Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Think imports, think places like Thailand, Korea or Japan. But Indonesia is quite a departure from the usual supply routes. Let’s see what the fuss is with Toyota’s latest.

POOR thing. Offloaded from Indonesia and straight into a life of unrelenting servitude.
The Toyota Rush had hardly done 60km on the odometer and it was set to be stressed out even more.

This is the fate of test cars that are hammered and whipped through corners, with engine, brakes, chassis, suspension and tyres pushed hard even before they have had a chance to be broken in. Oh, yes ? a gruelling grilling it is, with a lifespan considerably shortened.

Available since last month, the Rush for Malaysia comes in three variants: the entry-level 1.5G manual and automatic as well as the higher grade 1.5S automatic.

Starmotoring was handed the 1.5S.
The seven-seater is undoubtedly trendy in keeping with its aim to lure young families and those with active lifestyles. The snub nose leads to an elongated body that is imbued with a dose of ruggedness with flared wheel arches and sturdy-looking door panels.

Unique to the 1.5S are the sharp projector headlamps, fog lamps, chrome wing mirrors with built-in turn signals and a rear spoiler with an LED third brake light.

Standard on the Rush is an Aerokit package that comprises front and rear bumper spoiler, side skirting and over fender, helping to boost the sporty imagery somewhat.

The 4.4m-long Rush is based on the Avanza MPV platform and also shares the 1.5-litre variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-i) engine that cranks outs 109bhp at 6,000rpm and peak torque of 141Nm at 4,400rpm.

The Rush traces its roots to the Daihatsu Terios of 1997. It has been around for two years in one guise or another before it appeared in local showrooms. In Japan, the Terios has morphed into the Daihatsu Be-go. It was Indonesia’s turn last year when Daihatsu and Toyota teamed up there to produce the compact SUV as the Terios and Rush.

And of course, the Perodua Kembara was based on the first-generation Terios.

Although Toyota owns Daihatsu, it makes strategic sense to market the SUV as the Rush on account of the far greater brand recognition the global No. 2 car maker has here and the world over.

With ground clearance of 20cm, it is ample space for the occasional fishing trip up the creek or trundling out of an orchard with a bagful of durians. It’s work that’s not too demanding of an SUV that has drive going only to the rear wheels.

With all seats in place and seven people on board, there’s little cargo space to speak of as you swing the tailgate sideways to open it. But the impression is revised when third row, second row and even front passenger seat flatten down to offer a gap as big as a Beluga airfreighter. We jest ? but you get the idea.

Legroom increases as one moves from back row to front row, with driver and front passenger having absolutely nothing to complain about in this department. On the other hand, second and third-row occupants sit at a higher vantage point than those upfront. As expected, the last row, featuring a bench seat, is only suitable for short adults or two tykes and a Chihuahua.
Airiness is enhanced by a light-coloured theme in the cabin trim and fabric seats. The meter cluster is well laid out, with pertinent information readable at a glance.

Apart from the requisite radio and CD gear, Toyota has strangely deemed it fit to include a tape deck as well in the in-car entertainment system.

The glove compartment is small but there are plenty of cubby holes all the way to third row. Like the Avanza, the Rush features dual air-conditioning, a ceiling mounted air conditioner with adjustable fan speed.

It’s only right that the gearshift lever of the four-speeder and the steering wheel are wrapped in leather although for RM95,000, leather all the way to the seats wouldn't have hurt. (The 1.5G manual and automatic variants are around RM86,000 and RM89,000 respectively.)
There is a plasticky ambience inside, which subtracts from the favourable exterior impressions.

The steering column is fixed and the steering wheel lacks volume control buttons. There’s also the front solid discs and rear drums to contend with.

On the move, the engine doesn’t run out of steam quickly, responding better as the right foot sinks further forward to haul the 1.2-tonne vehicle along. The high centre of gravity means one has to be judicious with cornering approaches as the body roll makes its presence felt.
The Blue One offered a sturdy ride that was absorbing of knocks and jarring impact from whatever the road could hurl at it.

Because the revs are on the high side, letting the engine decide what gear ratio to use during pick-up is less than gratifying. One has to take matters into hand by manually downshifting to prod the SUV to be quick about it.

Cabin insulation is quite good actually even as the engine gets noisy when the SUV hits illegal speeds and wind noise attempts to creep in.

On the safety side, the Rush 1.5S touts features like anti-lock braking system with electronic brakeforce distribution, dual airbags and a reinforced occupant cell.
The Rush combines looks and versatile space in a functional package that is wont to attract the crowd like bees to honey.

Truth be told, there are hits and misses in the Rush.
Whether you ultimately buy into its proposition is a matter of what values are most important.

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