The Toyota Rumion was launched in South Africa this week as a replacement for the Avanza.
The Toyota Rumion was launched in South Africa this week as a replacement for the Avanza.

FIRST DRIVE: Toyota Rumion hits the right notes as an affordable MPV

By Jason Woosey Time of article published Oct 15, 2021

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Launch review: Toyota Rumion 1.5 TX manual

Johannesburg ‒ For the last 15 years the Avanza has been the go-to Toyota for those seeking a lot of interior space on a relatively modest budget. But now it’s time to say goodbye to Toyota’s seven-seat stalwart as the new Rumion has arrived to take its place on the local market.

The new Toyota Rumion bears absolutely no resemblance to its Daihatsu-based predecessor, neither on the surface nor beneath the skin. That’s because the Rumion is the third product to come out of Toyota’s partnership with Maruti Suzuki in India, and apart from the badge and grille it appears virtually identical to the Suzuki Ertiga, which hit South African shores in its latest iteration back in 2019.

That means Toyota’s compact MPV is now front-wheel-driven (remember, the Avanza was a rear-wheel drive product) and that should make for safer and more predictable handling in adverse driving conditions ‒ which is a very important point given that this vehicle is aimed at families.

The Toyota Rumion is also somewhat cheaper than its predecessor, with its starting price of R245 600 undercutting the cheapest Avanza by over R20 000. Toyota readily admits that the latter’s price, styling and equipment counted against it, and the carmaker is pinning its hopes on the Rumion to make things right.

What’s it like to drive?

We got to briefly sample a range-topping Toyota Ertiga 1.5 TX at its local launch in Johannesburg this week, and were mostly impressed with the package on offer.

We’ll have to wait for a full road test with some highway driving to deliver a definitive verdict on the Rumion, but the short stint in Joburg’s northern suburbs did highlight its everyday usability to a degree.

The vehicle is easy and painless to drive, everything falls to hand easily and the ride quality was sufficiently comfortable. I also enjoyed the solid, thunky feel of the smooth-shifting five-speed manual gearbox. Toyota offers a four-speed autobox option too, but this was not available to sample at the launch.

All Rumion models are powered by Suzuki’s proven 1.5-litre normally aspirated petrol engine, which produces 77kW and 138Nm. Although I appreciated its free-revving nature, it did feel a little underpowered at altitude and the engine had to be worked hard to maintain a brisk pace. However, it’s worth noting that the engine of our test vehicle was nowhere near to being run in, with less than 100km showing on the odometer.

So how practical is it?

The second row seats, which have a 60:40 split, can slide back and forth, allowing occupants to vary the amount of space available between the two back rows. Jumping into the second row of the vehicle, where the seats were set as far back as they’d go, I was impressed by the amount of rear legroom available. There’s actually a lot of space to stretch out, and the seatback also reclines to a generous degree to enable road trip snoozing.

Next I squeezed myself into the third row and although there was no seat tumble function for the second row, getting in wasn’t that hard although the middle row did need to be slid forward to allow for adequate leg room.

The interior of the Toyota Rumion is not going to win any awards for its elegance, but it is solidly put together and the harder materials in the cabin are par for the course in this segment. Toyota has tried to spice things up in the range-topper with a swathe of fake wood across the dashboard, although I wondered if that isn’t perhaps doing more harm than good.

What features does it have?

As we reported earlier this week, the Toyota Rumion is available in three specification flavours: S, SX and TX.

The S base model is fairly basic, and comes with 15-inch uncovered steel wheels and unpainted mirrors. Standard features include manual air conditioning, electric windows, dual front airbags and ABS brakes.

The midrange 1.5 SX, priced from R273 500, adds a Double Din four-speaker audio system with Bluetooth connectivity as well as aux and USB inputs. It also gains rear air conditioning, a 12V rear power socket, steering-mounted controls, remote central locking, rear window demister and park distance control. Visually, the SX is distinguished by plastic wheel covers and colour coded mirrors.

The range-topping 1.5 TX, priced from R301 600, adds a touchscreen audio system with six speakers, reverse camera and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity. The TX also gains automatic air conditioning and an additional rear power socket. Aesthetic differentiation comes in the form of 15-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, chrome door handles and a large dashboard panel that thinks it grew on a tree.

VERDICT

We would like to spend more time testing the Toyota Rumion before delivering a more definitive verdict, but based on our initial brief impressions, we feel that it offers a winning formula that’s likely to see it selling up a storm.

Engine power remains a concern, particularly at altitude and with a full complement of passengers, but other than that the Rumion delivers an agreeable driving experience and practicality by the bucketload.

Toyota Rumion Prices

1.5 S manual ‒ R245 600

1.5 SX manual ‒ R273 500

1.5 SX automatic ‒ R289 200

1.5 TX manual ‒ R301 600

1.5 TX automatic ‒ R317 200

Prices include a four-service/60 000km service plan and three-year/100 000km warranty.

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