Toyota Urban Cruiser 1.5 XR

Toyota Urban Cruiser 1.5 XR auto in the West Coast National Park. Picture: Ray Leathern.

Toyota Urban Cruiser 1.5 XR auto review: Winning recipe

We head up the West Coast for a good ol’ fashioned road trip in the new Toyota Urban Cruiser 1.5 XR auto to assess the box-fresh crossover.

Toyota Urban Cruiser 1.5 XR

Toyota Urban Cruiser 1.5 XR auto in the West Coast National Park. Picture: Ray Leathern.

Throwing a dart at a map of the Western Cape and seeing where it lands is as good a way as any of planning your next road trip. This is especially true when you have the brand-new, R369 900 Toyota Urban Cruiser 1.5 XR auto at your disposal for a week.

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We did just that and fate decided a rather unlikely but wonderful destination: The West Coast National Park. This was perfect because it was SANParks’ National Heritage Week which meant free access to the park in our Toyota Urban Cruiser 1.5 XR. And despite the Western Cape being battered by rain and flooding, the wildflowers are still in bloom. Let’s saddle up.


Toyota Urban Cruiser 1.5 XR
Toyota Urban Cruiser 1.5 XR in front Kraaibaai, West Coast National Park. Picture: Ray Leathern

Along the way to the majestic SANPark West Coast National Park, we’ll use the arrow-straight west coast highway to see if the modest 1.5-litre powerplant and four-speed automatic gearbox is up to the task. Then we’ll detour down to the R27 in search of some sweeping, squiggly roads to test if the new Toyota Urban 1.5 XR has the same competent, comfortable demeanour of its predecessor.

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Ever since the first Toyota Urban Cruiser arrived in SA four years ago, there’s been a growing enthusiasm among the public for the compact crossover. South Africa’s allotment of cars was pretty much spoken for right away and it’s developed a keen following ever since. Now, steering the new one towards the West Coast National Park, everyone; and I mean everyone from Toyota Etios to Fortuner drivers, greets the new Toyota Urban Cruiser with a kind of same well-meaning, all-knowing admiration.


Toyota Urban Cruiser 1.5 XR
Toyota Urban Cruiser 1.5 XR at the Atlantic Ocean viewpoint, West Coast National Park. Picture: Ray Leathern.

And who can blame them. The Toyota Urban Cruiser 1.5 XR is a study in considered, confident design. It’s good-looking but not overstyled. Remember, this is a mass-market product that has to have appeal far and wide for Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC). Goodness knows there must have been pressure to give it loads of over-the-top styling elements. But, instead, it displays a genuine parity between aesthetic appeal and practical needs.

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If you don’t believe me, look a little closer. The Toyota Urban Cruiser XR has a subtly pronounced bonnet strake that feeds into its aerodynamically shaped grille. Look at those rear haunches and how stout and bulging they are, giving it a real solid on-road stance. Those are cool design features for what is a pretty common compact crossover that’ll be bought by tens of thousands of people. And I especially like the rear light clusters integrated into the lower rear bumper. It looks great!


Toyota Urban Cruiser 1.5 XR
Functional interior of the Toyota Urban Cruiser 1.5 XR. Picture: Toyota SA.

The cabin is standard Toyota fare. Which is to say it’s not all that exciting, but everything will last a lifetime. The central touchscreen looks after all your multimedia needs – including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – and cruise control come as standard. Delve into the trip computer and you’ll see graphs that measure parameters like braking, throttle and lateral g-force, which may be anathema for this sort of vehicle.

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As for the rest of the cabin, it’s much more spacious than its forebear, thanks to 370 mm extra length and a 100 mm longer wheelbase than the outgoing car. The front seats are supportive, and three can comfortably fit in the back for long journeys. Overall ambience is one of comfort and practicality. The only noticeable flaw in our eyes is a slightly rough finish to the steering wheel.


Toyota Urban Cruiser 1.5 XR
Toyota Urban Cruiser 1.5 XR in front of the Langebaan Lagoon, West Coast National Park. Picture: Ray Leathern.

Sure, the five-speed manual gearbox might offer something different to the chemistry of the Toyota Urban Cruiser 1.5 XR. Nevertheless, the familiar cadence of stomp and go with a simple four-speed automatic cannot be ignored. Most buyers will opt for the convenience of a two-pedal transmission no matter what motoring journalists like us say about it. 77 kW and 138 Nm from the 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol is more than sufficient to get you to the West Coast National Park in good time for opening time.

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As the vast West Coast countryside fills the windscreen ahead, it’s hard not to feel a sense of pride and freedom. The Toyota Urban Cruiser 1.5 XR’s drivability on the open road is excellent with sufficient pulling power from 2 500 r/min onwards. Crucially, there’s enough grunt to keep the automatic gearbox from kicking down all the time. In that respect the Toyota Urban Cruiser 1.5 XR auto is quite pleasant on the open road. Although performance data is hardly important, in a zero to 100 km/h sprint we recorded 11.80 seconds. We don’t know if this is quicker than claimed, because Toyota did not release any acceleration figures. Fuel economy wise, Toyota claims a combined figure of 6.1 l/100 km, however, we averaged 6.5 l/100 km on our West Coast National Park journey.


Toyota Urban Cruiser 1.5 XR
Job well done. SANParks West Coast National Park did not disappoint. Picture: Ray Leathern

The Toyota Urban Cruiser 1.5 XR’s 15 mm taller ride height really comes into its own as we enter the park. The real seduction is starting to kick in, as does the sun slowing rising on the horizon. With nothing left to do but enjoy the beautiful West Coast, we exhale and start to explore. The park speed limit is 40 km/h, just quick enough to set cruise control and relax.

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The West Coast National Park is 40 000 ha, and it’s got way more in it than I initially thought. Everything from bird hides, sea-view lookout points of the Atlantic to the Langebaan Lagoon and beautiful flowers of Postberg (if blooming). Honestly, one visit doesn’t even scratch the surface or capture the beauty on offer. Nevertheless, my rapport with the Toyota Urban Cruiser 1.5 XR was at an all-time high as we surveyed its expanses.


All told, the Toyota Urban Cruiser 1.5 XR auto is an excellent family car. It challenges conceptions and surprises with a broad range of talents. For me the four-speed automatic doesn’t accord, and I’d opt for the five-speed manual any day. However, our 400 km roundtrip proved there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it either. The customer is always right, as they say in business, so let them vote with their chequebooks.


  • Best for: Weekend family adventures in ease and comfort. Good looking and relatively affordable.
  • Not so sure: Elements of the interior are a tad rough. Four-speed automatic not as efficient as it could be.
  • Engine: 1 499 cc 4-cyl petrol
  • Power: 77 kW, 138 Nm
  • Performance: 11,80 sec 0-100 km/h (tested)
  • Gearbox: 4-speed auto
  • Economy: 6.5 l/100 km (tested), 6.1 l/100 km (claimed/combined)
  • Tyres: Apollo Aptera 215/60/R17
  • Braking: 100 km/h – 0 in 3,20 sec (tested)
  • dB measurement: 86.5 ave
  • Price: R369 900

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