Design and Engineering

Design and Engineering

Good Arriving Down Under in May 2010 the Toyota Rukus is refreshingly simple, we're fans of the stylised box like design ensuring it stands out from the current automobile design trend of curves and sloping lines. And whilst it is only slightly longer than a Corolla hatchback (25mm to be exact), it is significantly more roomy inside. A worthy competitor to the Kia Soul and a number of other ‘box on wheels’ urban cars that have become a fashion statement in cities such as Tokyo over the last decade.
Not so good The design might be innovative and fresh however under the funky skin, much is shared with the more conservative Corolla (but this is not necessarily a negative as Corolla’s are extremely reliable, and for this vehicle’s intended purpose, does it really matter if it isn’t the sharpest handling vehicle around a racetrack!). Yes it's new to Australia however it's no spring chicken in car years as it's been on sale overseas since 2007 (the 2010 year mid life cycle facelift saw new front and rear styling and a freshened up interior). The standard wheels are only 16 inch in diameter, so if you want to really make a statement, be prepared to add some larger aftermarket alloys.
Interior and Styling

Interior and Styling

Good Original, funky dashboard design with lots of broad horizontal lines (the dash is layered) combined with a circular theme for the driver instrument gauges and the ventilation and heating controls. We’re fans of the ‘Smart Start’ button (instead of an old school ignition key), the typical high Toyota level of fit AND finish and the excellent amount of storage space and cupholders scattered around the cabin. The entry level ‘Build 1’ grade features four storage compartments and ‘Build 2’ and ‘Build 3’ grades add a deeper centre console box (with a sliding armrest) and an additional storage compartment for rear seat passengers. Fantastic amounts of front and rear head and shoulder room and rear seat legroom is surprisingly good. Cargo capacity with the split folding rear seats folded down is an excellent 1,331 litres and additionally the front seats recline fully, perfect for carrying extra long loads (or taking a power nap?!).
Not so good The steering wheel adjusts for rake (up and down) but not reach (in and out); the seats are big and comfy however smaller driver’s might wish for greater side bolstering (however this would reduce a key advantage of the Rukus – its excellent ease of entry and exit). The dash plastics are more old school hard than new school soft, the sunvisors don’t go low enough and boot space with the rear seats up is only average at 310 litres = we struggled to fit a pram and weekly shopping in the cargo area with the rear seats up (Toyota could improve rear luggage space by pushing the rear bench forward a little and minimising the generous rear seat legroom a little).
Performance

Performance

Good While the similar sized Corolla is fitted with a 1.8L engine and the Kia Soul (the Toyota Rukus’ closest competitor) uses a smaller again 1.6L (in petrol or diesel) the Rukus is fitted with a larger and more powerful 2.4L petrol four cylinder (generating 123kW of power and 224Nm of torque). On the road this translates to more than enough oomph, initial take off is surprisingly zippy even with the four speed Automatic gearbox.
Not so good The only transmission offered is a four-speed Automatic (no five or six speeds here), where’s the Manual option? Whilst power is up over a Corolla, so is vehicle mass. A kerb weight between 1,390kg to 1,430kg (depending on grade) is approximately 100kg heavier than a Corolla hatch. The accelerator pedal can feel overly touchy due to the electronic throttle.
Ride and Handling

Ride and Handling

Good The Rukus sits relatively low, (this definitely isn’t a high riding SUV) so even though it looks like a big box it by no means handles like one - it's not to different from a Corolla, which has just above average dynamics for a small car. The suspension handles Australia’s diverse road conditions respectably.
Not so good The Rukus’ suspension is an all-coil, front MacPherson strut and rear torsion bar design, common for a small family passenger car but unlikely to worry a hot hatch around corners. Ride is a touch firm, the handling isn’t anything to get excited about and the steering can feel stiff and a little heavy at low speeds (but is fine on the highway).
Buying and Owning

Buying and Owning

Good Ticks the safety box with all grades featuring Anti-lock brakes, Electronic Stability Control and six airbags as standard. The entry level ‘Build 1’ grade includes keyless entry and ignition, cruise control, Bluetooth and USB connectivity and an MP3 & iPod compatibility six speaker audio system; ‘Build 2’ additions include part-leather seats, climate control air-Conditioning and a nine speaker audio including a sub woofer; the top dog ‘Build 3’ grade is based on the ‘Build 2’ with the addition of a sunroof. This is a vehicle itching to be personalised, so just like the competing Kia Soul, the Rukus can be optioned with some funky body decals (fancy a flame, brick or maybe a white stripe graphics?).
Not so good The Rukus costs significantly more than the competing Kia Soul (however, the Soul is a half size smaller and has a smaller engine); official combined fuel economy of 8.8L per 100kms is on the thirsty side for a vehicle of this size. Toyota offer a number of Toyota Racing Development (TRD) accessories but no big 18 inch or 19 inch alloys. The Rukus also misses out on Auto off headlights.