Toyota Urban Cruiser Review

Well Toyota appears to be on a mission to get the smallest engine into the biggest body they can.  Not happy with taking a goldfish bowl big enough for two small guppies, cramming a tiny engine and four seats into it and calling it the iQ (which is excellent I have to say).  They’ve now decided to take a tiny engine and fitted it into a Tardis, chucked five seats in and enough space for a swinger’s orgy.  But does it work?  HELL YES!!

Well looking less like Postman Pats mail van than the Kia Soul, but more ‘Jonny Cab’ from Total Recall (come on its not long been on the telly!) it certainly has a style all of its own.  I actually love it; I also prefer it to the Soul. Toyota have got the look just right, it’s a big slab sided beast with smaller higher windows that really highlight its unique flair for lines.  I absolutely love the new bonnet and light layout appearing across the Toyota range, it give a much stronger road presence and on the Urban Cruiser with its ‘out there’ shape certainly makes onlookers stare.  Most of the people I caught having a second look, when it’s parked up, say they love the styling.

The other thing I adore about the Urban Cruiser its ability to switch from ‘retro fun wagon’ to ‘mean and moody urban brawler’ in a split second, depending on your driving style.  Plodding around town under a gentler pace and its all smiles and flowers out the exhaust, but get on a country road and put your foot down suddenly the friendly Crossover shows it means business.

Well it’s not likely to win any Grand Prix’s in the near future, its little 100bhp 1.3 Dual VVT-i engine is more than capable of providing great performance with outstanding economy.  It does struggle a little going up steep inclines and at overtaking on the motorway if you forget to change down a gear or two.  0-62mph is over a second slower than the Kia with the Toyota taking 12.5 seconds to make the dash.  The odd thing is though that the Cruiser gives you the impression you’re actually moving faster than you are.

The Optimal Drive system is faultless and the Stop & Start function, featured on the 1.3 Dual VVT-i engine, automatically switches the engine off when the vehicle is stopped and in neutral. In urban driving, Toyota claims the system can deliver significant reductions in fuel consumption and emissions (up to four per cent).  Developed by Toyota, the system is the first in the world to feature a permanently engaged starter motor mechanism. This brings two major benefits: quiet operation and rapid restarting.

Stop & Start turns off the engine when the car comes to a halt, the gear shift is moved to neutral and the clutch pedal is released. Automatic restart is instantaneous when you engage the clutch again to select a gear.  To ensure comfort and safety, the engine will not stop if the desired cabin temperature has not been reached; when the selected temperature has been achieved, the air conditioning will switch to “ECO-run loading”, allowing the automatic engine stop function to operate. The engine will automatically restart in the event of low battery, or if the vehicle begins to move.

The gearbox is another area the Urban Cruiser proves itself ahead of the Soul, the Toyota 6sp box is effortless to use and a dream to fly up and down the gears.  Matched to the great 1.3 engine means that the Urban Cruiser is more fun to drive than dunking bad drag queens at a town fete.

We took the Urban Cruiser away on Holiday with us to really see just how comfortable and practical the Cruiser is.  Needless to say its ‘Tardis-esque’ like cabin swallowed our luggage for the week, baring in mind that we’re a gay couple going away for a week in the UK, we didn’t exactly pack light (we did in fact packed enough luggage and toiletries for an entire gay football team!), everything fitted into the boot without even needing to put the rears seats down to increase space.  Thanks to the many cubbyholes, hidey holes and multiple glove-boxes all the required accessories needed for the 3hr drive to the resort disappeared out of sight and mind.  This included 2 mobiles, an iPod Touch, 2 packets of fags, 2 large bottles of water (no need for maps though as the car we tested had the optional Sat-Nav system at £830 – well worth it!) and enough sweets and snacks to keep a troupe of fat kids happy.

 In general the Urban Cruiser has a great standard spec with electric windows front and rear, electric mirrors and remote central locking coming as standard.  The layout of the cabin means that everyone including driver and rear seat passengers get ample leg and head room.   The Stereo system was outstanding but paled into insignificance to that in the Kia Soul.  The Kia also came as standard with iPod docking system, which will cost you a very unreasonable £254 for the same ability in the Urban Cruiser.