What’s all the fuss about the Rukus?

Bastard child of a bull-dog and a shoebox, or a clever take on the urban sport utility vehicle? We take Toyota’s Rukus for a spin.

It’s weird, brash and out to prove a point. No, it’s not a hyperglycaemic emo with freshly painted nails and a full set of facial piercings. It’s not even that fuzzy mould patch that’s taking over the fridge at an alarming rate. It’s Toyota’s new take on the urban SUV, and it’s called the Rukus.

Launched last week, the Rukus is best described as ‘alternative’ sport utility vehicle, only this one’s been punched in the nose, smacked around the ears and had its hair pulled up. While Toyota’s design team might disagree, I’d say that the Rukus’ is spiritually reminiscent of an English bulldog.

Toyota Rukus

That said, the Rukus’ rectangular lines, flat surfaces and boxy shape do lend it a practical edge; you can fit plenty inside, with a hefty maximum capacity of 1331 litres with the rear seats down. On the outside, the compact shape makes it very easy to squeeze between parked cars. In fact, the Rukus has a similar footprint to a Corolla, only there’s much more room on the inside. The Rukus size is sort of an optical illusion; it appears small due to its compact-car shape, only it’s been scaled up a notch.

Unlike some sport utility vehicles, which have raised suspensions and all-wheel drive, the Rukus is meant for urban driving, and is powered from the front wheels only. The 2.4 litre engine is sure to please, with 123kWof grunt and 224Nm of torque. I was certainly impressed with the Rukus’ road-holding capabilities as I winged it around the clover-leaf test course in the wet last week. Toyota has tweaked the steering for Australian roads, so that may have had something to do with it. The 2.4 litre engine does get a little thirsty, however, with a consumption rate of 8.8 litres per 100kms.

Toyota Rukus

Inside, there is space for 5 occupants, and plenty of headroom all around. Contrasting the exterior’s box and square ethos, the instrument dials, vents and smart start button are circular, and all the sound systems come with Bluetooth streaming, a CD player, 6 speakers, hands-free phone integration, USB and 3.5mm audio connections.

The Rukus comes in 3 different builds, each with different levels of exterior and interior options, such as leather seats, 9 speaker audio, a moon-roof and more. Prices are $27,490, $29,990 and $31,790 for builds 1, 2 and 3.

Toyota Rukus

The Rukus concept isn’t new with ‘Black Box’ and ‘Scion’ versions of the car sold in Japan and the US for nearly 10 years. In fact, Toyota has built up an overseas following who like to radically customize their cars, transforming them into little box rockets. Toyota Australia has embraced this by offering Toyota genuine accessories that include various body accents as well as flame, brick and stripe decals to make your Rukus stand apart from the ho-hum crowd.

The thing about the Rukus is that it really polarises opinion. Some love it, some hate it. Toyota’s sights are set on young, urban ‘trendsetters’ including young families and those interested in the light SUV market – so don’t expect to see many ads aimed at baby boomers. Toyota only expects to sell 150 to 200 a month.

Toyota Rukus

After spending a few hours with the Rukus, I can’t help but like it. It’s a quirky vehicle, there’s no doubt about it, but if you like to buck the trend, and want a roomy and fun vehicle, this is definitely worth taking the time to see in the flesh, as the photos just don’t do it justice.