Toyota Urban Cruiser
Saturday 18 July 2009
Price: from £14,500
Top speed: 109mph 0-60mph 12.5 seconds
CO2 emissions: 129g/km
Best for: farmers who live in the city
Also worth considering? Kia Soul; Ford Kuga; Daihatsu Terios
At some point, late in the last stages of the boom, the injunction will have emerged from the boardrooms of the great car companies of the world to their product planning and engineering teams: "We want more market share of parts of the car market that don't exist yet, but which we know will be invented soon. Go and find every niche in the market, no matter how unlikely, and fill it. And if there aren't any more niches, invent them." Hence all the "crossovers" and "hybrids" we see nowadays.
And hence the Toyota Urban Cruiser. This is a sort of automotive labradoodle – a cross between a Labrador retriever and a poodle; working dog meets lap dog (I know poodles are in fact working dogs, but please take my point). The clue is in the name, you see. The Urban Cruiser is designed to put you in mind of a cross between, or hybrid of, Toyota's big tough Land Cruiser line of SUVs, and a city car, a Yaris, say. Not so long ago, the world only had one of these – the almost comical, Daihatsu Terios, which finds a market among short farmers. The Urban Cruiser is better than that – functioning as a proper car rather than something to herd sheep with. This Toyota is compact to park, has a small turning circle and is easy and lively to drive. The stop-start system saves fuel and detracts nothing from the vehicle's refinement. The Urban Cruiser is also fairly good looking. It doesn't scream at the world, in the way that its rivals the Kia Soul and the Ford Kuga do, but I noticed the discreet glances it attracted all the same.
However, I do wonder how determined I would have to be to convince myself that my predominantly urban lifestyle – I hesitate to say cruising – demands I own a vehicle such as this. My Skoda Octavia manages the occasional curb just fine. Against that benchmark, the Toyota doesn't add much, and costs considerably more. Case closed.
Indeed, the Toyota Urban Cruiser would be better badged and marketed as the Toyota Rural Cruiser, where its (optional) four-wheel-drive system, coupled with a torquey diesel and all-round practicality would make it a viable and economical alternative to those ridiculous lumbering SUVs you see scraping their way down narrow country lanes. Cars such as the Toyota Land Cruiser, in fact, which perhaps rather tells me why they haven't followed my line of thought.
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