Toyota and Maruti Suzuki are sort of stuck with an image problem and, frankly, at opposite ends of the price spectrum. Buyer preferences are overwhelmingly in favour of premium vehicles if it is a Toyota and loaded in favour of affordable small cars if it is a Maruti Suzuki. This puts into perspective the cooperation agreement that the two Japanese companies signed in 2017 to jointly work on new models for the Indian market.
The first one that truly represent a co-developed yet fairly differentiated new model sharing the same platform are the Toyota Urban Cruiser Hyryder and the Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara. The previous models that the two companies shared were essentially badge-engineered Maruti cars bearing the Toyota logo. But the Hyryder has been jointly developed ground up with inputs that deliver strengths and synergies from both car makers in the partnership.
The first highlight of the new Toyota Urban Cruiser Hyryder (apart from the funky name) is that this will be the first mass-market SUV to feature a hybrid petrol powertrain. The Honda City eHEV is already on the market and was one of the first mass-market passenger vehicles with a self-charging hybrid system. But the Hyryder will be more relevant in today’s pro-SUV climate. Like the City eHEV, the new Toyota model and its Maruti Suzuki counterpart are also strong hybrids, capable of an EV-only driving range, albeit only a short distance. Maruti’s mild hybrids of the past featured much smaller batteries and motors and were merely capable of offering parallel assistance during acceleration cycles. I got to test drive the new Urban Cruiser Hyryder on Bengaluru’s roads, and here are my first impressions.
Toyota’s design language hasn’t been very consistent across models, though individual models have had some familiar lines. The new Hyryder, however, is a clean slate, and since it was co-developed with Suzuki from the start, there is enough to distinguish it from the others. The front fascia is the most distinctive, with the side profile and some of the shared features at the rear giving the platform siblings similarities. The Hyryder gets a tapered nose and a large grille that runs down to the edge of the front fender. The bow-shaped faux underbody protector and the main headlamps on either side of the fender, located lower than the traditional position, give the Urban Cruiser Hyryder a sporty and aggressive front design. The Twin-LED DRLs are split by a chrome band that runs across a 3-dimensional faux carbon-fibre style panel that sits where the grille is usually located. The creased bonnet is quite upright and establishes the compact SUV’s stance from the front.
Squared-off wheel arches with contrast black cladding and simple, straight waist and shoulder lines make the side profile uncomplicated. The top-trim ‘V’ variant that I was driving featured a chrome highlight for the window line. The side profile is where the impact of the Hyryder’s length is most felt. The 4.35-metre-long SUV gets a wheelbase of 2.6 metres, making it one of the longer compact SUVs on the market. The Hyryder shares Suzuki’s new TECT platform, which is said to be instrinsically safer and more dynamic compared to its predecessors. The hybrid’s battery pack is located under the floor and just behind the rear passenger area; this does lead to a small reduction in luggage space in the boot for the Hybrid version. The Hybrid powertrain is offered in three trim variants and the ‘Neodrive’ versions (Maruti engine and gearboxes) are offered in four trim variants, with the base variant only being offered with the 5-speed manual transmission and the rest also getting the option of a 6-speed automatic.
After getting into the Hyryder’s cabin, one of the first points that strike me is the amount of space (both kneeroom and headroom) that is available both for front passenger and rear occupants. Once past that point, the other highlight of the cabin is the chocolate-brown and black colour theme that’s offered in the hybrid variants. The Neo drive variants, which essentially feature the Maruti engine and powertrain, gets an all-black treatment for the cabin. The interior also feels pretty well finished, with a decent mix of trim elements that are being used to highlight the cabin’s quality, including elements like the stitched, soft-touch IP on the dashboard. The centre-stack itself is sort of like a water fall theme construction. It is topped by a 9-inch smart play cast (as Toyota calls it) infotainment system and automatic climate control. Of course, all these features were in my top trim V variant; lower trim variants would have a few missing from this. In addition to the touch-screen infotainment system, the V variant also has a 7-inch multi-information display in place of the instrument cluster; there are no analog dials. The information display also includes a dynamic display of whether the engine or the battery is currently in use for powering the car. There is also a clear display of the combined driving range of the car at all points in time.
The other cabin feature that was a welcome addition for me was the perforated leatherette seats with ventilation. Overall, it is a very clean-finished dashboard, with shiny faux-aluminum trim elements highlighting the centre-stack. What I was driving was the hybrid with its automatic transmission, so that the gear stick itself was a clean unit with the standard parking/reverse/neutral/drive and low gear positions highlighted. The other feature in the cabin you tend to immediately observe when you get in is the panoramic sunroof, which brings in a lot of light into the cabin. My only complaint about the panoramic sunroof is the rather thin mesh type roof liner, which may lead to a considerable amount of heat radiating into the cabin.
Some of the other features in the hybrid V trim variant that I was driving included wireless phone charging, head-up display, rear aircon vents, and a reclining rear seat backrest that should help rear occupants to get a little more comfortable. There is also a 60-40 split for the rear seat to enable more storage in the boot if that is needed. It also gets a footwell lamp and a 360-degree camera view generated through cameras installed at the rear and under the door mirrors. Space in the boot was a bit compromised by the location of the battery pack under the rear seat.
Depending on the variant, the new Hyryder also gets 55 different connected car features. Some of these can be controlled using your smartphone or smart watch. Quite a few of these will be useful on an everyday basis and include stuff like locking and unlocking the car, remote aircon control, stolen vehicle tracking, and distance to empty monitoring. One of the points that stayed with me after driving the Hybrid variant of the Toyota Urban Cruiser Hyryder is the fact that it is very similar to the cabin of the Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara.
The only powertrain variant that I was offered for the day-long test drive was the Hybrid top-spec ‘V’ variant. This engine’s nomenclature is TNGA, short for Toyota New Generation Architecture. It is supplemented by a strong hybrid system that Toyota has developed specifically for the new vehicle.
This 1,490cc, 3-cylinder petrol engine is assisted by a strong, self-charging hybrid system that features an AC Synchronous motor and a lithium-ion battery pack. Unlike plug-in hybrid systems with larger battery packs and more powerful motors, the one in the Hyryder is a 180-volt system with a relatively small 0.76kW battery pack. The electric motor generates a peak power output of 80.2PS and delivers a peak torque of 141Nm. Together with the 3-cylinder engine’s output of 92.4PS and a peak torque of 122Nm, the total system generated peak output is 115.56PS. The Atkinson cycle engine is paired with an e-CVT gearbox, which I expected to become a powertrain that is over-focused on efficiency, what with the claim of a near 28kmpl rated mileage.
So, my expectation was for it to be a relatively laid-back driving style. During gradual acceleration and city driving conditions, the powertrain doesn’t feel strained or underpowered. Under hard acceleration, though, the engine’s relatively restrained performance becomes evident. But it is surprisingly quiet, and refined even for a 3-cylinder. I would go far as to say that it is adequately peppy, though it doesn’t feel sporty. The hybrid system can offer an EV-battery only mode driving range. But Toyota officials say that the distance can’t be accurately predicted because the system adjusts the parallel or series assistance offered by the electric motor based on multiple factors, including battery state-of-charge and vehicle speed. Braking performance is adequate, with regen braking also contributing to a quicker slowing down of the vehicle.
The other engine on offer for the Hyryder (not offered for the test drive) is the Maruti Suzuki K15C petrol engine. This 1,462cc, 4-cylinder unit delivers a peak power of 103.06PS and 136.8Nm of torque. It is paired with either a 5-speed manual or a 6-speed torque converter automatic transmission. This is a workhorse that we have also seen in a few other Maruti vehicles. The top-trim of the Hyryder’s Neo Drive variants that feature this powertrain can also be had with all-wheel drive. The ride quality is good, with body roll well contained and the suspension setup just right for even snuffing out much of the kind of jarring feedback that comes from going over cobbled stones. With a ground clearance of 210 mm, going over bad roads, stagnant water and big speed breakers shouldn’t be a problem.
The new Toyota Urban Cruiser Hyryder is likely to be priced in the ₹15 lakh to ₹20 lakh (on-road) price range. The vehicle has that value-for-money vibe while still feeling well-equipped with good finish quality and a choice of materials for the cabin. The hybrid’s efficiency promise is likely to be a big draw, and it is good to see that it doesn’t disappoint with its performance either. Safety equipment includes dual airbags, ABS with EBD, vehicle stability, a 3-point seat belt for the rear centre seat and parking sensors as standard. And there are at least four variants with six airbags. Let’s see how Toyota prices the Hyryder now.