It comes billed as a funky urban runabout. Toyota’s Rukus is a hip ‘two box’ fashion statement aimed squarely at younger buyers.
What we found however, was that young hip inner-city types aren’t the only ones who’ll find something to like about the 2010 Toyota Rukus.
Everything. The Toyota Rukus is an all-new product from Toyota for the Australian market.
Available in Japan as the Toyota Corolla Rumion and in the USA as the Scion xB (where it has something of an urban cult following), this is the first time a model of its type has been sold here by Toyota.
Although the whole package is new, there are some familiar elements. The Rukus’ 2.4 litre petrol engine is shared with the Camry and RAV4, and it rides on a development of the Corolla’s platform.
But it’s there the similarities stop. The boxy Rukus is in a style department shared by few others.
What’s the appeal?
Individuality, expressed in its unique lines, are central to the Rukus’ appeal.
What features does it have?
We tested the entry-level Toyota Rukus Build One variant, which kicks off the range at $27,490 before on-road costs.
Standard on the Build One is keyless entry and ignition, cruise control, one-touch power windows, privacy glass, air-conditioning, a trip computer and a six-speaker audio system with USB and 3.5mm auxillary inputs.
What’s under the bonnet?
A four-speed automatic takes power to the front wheels; there is no manual transmission option.
Up front, the Rukus rides on MacPherson struts, while the rear suspension uses a simple beam axle with coil springs and trailing arms.
The steering rack is electrically-assisted and features a tight city-friendly 10.6 metre turning circle. There are disc brakes all round, with the front getting ventilated rotors.
How does it drive?
The four-speed auto is perhaps a downside. It lacks a little by today’s standards and takes an edge off the Rukus’ performance (five speeds are now more the norm).
That said, around town Toyota’s Rukus is very easy to live with.
The steering is nice and light, and, combined with that tight turning circle and good forward visibility, the Rukus can easily be negotiated through crowded car parks and shopping strips.
The electric power assistance however can be a little slow when swinging the wheel quickly from lock-to-lock during parking manoeuvres.
Most would appreciate the quasi-SUV seating height and the upright A-pillars. These are pluses around town, offering a decent view of the road ahead from the wheel (although the jutting front bumper can make nose-in parking a little dicey).
No such problems with the view through the wide rear hatch glass however, and optional parking sensors and a reversing camera are available for those who want added peace of mind in car parks.
Over broken tarmac and speed humps, you will immediately notice that Toyota’s Rukus has a fairly firm ride.
It isn’t so much ‘sporty’ as it is ‘jiggly’. The suspension transfers a lot of bumps into the cabin which seems at odds with the more cruiser-like image of the Rukus. We’d prefer softer and more compliant suspension settings.
Further cracks in the suspension’s composure appear when driving over tramlines, which results in the steering wheel hunting left and right as the rails interfere with the front tracking (but perhaps something only Melbourne drivers will notice).
" class="small img-responsive"/>What did our passengers think?
Passenger comfort is pretty good in the Rukus, and it’s in this area that the boxy hatchback comes into its element.
Rear legroom is great, and so is headroom. The rear bench seat isn’t quite wide enough to comfortably accommodate three adults, but two will find it most commodious.
A lack of rear air conditioning vents however is perhaps an oversight by Toyota and may be irksome in summer. The standard dark-tinted rear glass should offer some salvation however.
There are two cupholders in the centre armrest as well as bottle holders in each door. That said, the cupholders don’t actually grip what’s placed in them - meaning thin or tall cans may topple over during driving.
Interior quality and feel
It’s predominantly black, but broken up visually by the silver-painted trims on the centre stack, vent bezels and instrument cluster.
There’s also some dark high-gloss faux woodgrain around the shift lever and window switches that gives some textural variety to the dash.
The seat fabric of our Build One tester (builds Two and Three get leather upholstery as standard) was durable and comfortable, and the seats themselves offer good support. We heard no creaks nor rattles from the interior of our test car - typical of Toyota's robust build quality.
We have to say though that we were expecting a more hip interior. While it all works well, the Rukus’ funky exterior lines don’t find their way inside.
The seatbacks fold flush with the boot floor, and there are two small pockets on either side of the floor for small items. The Rukus is also equipped with four tie-down points to help secure larger cargo.
Other in-cabin storage is average, with a glovebox that’s not very big and a centre console tray that’s got no lid – leaving whatever you put in it visible to prospective thieves. All doors have storage bins with integrated bottle holders.
How safe is it?
Standard on all Rukus variants is stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD and brake assist. All seats are equipped with three-point seatbelts and a total of six airbags protect occupants in a crash.
The Rukus has yet to be tested by ANCAP, Euro NCAP or the US-based NHTSA
Fuel consumption and green rating
Toyota claims 8.8 l/100km for the Rukus, but our testing achieved an average of 9.6 l/100km.
According to the Federal Government’s Green Vehicle Guide, the Rukus is rated 6 out of 10 stars for greenhouse gas emissions and 6.5 out of 10 for air pollution performance.
How does it compare
Based on its size and pricing, one could quite feasibly compare the Rukus with other front-drive compact SUVs on the market today, like the Mitsubishi ASX, Nissan Dualis, Hyundai ix35 and Kia Sportage.
The 2WD auto-equipped Sportage and Dualis are the best matches on price (the Dualis retails for $27,490 while the Sportage comes in at $27,990), but the Rukus holds an advantage in power and torque output.
With two engines and two transmissions available, the Soul range is broader than the Rukus. It’s much cheaper too, with the base 1.6 litre petrol manual retailing at $20,990 and the optional four-speed auto costing an additional $2000.
But the Rukus is more powerful than the petrol Soul, and although the diesel Soul2 has more torque than the Rukus, it costs $28,690 when equipped with an automatic. That makes it closer in spec, but at the expense of a higher sticker price.
Further tipping things in the Toyota’s favour is the fact that the Soul is also smaller inside than the Rukus.
Is it expensive to maintain?
Each new Rukus sold gets the first six services capped at $130 under Toyota’s Service Advantage program.
The Rukus comes with a three-year vehicle and paint warranty, and a five-year anti-corrosion warranty.
The Rukus range is available in seven colours: Glacier White, Silver Pearl, Ink (black metallic), Dark Furnace (burgundy metallic), Amazon (brown metallic), Tungsten (dark blue) and Aura (light blue).
Metallic paint costs $360 extra, with Glacier White being the only non-metallic hue on offer.
The Rukus Build One costs $27,490 before on-roads, with the car we tested costing approximately $31,169 on-road.
The interior is spacious and the exterior design is unique, but beyond that it’s a little hard to see where the youth appeal lies.
Instead, we think Toyota’s Rukus makes a good case for young families given its generous back seat, capacious boot and practical, no-nonsense packaging.
It surely makes a compelling alternative to the ever-growing numbers of compact SUVs that have saturated the new-car market.
The lack of a manual transmission is perhaps a missed opportunity by Toyota to have a lower price of entry, but the auto-only mechanical package is more than adequate for the average driver – and arguably the specification they’d choose anyway.
Its firm ride might be irritating over broken urban tarmac, but it’s compensated by the Rukus’ easy manoeuvrability, good vision, and zippy performance.
Toyota has made it clear that it understands the Rukus is a niche model (and the company’s sales expectations aren’t especially high), but our time at the wheel shows its appeal is broader than Toyota thinks.