With "baby Fortuner" looks, a high-value price tag and "that" badge on its nose, Toyota's new Rush was always destined to be a strong seller in South Africa. Does it live up to expectations?
We like: Good looks, decent standard spec, massive luggage bay, Toyota's reputation for reliability/service
We don't like: Lack of a 3rd row of seats, short gearing results in very "buzzy" cabin, driving position
- Price: R299 900 (September 2018)
- Engine: 1.5-litre 4-cylinder petrol
- Gearbox: 5-speed manual
- Fuel economy: 6.6 L/100 km (claimed)
- Power/Torque: 77 kW/136 Nm
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Where does it fit in?
The Toyota Rush is a good-looking 5-seater baby SUV based on the more utilitarian Avanza.
Just about every type of vehicle appears to be morphing into an SUV-themed crossover these days. Multi-purpose vehicles (MPVs) were all the rage not so long ago, but people-movers have subsequently fallen out of favour with private individuals. These days, they're mostly favoured by practicality-minded and cost-conscious shoppers that require a hardy, spacious fleet vehicle. The best example of such a product is Toyota's very own Avanza.
Still a big seller to companies, shuttle operators etc., the Avanza however no longer presses the desirability buttons of families shopping on a budget – these folks are all looking for crossover-flavoured SUVs. So... Toyota has done the obvious thing, which is to use the Avanza as a base to develop a more attractive SUV-themed offering, called the Rush. Sold in some markets as the Daihatsu Terios, it has really hit the ground running in South Africa, clocking up more than 400 sales in its first month...
What's good about it?
Massive luggage bay and passenger space
Toyota claims a load volume of 609 litres for that boxy rear end, and that's simply excellent news for families transporting bulky items regularly.
For South Africa, Toyota has opted to offer the Indonesia-made Rush in 5-seater configuration only. There are some downsides to this (see lower down), but the deletion of the 3rd-row bench has given the Rush arguably the largest luggage bay in its segment (and certainly its price class). Toyota claims a load volume of 609 litres for that boxy rear end, and that's simply excellent news for families transporting bikes, dogs and the proverbial kitchen sink on a regular basis.
The bay's aperture is also nicely square, and the roof is high, too, so you can transport some pretty bulky objects in the back of the Rush. Should further space be required, the 2nd row's 60/40 split seatback can fold and tumble forwards. Key to the flat floor is that the spare wheel is mounted underneath the body.
Rear seat passengers will appreciate the generous legroom (as well as headroom) and they also get their own 12V power outlet (there's another one in front). The only real downside to the Rush's packaging and design is its driving position – although the driver's seat is height-adjustable, the steering column only offers minimal rake- (and no reach) adjustment, which means the driving position will be compromised for some (especially taller) drivers.
Comprehensive standard spec
On the entertainment side, you get a comprehensive touchscreen infotainment system that is not only Apple CarPlay- and Android Auto-compatible, but incorporates satellite navigation.
For now the Rush is only offered in "S" specification and you get quite a lot for your money. Perhaps most impressively, the safety kit is comprehensive, with vehicle stability control included in the package, along with 6 airbags. Also much appreciated are hill-assist control (HAC), a reverse-view camera and park-distance control.
On the entertainment side, you get a comprehensive touchscreen infotainment system that is not only Apple CarPlay- and Android Auto-compatible, but incorporates satellite navigation. Of course, electric windows are fitted all-round, but other surprises include push-button start, retractable side mirrors and climate control (with air outlets in the ceiling for rear passengers), as opposed to normal air-conditioning.
In the eyes of many onlookers, it appears to mimic the styling of the Fortuner SUV, which is one of South Africa's top-selling vehicles.
It's really quite remarkable how Toyota has managed to make a vehicle based on the dowdy Avanza so attractive. In the eyes of many onlookers, it appears to mimic the styling of the Fortuner SUV, which is one of South Africa's top-selling vehicles. With LED strips in the headlamps, stylish 17-inch alloy wheels and good ground clearance (a claimed 220 mm), the Rush is a vehicle that looks pricier than it really is.
Inside, too, Toyota's designers have done an excellent job. Although the materials are mostly of the hard plastic variety, the use of black with contrasting taupe (let's call it light grey with a hint of brown...) does lift the ambience. Stylish instrumentation and that neat touchscreen system further lift the Rush's cabin to heady heights, particularly considering its Avanza origins. We also appreciate the leather-trimmed steering wheel and the number of storage solutions dotted around the cabin.
The 1.5-litre engine underneath the bonnet is a proven, reliable unit that has served in many other Toyota and Daihatsu products. Also, as we know from the Avanza, these are tough vehicles that can stand plenty of abuse. Now factor in the trusted back-up provided by the Toyota dealership network and a good 3-year/100 000 km warranty, as well as a service plan that's good for 6 services (90 000 km) and you can understand why South Africans are flocking to Toyota dealerships to buy these.
Where does it fall short?
The Rush's ride/handling balance also represents a mixed bag of talents and disappointments.
The Rush is not a particularly heavy vehicle (it weighs less than 1.3 tonnes), so around town you're unlikely to find fault with the engine's power output (or its general responsiveness). In fact, due to the short gearing, the Rush feels quite sprightly at lower speeds and you won't struggle to keep up with traffic in most conditions.
But there are some issues. Due to the short gearing, the Rush's engine spins at around 3 600 rpm when travelling at 120 kph, which means the strained engine noise will become tiring after a while, especially on the types of longer road trips that families are likely to undertake with this type of vehicle. In those (fully loaded) instances they may also find that the Rush lacks overtaking oomph.
The Rush's ride/handling balance also represents a mixed bag of talents and disappointments. On the one hand, its raised and softly-sprung suspension makes it a capable, comfortable car on gravel roads or on poor surfaces at lower speeds. But, on the other hand, it is particularly sensitive to crosswinds. When cornering, it tends to lean considerably more than lower-riding, front-wheel-drive crossovers sold at a similar price. We do appreciate the inclusion of stability control, given all of the above.
For now the Rush is only offered in "S" specification and you get quite a lot for your money. Perhaps most impressively, the safety kit is comprehensive.
Why a 3rd row would've been nice...
You'll know better than us whether you actually need a 3rd row of seating (in other words, a vehicle with a 7-seater configuration), but the lack of that rear bench (compared with the Avanza) does limit the Rush's family friendliness. For most families, the seating-for-five/massive luggage bay package will work perfectly, but there are instances (on a collective school run, for example), where the ability to carry 2 extra small ones would have been a major plus – that's something that the Honda BR-V does offer. Also, as it stands right now, that massive luggage bay does without a tonneau cover, so you may have to find a way of covering up those valuables.
Alternatives (click on the names for detailed spec info)
The BR-V is the Rush's most natural rival offers a similar design approach, but adds the extra flexibility of a 3rd row of seats. It's also a more refined vehicle to drive. What it lacks is the Rush's comprehensive standard specification (it only has 2 airbags, for example) and, ultimately, you can't match the Rush's load volume even if you fold the BR-V's 3rd-row of seats down. You can, it should be noted, buy an automatic BR-V for the same price as a manual Rush...
Ford's popular little crossover could be worth considering if you demand greater efficiency, vastly better refinement and similar specification. Of course, you won't come near matching the Rush's load volume, but then few vehicles do. There are a large number of smaller crossovers from other marques to consider, too – none of them can beat the size of Rush's luggage, but all of them are nicer to drive.
A throwback to the MPV era, the Ertiga is an underrated product that is worth considering if your shopping on a tight budget and you require 7-seater capability, usable cabin space and a similar type of bulletproof reliability that Toyota is famous for. It is around R70k cheaper than the Rush, but lacks many of its features and is particularly light on safety specification (only 2 airbags and no electronic stability control).
It's worth noting that a year-old example of Toyota's popular RAV4 (in 2.0 GX automatic specification) can be bought for similar money to a new Rush. Examples listed on Cars.co.za have mileages of below 50 000 km, making them particularly appealing. While lacking the Rush's load volume, the RAV4 is a far more balanced offering, with greater refinement and better material quality in the cabin. It's also a much nicer vehicle to drive over long distances. There are many to choose from on Cars.co.za.
For cash-strapped locals that need a trusty, spacious family car, it ticks many boxes and it does so while looking considerably more expensive than it is
We totally understand why the Rush is likely to be a sales success in South Africa. For cash-strapped locals that need a trusty, spacious family car, it ticks so many boxes and it does so while looking considerably more expensive than it is. The standard specification (including safety features) is very generous and there is no questioning its spaciousness. At around R300 000, however, there are many more refined vehicles on offer that are simply better to drive. And seeing as the Rush can't be bought with 7 seats, a large luggage bay (and admittedly some spec) appears to be its sole USP. If you need that loading space, then it's quite simple – the Rush is unmatched. But if you need a more complete, better balanced and, crucially, nicer-to-drive car (both in town and on the long road), there are better options out there.
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