3 April 2009

[quote Scott B]but that probably doesn’t fit easily into a funny one-liner about how dull Toyota is so I can see why you overlook it. [/quote]

Scott, using "You" in your post can be a dangerous thing, is creates a you vs us division, alienating yourself and the company you represent to the rest of the world, not wise as head of PR. We are not against Toyota, we would just all like your company to make more interesting cars.

The Urban Cruiser (who chose that name???) is no more of an engineering achievement than any other mid size hatch, no massive innovation, and in a car magazine read mainly by driving enthusiasts if it is dynamically and stylistically uninspiring then it is bound not to be popular here. Surely you didn't expect it to be the next big seller with the young trendsetters? If you did, you need to take a good look at your marketing dept, what a 20 something wants is not the same as what a 40 something thinks a 20 something wants.

Scott, Toyota make sensible cars for sensible people, you have an ageing target audience concerned more with reliability rather than matters such as style and handling ability - Avensis, Auris, Yaris, Verso, Prius, etc. There are no risks taken with these cars in the looks dept or any other, hence they can quantifiably be described as dull. But you know this already.

Where are the replacement MR2, Celica, Supra? The LF-A? Halo cars that may not make massive individual profits but would boost your image among younger buyers, drawing them into the brand? All on hold due to the recession? The iQ isn't going to manage it all by itself.

3 April 2009

[quote Scott B]but that probably doesn’t fit easily into a funny one-liner about how dull Toyota is[/quote] You are absolutely right - there is definitely a particularly vitriolic tone to many of the comments made by certain serial posters when they write about Toyota's cars. As a happy owner of a Prius for the last four years, you could say I'm biased but I find it comfortable, quiet and relaxing to drive with as good handling as many other cars of its size and price; but reading the comments made here you'd think it was the equivalent of an old Zastava or Trabant ! I also suspect that the majority of those bashing the Prius have never actually driven one for any length of time. I do agree though that the range of Toyotas is missing modern MR2s or Celicas etc and I think the existing range of cars could be made more exciting, particularly with the range of colours offered (a choice of mauve, black, white and red for the innovative IQ is ridiculous, particularly when its available in Japan with another four or five colours according to that web-site). Toyota GB certainly don't seem to help themselves with many of the choices they make from the full manufactured ranges to offer in UK. Why make the Urban Cruiser available in basically two models only - what if I want a petrol version with 4 wheel drive, or an automatic. You're selling this car as an urban car (I assume) so the option of an automatic is a no-brainer, surely ? It's not all bad - Toyota have a good range of cars, they just need an injection of excitement.

Enjoying a Fabia VRs - affordable performance


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