There is no doubt that the Toyota Rush is a perfect example of the right vehicle at exactly the right time.
They did it by taking the good bones of the Avanza MPV, reshaping the body and upping interior, and pulling out something that is undeniably irresistible for our SUV-addicted market. Better yet, they specced it and priced it to match what the competition has.
But one question remains: did they move a bit too quickly to bring the Rush to market? Did they rush it?
Before anything, you need to know that the Rush doesn't hail from Japan; cars from there are the more “premium” of the Toyota line. It doesn't come from Thailand either; that's where the Hilux, Corolla, and other CKD kits for local assembly such as the Innova and the Vios. No, the Rush comes from Indonesia, the same country as the Wigo, Fortuner, and the same one as its brother we know well: the Avanza.
Indonesia is actually the perfect place for the Rush to originate from; if you've ever been to Jakarta, you'll know that the AUV market -yes, the same AUV that we've know so well for decades- is alive and well. Crosswinds (known as the Panther there), Tamaraws (known as the Kijang), and of course, the Avanza. They even have two versions: the one from Toyota, and the one from Daihatsu known as the Xenia. No, not the warrior princess.
Truth be told, MPVs aren't exactly known for their appeal beyond the number of cupholders and how versatile the seating can be. So turning the Avanza's platform into something more palatable for the market was the clever move. Honda did it successfully with the Mobilio, which evolved into the BR-V. And by that same logic, Toyota/Daihatsu initiated an evolution with the the Avanza/Xenia to become the Rush/Terios.
Many have commented that the Rush is the “baby Fortuner”, and while there are similarities in cues, the Rush is its own thing. If its your first time seeing the Rush, we wouldn't be surprised if you thought it looked edgy rather busy. The big chrome grill and the headlights seamlessly integrate to look like one unit, and the foglamps are mounted amidst a chrome triangular bezel. The hood has some character lines to it, as does the doors and fenders to break up the slab-sided nature of SUVs. Looking at the rear end, you'll notice that it looks rather slim, though tall. Yes, the Rush has quite a bit of visual appeal to it; a testament to the work Toyota's design department put in to turn the architecture of an MPV into something much more desirable.
But make no mistake: this isn't a case of simply rebadging the Avanza. None of the body panels appear to be interchangeable with the MPV. The hood, doors, fenders, and even the windows are very different. The dimensions are very similar, but key difference -apart from the design- is the ground clearance. The Avanza's undercarriage sits 185mm above the road, but the Rush towers another 35mm more at 220mm. By comparison, the competitor models such as the BR-V and the Xpander MPV/SUV “hybrid” can muster 201mm and 205mm, respectively.
Open the door and you're welcomed by a clean and straightforward interior. The dash looks neatly laid out with a steering wheel seemingly inspired by the FJ Cruiser, conventional gauges, and a clean-looking digital A/C system with auxiliary blowers overhead for the rear passengers. While the dash and door panels look good, expect a few compromises. We can't expect luxuries like soft touch materials or higher-grade plastics; that much is clear, especially when you can see the creases on the passenger airbag panel to aid in proper deployment.
One important thing to know is that this isn't the top spec version of the Rush. This is the 1.5E, and that means Toyota had to make some deletions on the spec sheet such as the the roof rails and swapping the 17” wheels on the G for 16” rollers on this E. But perhaps the most notable alteration is the removal of the third row. Personally, I like the two-row configuration; two less seats (and passengers) means that the Rush can be lighter, and has far more cargo space at 514 liters.
Thankfully Toyota didn't make any alterations to by swapping out the Bluetooth-equipped touchscreen audio unit for something cheaper (though they did remove two speakers), nor did they remove any of the safety equipment. As it stands, both the G and E grade variants get the maximum 6 airbags and, more importantly, ABS, EBD and stability control. As many of us know, it's better to avoid a crash rather than having the airbags do their thing after the fact.
A push of the button fires up the engine in that rather busy (and seemingly cluttered) area under the hood. What makes the Rush go is the same 2NR-VE engine as the Avanza: a 1.5-liter four banger with 104 PS and 136 Nm of torque. No, the numbers are not impressive, and neither is the gearbox: a 4-speed automatic sending drive to the rear wheels.
Yes, Toyota is sticking to the tried and tested powertrain of the Avanza for the Rush, and I can't say I blame them. While many would scoff at the idea of just a nick above 100 horsepower for something bigger than a hatchback, the powertrain combo is one of the most reliable in the market. Based on my experience living with an Avanza for a few years, the engine and gearbox are two things you can depend on everyday; much of that reliability stems from its uncomplicated engineering.
When taking the Rush around the city, there's no doubt that it has some sprightliness to it. Of course I was driving solo, but the ease at which it got moving was surprising; much of it could be attributed to its relatively close gear ratios. On uphill gradients (or parking ramps) the Rush makes good use of the torque it has; again, that's thanks to the gearbox.
Maneuverability in tight city streets is superb. The big windshield, the tight turning radius, and the compact dimensions all combine to make something that can turn on a dime within the city. It's so easy to maneuver and gauge around 90 degree corners that you'd really be doing something wrong if you end up scraping the wheels on the curb. Parking in reverse is likewise easy; while this one doesn't have the rearview camera like the G, it does come with sensors.
The Rush is also quite efficient on gasoline. While I do wish it came with a diesel or a slightly larger engine (maybe a 1.6L or a 1.8L), we can't fault it for returning a very decent 8.9 km/l in normal city traffic (19 km/h average). On the highway, this version returned 12.3 km/l at an average of 92 km/h; it could be better if I had been more sensible with the speed. Mind you, that's with two people in the Rush. The seven seat version (with a full cabin) would do significantly less though; small engines aren't going to be too happy with seven passengers.
On faster roads, the Rush drives as expected; it's not impressive, but it works. This isn't a fast SUV by any means, but the steering and brakes do feel alright. The tires aren't really the best in terms of grip, but they manage fast corners nicely. And the anti-lock brakes and traction control do work to keep you out of harm's way if you take a corner a little too quickly.
While undeniably reliable, sprightly, maneuverable, and fairly efficient with fuel, the Rush could do much better in one very important department: ride comfort. Like the Avanza (or many pick-ups, for that matter), the damping of the front suspension gives a fairly good ride, but the rear is quite bouncy on patched up tarmac, rutted concrete, or basically any surface that isn't expressway-worthy.
The reason for that bounciness is the fact that the Rush is engineered to carry seven people. To do so, that means the rear suspension will bear most of the weight much like a pick-up truck, and has to be stiffly sprung to be able to handle it. While most groan at the idea of the ride of a pick-up truck, those vehicle can offset the stiffness by the vehicle's weight alone. On a lightweight vehicle such as the Rush, without passengers, you'll feel the road; and that, despite the seemingly softer seats than the Avanza.
The Toyota Rush 1.5E is a bit of a mixed bag. There are plenty of excellent qualities such as the clean design, the reliability brought on by the tried and tested powertrain and frame, the excellent features for the price, and the overall efficiency of the vehicle. But there are also some very significant trade-offs. Most of us would be alright with the powertrain's lack of sophistication, but a lot of us would have a difficult time making our peace with the ride when driving solo.
Still, the Rush is indeed a solid everyday SUV that was derived from an MPV, and it's an exceptional value proposition. But don't let the “sulit” factor blind you; I know of customers who bought a Rush and regretted it because of the ride. And, not surprisingly, when asked if they tested the vehicle before signing the paperwork, the answer was no. So the key thing: test it before getting it. .
Picking the Rush will depend on who's doing the buying; if the ride is a trade-off you're willing to make or if there's going to be 4 or more of you in the Rush at all times, by all means, go for it. Personally, I still wish they would have spent more time and tested whether the ride was a bit too stiff, particularly for our already bumpy roads.