Toyota Urban Cruiser

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Toyota Urban Cruiser

Road Test

Toyota Urban Cruiser 1.33 VVT-i

Driven March 2009

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In a faraway land called America, Toyota owns a youth brand called Scion. Scion cars are pointy and boxy and marketed to college kids with giant allowances and disturbingly white teeth. In Europe, we don't have Scion. But now we have this, the Urban Cruiser.

It is named after the long-lost seventh member of the Village People, and is heavily based on the smallest Scion, the xD, which is in turn based on the Japan-only Toyota Ist, which is in turn based on the Yaris. The Cruiser is another entrant into the increasingly segmented city crossover class, a territory roughly bounded by the Citroen C3 Picasso, Kia Soul, Suzuki SX4 and the Mini. It's a bit longer than the Yaris and it seats five at a push. It looks interesting and blocky. It looks like it might appeal to kids with huge allowances and disturbingly white teeth.

Despite its provenance and exterior, though, the Urban Cruiser remains resolutely un-yoofy. Slide into the cabin and - with the exception of a neat single-dial display for speed and revs - it's standard Toyota dullitude, a blanket of black plastic far removed from the bright, airy interiors of the Soul or C3 Picasso (or even, for that matter, Toyota's own iQ), a claustrophobic cubicle amplified by the narrow glasshouse. With the exception of the woeful seats - which are comically short of depth and perch you far too high, doubtless to amplify the impression of SUV-ness - there's nothing to complain about, just nothing to tick the ‘interesting' box.

The engines are similarly excitement-shy: a 1.33-litre petrol and a 1.4-litre diesel, both transplanted from the Yaris and mated to six-speed manual boxes. The petrol will be available in the UK with front-wheel drive and stop-start technology, while the diesel gets four-wheel drive and a slightly raised ride height. Both engines sit firmly at the relaxed end of the spectrum, providing just about enough shove to get up to motorway speeds while wholeheartedly resisting any attempt to rev hard. Such is its lack of enthusiasm that chucking the Urban Cruiser into corners feels mildly sadistic: despite less lean than you might expect from a tall car on a short wheelbase, there's a strange disconnectedness between front and rear wheels. Around town, at least, the Urban Cruiser makes for easy, stress-free progress, but don't expect a whole lot of youthful vim.

If all that wasn't enough to dissuade virile young upstarts, the none-too-modest list price will be the final nail: in the UK, we'll get a single high-spec version of the Urban Cruiser which, though equipped with plenty of electronic frippery, starts at a heady £14,500 for the petrol, rising to £16,500 for the diesel. If you can live without four-wheel drive - and really, you can - that sort of money buys you a lot of C3 Picasso. A happy luxury our American cousins don't have.

Sam Philip

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