DOUG KEMSLEY ON WHEELS (3)

RUSH 2 GET THERE

Who needs elephant bulls when they’re grumpy? They tend to throw their weight around a lot.

Toyota’s new Rush is expected to be many a SA motorist’s entrance to the sports utility vehicle lifestyle. The five-door small SUV has a punchy 1 500cc engine, is keenly priced and is loaded with nice-to-have accessories. It looks particularly at home in the African bush as well.

I’ve seen a huge pachy sit on a car’s bonnet, squashing it and ripping off its bumper, just because it spotted an orange on the back seat from miles away. Not a pretty sight. If it had known there was an apple or two in the car as well, no doubt, it would have simply trunk-flipped it over on its hood to get at them.

Guess that was why Toyota didn’t include fruit in our lunch packs when it launched its new, small, sports utility vehicle at Addo’s Ellie Park recently. I don’t think they were in the mood to send eight of them back to the factory dented and on roll-back recovery trucks.

The new Toyota Rush trumpets the rush on SUVs, selling like hot cakes right now. They are the flavour of the time and just about every motor brand has one, sometimes two, on offer.

Some ask the question, is the Rush a baby Fortuner or a very, very new Venture? Neither, because there is no 4×4 version and its styling is far too suave to appear anything like the box-like Venture.

Rush could be some folks’ entrance into the SUV lifestyle

Versatility, size with car comfort, being the key to the success of the SUV concept, it seems all else a motor maker needs, is a touch of visual appeal and the sales will start ringing up.

At this stage, only manual five-speed or automatic four-speed versions, powered by a 1,5-litre, four-cylinder engine, driving through the rear wheels, are available.

Manufactured and imported from Indonesia, nonetheless this five-seater has the fine finishes and build quality of something straight out of Japan.

On first encountering the Rush, you will note the significant ride height of 220mm and its wide-legged, John Wayne-type stance. All this gives the impression the 215-60-R17 wheels and tyres are a bit skinny-looking. Looks can be deceptive, though, and I could not fault the Rush’s handling and stability at speed. Wider wheels and tyres would also have pushed pricing up.

All the more interesting, as it also has to satisfy mild off-road requirements, and has a 600mm wading depth capability, which normally negatively affects high speed stability. For dongas there is a handy 31-degree frontal approach angle and a 26,5-degree departure angle.

Like all SUVs the Rush has that slant-eyed frontal styling treatment with the pointed, upswept LED headlights and large trapezoidal grille being most influential here.

A silver skid plate – I didn’t test how tough it is in the interests of not damaging the test car and becoming very unpopular – rounds off the front façade.

Traditional, for SUVs, are the black roof rails and a colour-coded rear roof spoiler.

The 17-inch alloy wheels have a forward slanting, “turbine” design. Attractive to most, but not, I must say, to all.

The front seating is sumptuous and nicely supportive which, together with the substantial roof and door panelling with fabric inlays, give occupants a cossetted feeling.

The versatility comes with the rear seats and their 60/40 tip-forward function giving the trunk – sorry, luggage compartment – additional capacity to the huge 609 litres already provided.

There’s a huge glove compartment and cupholders just about wherever you look – four in the front door pockets, four in the rear doors, and three in the centre console. It Sure is a US motorist’s dream.

With 77kW at 6 000r/min and 136 Nm of torque at 4 200r/min, the four-cylinder, double overhead cam engine has a good amount of poke over a wide rev range, thanks to the variable valve timing system adopted.

When cruising, I noted the five-speed manual version’s revs were a fairly high 3 500 at a steady 120 km/h. I would have preferred it at some 3 000r/min in the interests of improved fuel consumption when on the open road. Perhaps a tweek to the final drive would do the trick. However, Toyota claims an average fuel consumption of 6,6 l/100km for the manual and 6,7l/100km for the automatic model.

With the front engine, rear wheel-drive layout of the Rush, it has the well tried and tested McPherson struts up front and the now perfected multilink suspension in the rear.

Overstep the mark and do something too stupid too fast, and you have vehicle stability control and ABS, to help you sort it out.

The Rush has passive safety systems to protect occupants, comprising a total of six airbags to deploy when in a collision, offering driver, passenger, side and curtain airbag cushioning.

The convenience features I really appreciated were the power adjustable/retractable exterior side mirrors, auto-off LED headlights, the fog lights and the integrated reverse camera and park distance control. You won’t always find these on vehicles in the Rush’s price range.

A three-spoke leather-clad steering wheel sits ahead of an upper dash, housing a touchscreen audio system equipped with Bluetooth, USB and Android Auto Plus Show/Apple CarPlay functionality. The high-tech audio unit also offers a user-customisable layout and ‘apps’.

The lower dashboard holds the dual-zone, electronic climate control and a 12-volt accessory connector. There is another 12-volt power outlet for rear passengers as well.

SUVs are essentially community chariots and the six-speaker touchscreen infotainment centre fits the bill admirably, and in addition, occupants can also use their smartphone music-streaming apps, Apple Music, Spotify and Google Music.

The Rush has satellite navigation, but you can also use your own smartphone apps such as Apple Maps, Google Maps and Waze.

The Rush with manual transmission costs R299 900 and the automatic version has a price tag of R313 500.

You have a choice of five colours. Yes, you guessed right – tusk white – quicksilver, ruby metallic, liquid bronze metallic and graphite black.

A six-service/90 000km service plan comes with the Rush, backed up by a three-year/100 000km warranty.

Previously, Addo used to feed its elephants piles of reject oranges from the nearby citrus plantations, much to the pleasure of all, including visitors. But things started getting hectic, the ellies misbehaved, knocking down fences and each other, to get at the fruit, so that jaunt had to be quickly stopped.

Got to love those ellies, but how do you know for sure when an approaching bull elephant is grumpy or not? Don’t know whether one can trust all that ear-flapping and trumpeting…

By Doug Kemsley

 

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