Driving Notes

THE Toyota Innova having turned better appointed and correspondingly pricey meant Toyota Motor Philippines’ lineup could use a less expensive, smaller, seven-seat model. And this is exactly the slot now filled by the Toyota Rush which, unlike the Toyota Avanza (actually, the Rush is the new version of the Avanza), is ideally suited to be used by families rather than by businesses. Going by looks, too, it’s obvious the Rush aspires for SUV status while the Avanza is decidedly more taxicab-appropriate.

• The cabin of the top-spec Rush is filled with most of the features that are standard fare in cars priced around P1 million — a large touch screen panel for the multimedia system (which has the usual Bluetooth, USB, aux-in, mirroring connections), a mix of gloss-black and silvery surfaces, push-button ignition (paired with a smart entry device, of course), a 12-volt power socket, and plenty of cup holders and A/C vents. So while this space isn’t exactly luxurious, it also is beyond budget car status.
• The dashboard layout is modern, dominated by a large gloss-black trim which makes the touch screen display look bigger than it actually is, and which integrates a pair of A/C vents inconspicuously, too. Plus, the black surfaces are mixed with off-white panels made to appear like textured leather wrapping, complete with faux stitching, which brighten up the cabin. Yes, it’s mere trompe l’oeil, but the touch does lend an upscale vibe to the car’s interior.
• Seats are not covered in chintzy leather. They get fabric, which is always a better option when going for proper leather furniture only leads to an unnecessarily higher price tag for the car.
• Climate controls use dials, and so are more intuitive and less fiddly to operate. This is far better than repeatedly stabbing away at some touch screen button just to set fan speed or temperature.
• Legroom in both the front and middle rows is adequate, and even that in the rearmost row (only the top variant gets this extra row of seats) is passably decent, considering the Rush’s size. Access to this section means simply tugging at some levers to fold and slide a second-row seat out of the way — no different (nor easier or harder) from any seven-seat car with forward-hinged doors.
• Reasonably sized bulky items could still fit in the cargo bay even if the rearmost seat isn’t tucked away.
• A high stance, large 17-inch wheels and equally ample wheel cutouts on the body all conspire to make the Rush appear an SUV rather than just a fancy MPV. Busy styling, plus LED detailing, lets the car look less average, too.
• Four-speed automatic gearbox willingly shifts down when you lift off the throttle pedal, helping in slowing the car down and assuring better control.

• Five-speed automatic unwilling to shift down when you press the throttle pedal gradually — only a deliberate mash will convince it to drop down a gear so the engine can deliver more grunt…
• … of which the 1.5-liter gasoline engine does not have much, especially in the lower revs. Only when it’s revving hard can there be adequate propulsion. This creates plenty of racket.
• From a standstill, the gearbox can feel like it’s a bad CVT. Press the throttle pedal gently and the car won’t budge. Step on it a quarter-inch more and the car lurches. Stop-and-go traffic is maddening enough. This thing makes it worse.
• Seat belt mounts in front are fixed in place, the driver’s seat does not adjust low enough, the steering wheel moves only up or down, not forward or backward. Getting a proper driving position is difficult then. Sit close enough to the steering wheel and one’s legs may get too bent, cramping movement. Sit far enough so that one’s legs are only slightly bent, and one ends up reaching for the steering wheel. And then the seat belt digs at the base of one’s neck.

• With prices comparable to top-spec subcompacts and entry-level sedans, the Rush provides an option for consumers wanting extra seating and ground clearance, but who can’t quite afford the larger SUVs. Despite some shortcomings, the Rush still equates to good value for the money. — Brian M. Afuang

Toyota Rush 1.5 G A/T
Price: P1.070 million
Engine: 1.5-liter, inline-four, dual VVTi, gasoline; 100 hp @ 6,000, 134 Nm @ 4,200 rpm
Transmission: Four-speed automatic
Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive
Wheels/Tires: 17 inches, 215/60
Key features: LED head lamps with guide strip; fog lamps; power-folding side mirrors; LED tail lamps; multi-function display; leather steering wheel; dual zone air-conditioning; multimedia unit with seven-inch touch screen and USB, aux-in, Bluetooth, IOS and Android connectivity; smart entry system; reversing camera and parking sensors; traction control; hill-start assist; emergency stop signal