In essence, the Toyota Urban Cruiser is nothing but a rebadged Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza. And you could easily mistake one for the other. We strongly feel that Toyota missed an opportunity to lend a more distinguishing appearance to its compact SUV. But if you think about it, maybe that’s exactly what they didn’t want to do. Having the Urban Cruiser look as similar as possible to the highest-selling sub-four metre SUV in the market (read Brezza) should pour in the benefits, right? Now, let’s take a detailed tour of what this Toyota has in store for you.
To start with what’s different, the Urban Cruiser gets a restyled nose with the logo shining prominently on the glossy black slats. This is complemented by a completely redesigned bumper that’s got a sleek flowing design with faux mesh surrounding the headlamps. Overall, I liked the Toyota’s nose better. As for the rest of the car, it’s similar to the Brezza’s. So, you get the same boxy-SUV profile with the squared-off wheel wells, the highlighted roof, and the simplistic but handsome rear with the rugged bash plate.
The familiarity with the Brezza continues here too. It’s a simple design that only uses some scant silver and glossy piano-black trim on the glove-box and centre console surround to highlight the otherwise all-black cabin. Despite that, it feels airy, thanks to the large glass area and the upright pillars which not only make headroom lavish, but the all-around visibility astounding.
As for the seats, one sits upright on the supportive well-bolstered seats with ample knee room even for tall occupants. That said, even the rear passengers will appreciate the generous under-thigh support with the added benefit of seating three abreast, maybe not for long journeys though. On the downside, rear AC vents would’ve been certainly appreciated.
Now, in addition to the numerous stowage spaces, what also adds to the practicality is the rear 60:40 split-folding bench that liberates the already-capable 328-litre boot. Not only is the loading bay large, but the square enclosure with minimum intrusions can easily swallow a large suitcase, some medium-sized ones, and some soft bags. Equipment-wise, the top-end ‘Premium’ variant gets auto LED headlamps, LED fog lamps, rear parking camera, and 16-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels.
There’s also auto wipers, auto AC, cruise control, electric mirrors, push-button start, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility on its seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Safety features include ABS with EBD, dual airbags, speed-sensing door locks, hill-hold (automatic), adjustable height for the front-row seatbelt, and various warning lights as standard.
Sending power to the front wheels of the Toyota Urban Cruiser is the lone engine variant; a 103bhp/138Nm 1.5-litre four-cylinder K-Series (NA) petrol engine, with either a four-speed torque converter automatic or a five-speed manual box. For this review, we have the automatic. Amusingly, we found ourselves eyeing the rpms regularly to see if the motor was running; a true indication of the superior refinement and lack of NVH.
Off the mark, there’s enough grunt from the word ‘go’ that allows the Urban Cruiser to get up and move along without a fuss whatsoever; something that’s particularly helpful whilst driving in traffic. Furthermore, the widespread torque throughout the rev-band allows this Toyota to gain momentum linearly with hardly any delay, especially in the mid-range.
Although this free-revving motor can even hit the red-line easily, any overtaking chores don’t require it to. What also aids it here is the four-speed torque convertor gearbox which despite not being one of the smoother shifting ones, shifts appropriately (as per throttle input) and comes across as adequate in most real-world driving instances. It also has the 'L' and '2' modes that hold on to lower gears while facing steep inclinations.
Now, although the Urban Cruiser’s ride quality is firm at slow speeds, it isn’t uncomfortable. Yet, as the speeds increase, it manages to absorb most bumps and imperfections without throwing the occupants around. And with 198mm ground clearance, one doesn’t need to constantly worry about any unmarked speed-breakers ruining the running board. At highway speeds, the firm suspension works well by not only offering good stability but also dialling down the roll substantially.
What also helps its cause here, especially around the bends, are the 215-section tyres and fairly responsive steering (2.5 turns from lock-to-lock) with just the right amount of heft. Likewise, since the steering is fairly light at city speeds, maneuvering, and parking in challenging circumstances is generally a breeze. Sure, there is some slack off the dead centre, but that’s just about it. On the braking front, it’s responsive with hardly any fade considering this is an automatic.
What you get with the Toyota Urban Cruiser, other than the obvious benefits of the proven product itself, are aspects such as the peace-of-mind ownership experience, bullet-proof reliability, a sound service network, and the usually strong resale value. Plus, the fact that this Toyota SUV is more affordable than its brand siblings largely helps its case too. If you love the Maruti Brezza in all its glory, but wanted something different, without sacrificing any of the above-mentioned qualities, the Toyota Urban Cruiser is the way to go. For all you know, it could be the stepping stone to the more aspirational Toyotas!
Pictures by Kaustubh Gandhi