Toyota Urban Cruiser
Model/Engine size: 1.4 D4D 5 AWD
Fuel economy combined: 57.7 mpg
Green-Car-Guide rating: 7/10
The Toyota Urban Cruiser may be viewed as a strange niche of a car, but, in all-wheel drive form, this is another vehicle that promises low emissions together with the ability to stop you sliding around in the snow and ice.
The Urban Cruiser is basically a small family hatchback, but it has styling that is influenced by the lines of its bigger off-road brother, the RAV4. In other words it is one of the growing number of ‘urban crossovers’, following in the tracks of products such as the very successful Nissan Qashqai. The Urban Cruiser is also one of the smaller crossovers, making it more relevant for the city.
The Urban Cruiser comes either as a petrol-engined front-wheel drive model, or a diesel all-wheel drive variant. Interestingly, the new Nissan Juke also has one all-wheel drive model, but Nissan has chosen to offer the 4×4 Juke option with the highest-powered petrol engine rather than the diesel.
If you went for the petrol two-wheel drive Urban Cruiser, this emits 129 g/km CO2 (helped by a stop-start system), and has a combined fuel consumption figure of 51.4 mpg. The diesel all-wheel drive model has similar CO2 emissions, at 130 g/km CO2, but better fuel economy, with 57.7 mpg combined.
The difference is the cost – the front-wheel drive petrol version costs £15,418, compared to £17,386 for the all-wheel drive diesel version. Potential buyers may reap the benefits of the extra £2000 if we continue to be the recipients of lots of snow, but if not, most people would struggle to justify paying the extra premium for the all-wheel drive.
The Urban Cruiser 1.4 D4D AWD actually has virtually identical emissions and fuel economy to the MINI Countryman Cooper D ALL4. This makes both the Urban Cruiser and the Countryman equal in terms of lowest emission cars with four-wheel drive capability. The Cooper D is more expensive at £19,875, but compared to the Urban Cruiser it has more character and stronger performance. Both cars are billed as crossovers rather than 4x4s, but we would say that the Countryman has the edge in terms of its capability in adverse conditions.
So what’s the Urban Cruiser like to drive? The engine is actually pretty impressive for what is just a 1.4-litre diesel, mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. It only has 89 bhp, which is less than the 99 bhp of the petrol unit, but the diesel has decent torque. However it has the same problem as other small capacity diesel engines – when the revs are high enough for the turbo to work, it’s fine, but at low revs there is very little power. At times the engine can also sound quite coarse.
The car has light steering, which is helpful for urban use; it also has good body control, which translates to a firm ride – this is acceptable for general driving, but not great when negotiating city speed bumps and potholes.
As well as extensive driving around the UK and in London, because the Urban Cruiser has all-wheel drive, it was also tested off-road – to check grip levels in slippery conditions rather than to find out the extent of its (limited) ground clearance. The result was that the Urban Cruiser was more capable than you might imagine in terms of traction in tame off-road environments.
The all-wheel drive system cuts in only when needed, and features Active Torque Control to assist with optimum traction. It even has a diff lock to help with added capability in sticky situations, although we don’t imagine many people finding themselves in conditions warranting the use of this.
There’s only one trim level, which gives you good levels of equipment and safety features. The car comes with alloy wheels, climate control, MP3 connection, four electric windows and Bluetooth as standard. This test car was fitted with satnav, adding £950 to the price of the car.
The interior design, although functional, appears quite bare and bland. One quirky thing is that the speedo seemed too close to the driver and too low down, resulting in it feeling as though too much refocusing is required to take your eyes away from the road to view the speedo.
Although there is reasonable seat and steering adjustment it did seem difficult to get the right driving position. With its boxy shape and good amounts of space, the Urban Cruiser is a practical car, even if it’s not the most visually exciting. Build quality seems as good as most Toyotas.
With careful coaxing, we managed to achieve 60 mpg on motorways runs, which is impressive, although this figure dropped to 43 mpg with more mixed driving. Still, not bad for a car that can hopefully get you home through a few snowflakes.
The Urban Cruiser should be a car that is interesting, but in fact it’s a car that could be easily overlooked. A four-wheel drive urban-cruising small hatchback may be a strange combination of market niches, but when it snows, owners are likely to be pleased with their choice. It gets a Green-Car-Guide rating of 7 out of 10 – scoring points for offering people the security of all-wheel drive with low emissions, but losing points for not being as exciting as it could be. It remains to be seen over the long-term how many people will pay the premium for all-wheel drive in this class of car.
Fuel economy extra urban: 64.2 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 48.7 mpg
CO2 emissions: 130 g/km
Green rating: VED band D – first year £0
Weight: 1265 Kg
Company car tax liability (2010/11): 18%
Price: £17,386 (From £15,418 to £17,386)
Insurance group: 8E
Power: 89 bhp
Max speed: 109 mph
0-62mph: 12.5 seconds