Toyota Rukus

Monday, 19 July 2010
Built on the same proportions of a miniature HUMMER, Toyota’s all new Rukus is a big car in a small car’s body. Everything from the engine to the interior room leaves passengers reeling, likewise with the funky design. 

The front end features halogen projector lamps with visually grabbing air dams built into the bumper bars. The boxy design continues through to the rear where a flat tailgate closes off the quirky design.
The Rukus is available in three models, named the Build 1, Build 2 and Build 3. The Build 1 comes with 16” alloy wheels, cruise control, keyless entry and start, electric windows, electric mirrors, privacy glass, air conditioning, 6-speaker sound system, engine immobiliser and cloth trim. It starts from $27,490.

Build 2 includes (in addition to the Build 1) leather seats, steering wheel mounted audio and cruise control, 9-speaker sound system with sub-woofer and automatic climate control. Pricing starts from $29,990.

The final model in the range – the Build 3 – features (in addition to the Build 2) a title and slide moon roof and is priced from $31,790 and was the model tested.

The Rukus’ quirky exterior is matched by an equally quirky interior. A centre mounted speedometer cluster dominates the dashboard, as does a high-mounted gear lever and giant air vents. Hard dash plastics are also always within arm’s reach.

Toyota claims the sound system fitted to Build 2 and Build 3 models offers “sublime audio quality”. While sublime wasn’t the first word that jumped to mind when I tested the sound system, it offers ample bass with relatively clear high-range reproduction.

Bluetooth streaming is available for techno-philes, allowing streaming of audio via Bluetooth. Unfortunately the audio can’t be changed using the steering wheel or audio controls; instead it has to be changed via the device. If you are a sheep like yours truly and use a fruit phone, Bluetooth streaming becomes illegal to use unless you have a passenger handy to pick the tunes.
Audio quality via Bluetooth handsfree is disappointing, with volume not loud enough to make caller’s voices recognisable, even with the volume at full tilt.

Front and rear leg and head room is very impressive. While the Rukus may look small from the outside, the amount of room on offer is continuously astounding. Boot room is capped at 310-litres with a flat floor and useful storage areas surrounding the floor.

Powering the Rukus is the engine from Toyota’s top-selling Camry. The 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine produces 117kW and 218Nm of torque. Power is delivered through a four-speed automatic gearbox.

While the engine numbers may not offer a thrilling drive in the Camry, the Rukus weighs around 100kg less, resulting in spritely acceleration and surprising performance. A tuned exhaust note also helps the Rukus feel sporty and youthful.

Cornering isn’t the Rukus’ stong suit, with substantial body roll mid-corner, but it’s sporty enough to keep most happy.
The smoothness offered in the Camry is lost in the Rukus due to its slow and often unintelligent four-speed automatic gearbox. The gearbox often hunts for gears and changes up too early on hills, resulting in kick-downs.

The advantage of such a large engine in a relatively small car is the fuel consumption. The Rukus manages to use just 8.8L/100km, with 8.1L/100km achieved on test with a great deal of highway driving.

The Rukus is loaded with standard safety features, including six-airbags, Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Traction Control (TC), ABS brakes with EBD and BA, engine immobiliser and active head restraints.

Buyers can accessorise their Rukus with body decals such as stripes and flames in addition to other TRD accessories such as starter buttons, oil filler caps and gear shift levers. The level of customisation doesn’t seem to be as wide as the Kia Soul though, which can have modified interior colours and bass activated speaker lights.

While the Toyota Rukus is a massive step in the opposite direction for Toyota, I’m not too sure how well it will sell. Driving the Rukus caused a lot of attention, with plenty of people pointing fingers and turning heads. Often though the finger pointing and head turning was accompanied by a chuckle...

Is Australia ready for the Rukus? It may be extremely popular with the youth in Japan, but I’m yet to be convinced that it will hit the mark in Australia. I am happy to eat my words though, as it’s a great little car with infinite amounts of character and style, something we all thought Toyota could never come up with. - Paul Maric

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