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Entry level gets a Raize


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Toyota expects to sell 1,000 units a month of this crossover

THE CROSSOVER war is far from over.

Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) finally, officially, raised the drapes on what I had previously called in this column its “worst-kept secret.” That’s no knock on the country’s leading auto brand (we’re waiting for official word but let’s already congratulate TMP for an incredible 20-year run as “Triple Crown” winner — leading the country in passenger car, commercial vehicle, and total sales), but rather, a testament to how huge this release potentially is. We just couldn’t help ourselves from sniffing and digging around about the Raize. It now becomes the most affordable SUV (yes, SUV) in the Toyota stable, and finally allows TMP access to this lucrative segment. And now that we’ve heard of the lofty expectations (1,000 units a month, thank you very much), yes, it’s Death Star huge. While we’re talking Star Wars, the present players in the entry-level crossover segment which Toyota will be invading via the Raize must be feeling like Ewoks right now, gazing up at that bully in the sky, wondering when they’ll be scuttled.

During the online launch of the Raize, TMP officials were obviously bullish about prospects, underscoring that the commercial vehicle (CV) segment has been on the up and up since 2019. By the company’s reckoning, 2021 saw an average of around 16,000 CVs sold per month. Digging deeper, TMP Group Head of Brand Management JC Gaon said that entry-level SUVs accounted for 49% of SUV sales last year. Compare that to just 16% in 2017.

TMP Chairman Alfred Ty, who earlier said that the company’s 46.3% share is the strongest in the ASEAN region, declared that, well, even better days should be coming — buoyed by “significant, sustainable gains” in the economy and a ramp-up in vaccinations, leading to a rise in economic activities. Mr. Ty also made reference to the recent announcement by Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda on the company’s battery electric vehicle plans toward an ultimately sustainable, green lineup.

“I’m very excited for what lies ahead,” declared Mr. Ty.

Meanwhile, TMP President Atsuhiro Okamoto revealed that Toyota is donating P5 million on behalf of the motoring media — with the funds turned over to dealerships to be funneled to the affected in the “hardest-hit areas” of the recent Typhoon Odette and, presumably, other natural calamities of the sort. One can surmise with confidence that success still lies ahead for TMP’s business as well even as it dispenses hope.

Back to the Raize, Mr. Gaon showed a slide revealing that more auto buyers are looking at lower-cost, seven-seater examples (like the Toyota Rush), but right behind it is the sweet spot of interest for the Raize and its price stablemates.

Who is the average buyer TMP seeks to appeal to with the Raize? Well, the primary customer is the one seeking an “SUV with basic, functional specs.” This motorist wants a daily driver to work, is 35 to 40 years old, married, and male. He might be a young professional or a middle manager. The secondary customer, according to TMP, might be looking for an additional automobile for the household — maybe that so-called “coding car” or even a weekender. This may be comprised of a younger set (23 to 30 years old) who is single or newly married. TMP is expanding this circle to include young professionals or college students.

The cost of admission, as we earlier discussed in this column, marks the lowest the company has ever gotten with an SUV. The most affordable Raize is priced at P746,000 for the E MT grade. Powering the Raize is a pretty basic, but TMP says capable, 1.0-liter three-cylinder, inline, 12-valve DOHC with VVT-i engine for the Turbo CVT variant, and dual VVT-i for the G CVT, E CVT, and E MT variants. The latter engine breathes naturally and has a swept volume of 1.2 liters. The turbocharged variant conscripts the Wigo’s power plant and adds a nifty turbocharger for added pep. Toyota reassures that the Raize’s “platform and powertrain unit have been newly developed, with the goal of realizing outstanding levels of driving performance, safety, and peace of mind.”

Despite the price points, the Raize boasts good stuff that add further value and attractiveness. The 1.0 Turbo CVT and 1.2 G CVT variants get split-type LED headlamps with line guide; the 1.2 E CVT and 1.2 E MT trims receive halogen headlamps. And, surprise, daytime running lights are standard across variants. Depending on the trim level, motorists can enjoy keyless entry with either push start or rotary type ignition function.

The tiller can get leather and silver embellishments (1.0 Turbo CVT and 1.2 G CVT) or urethane and silver accents (1.2. E CVT and 1.0 E MT). Positioned as a five-seater (perhaps this one is size-dependent), the compact crossover receives a stowable tonneau cover just so you can keep your things out of sight in the cargo hold. And perhaps as a nod to its younger target buyers, the Toyota Raize is Apple CarPlay- and Android Auto-capable. You can view your content via an eight- or nine-inch screen that finds expression in up to six speakers (if you get Turbo or G variant). For your mobile devices, there are two USB charging ports and a 12V accessory outlet.

There’s no scrimping on safety as well. All variants come with vehicle stability control and hill start assist, plus back sonar. The 1.0 Turbo CVT boasts a blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert, additional front side and curtain air bags, and front clearance sonar. Toyota equips both the Turbo CVT and G CVT variants with a reversing monitor.

The Toyota Raize comes in Gray Metallic and Silver Metallic, with red available exclusively for the 1.2 G CVT variant. The now fashionable two-tone combination is available for the Turbo CVT variant — White Pearl and black, Turquoise Mica Metallic and black, and yellow and black.

We asked TMP for the estimated preventive maintenance service schedule and expenses one can expect to shell out per visit. VP for Customer Service Operations Jeff Matsuo said to “Velocity” that the Raize visits to the dealership should be spaced out by 5,000 kilometers. Expect to pay P3,000 to P4,000 per visit; higher mileage sessions will go up to P8,000.

Overall, the Toyota Raize appears to be the crossover the competition was worried about, and the one you need to be putting in your consideration set.

Long may the crossover war last.