For the past couple of years, we've seen automakers rebrand and transform their existing models into something different. Whether it's to attract buyers into a certain segment or expand their market share, automakers are now building cars that go above and beyond its original make.

Take for example the Peugeot 5008. It started out as a compact MPV in its first-generation and was particularly well-received. But with car buyers now shifting towards crossovers, Peugeot decided it would be better to make the all-new 5008 a seven-seater midsize crossover. Honda took this approach in a slightly different manner by taking the running gear and chassis of the Mobilio and combining it with an SUV-style body, thus making the BR-V. Unlike Peugeot however, Honda is still offering both the Mobilio MPV and the BR-V crossover.

With the country now going gaga over SUVs and crossovers, Toyota decided now was the time to introduce their own contender in the lucrative compact seven-seater crossover scene: the all-new Rush. Featuring the underpinnings of the Avanza wrapped in a sleek and stylish body, the Toyota Rush combines MPV practicality with SUV capability. But what makes the Rush different from the Avanza besides having its own exterior design?

2018 Toyota Rush 1.5 G TRD Sportivo

As far as its looks are concerned, Toyota clearly made the Rush stand out. While it does appear to borrow some styling cues from the Fortuner and RAV4, the small seven-seater still comes with its own unique design. A sleek front grill with tapered LED headlights give the Rush a striking yet mature look. The rear, on the other hand, is dominated by a pair of sharp LED taillights and a sporty rear spoiler which further adds to the Rush's eye-catching aesthetics. Did I also mention that it comes with stylish diamond-cut alloy wheels?

But perhaps my most favorite exterior feature on this particular Rush is the TRD Sportivo bodykit. While some may find the kit a bit too outlandish, personally I like how it enhances the Rush's rugged and sporty appearance. It consists of a restyled front bumper with new foglight covers, side skirt garnishes, side protection moldings on the doors, TRD emblem at the back, a glossy black trim on the tailgate, and new front and rear bumper garnishes.

All in all, I really liked how Toyota made the Rush look like a proper mini SUV. Place it beside an Avanza, and most folks would not think that the two are practically the same vehicle underneath. Props to Toyota for making the Rush vastly different from the MPV.

Step inside the Rush and one will find an ergonomic yet familiar cabin layout. It has shed some of its utilitarian design cues for a smoother, more refined interior. Splashes of cream-colored trim pieces cover the dashboard, center console and door handles. There are also black fabric seats on the Rush which give it a more mature look and feel (This particular model came with corduroy seat covers). Toyota also went to the trouble of actually changing up portions of the Rush from its MPV brethren. Both the aircon vents for the driver and passenger adopt a circular shape rather than the rectangular ones from the Avanza. Also adopting a redesign are the central aircon vents which are now smaller and sleeker in design.

A 2-DIN touchscreen infotainment system makes its home at the center of the dashboard. It's the same system that is found on the all-new Vios, as well as the Yaris. It supports AM/FM radio, CD, USB, Aux, Bluetooth, as well WebLink for connecting smartphones. Along with it is an automatic climate control which might have performed a little too well. But given our hot summers, the ACC did its job of keeping the cabin cool and relaxing despite the heat outside. Finally, there's a new three-spoke steering wheel reminiscent of the FJ Cruiser. It has audio and phone controls, and is wrapped in leather which is a nice touch.

2018 Toyota Rush 1.5 G TRD Sportivo

Space for the second row of seats were adequate although given the Rush's limited width, fitting in three passengers all at once will be pretty tight. Being the top-of-the-range model, this particular Rush comes with third-row of 50:50 split seats. Tumble the middle row seats forward and there is space for two individuals at the very back. Despite having a 5'7 frame, I was able to fit myself in the third-row just fine. Should you need more legroom at the back, the 60:40 split second-row seats can be slid forward to provide extra legroom.

With the third-row seats down, the Rush can carry 213 liters of cargo. That may not be much but there is room to store a cooler, along with several bags. Fold them up however, and the Rush is capable of storing 514 liters worth of luggage. That's enough space for a long weekend trip and still have room for 'pasalubong'.

Not all was great inside the Rush however. Despite having a commanding driving position, the driver's seat could have been a bit more comfortable and could have better side and back support. I also wished that the Rush had a tilt & telescopic steering rack which would have made for a more ideal driving position. There was also the matter regarding the lack of front cupholders since this particular unit came with the optional center glovebox. A nice touch, however, were the door-mounted cupholders for the rear passengers which made access to beverages easier.

Under the hood, the Rush is powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that benefits from Dual VVT-i. Dubbed the 2NR-VE, it's the same engine found in the Avanza MPV and produces a respectable 104 PS at 6000 rpm along with 136 Nm of torque at 4200 rpm. Power is then sent to a four-speed automatic transmission that drives the rear wheels.

What's it like to drive? If you were able to read our first impressions story with the Rush last May, then you'll know that the Rush drives like its MPV sibling, the Avanza. Initial acceleration from the 1.5-liter unit was alright, if a bit slow. Once it gets moving however, the Rush delivered a smooth drive overall. With just me inside the Rush, the engine had no trouble motivating the small SUV. Pack it with more passengers and cargo however, and you do feel the engine stuggling a little bit.

2018 Toyota Rush 1.5 G TRD Sportivo

The four-speed automatic may be old tech but Toyota went for the 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' direction. In every day commute, the automatic transmission is fine for going from one destination to the next. The space between each gear is quite generous which allows drivers to make full use of all available revs. But with a small capacity engine, climbing steep hills with the Rush (especially when fully laden with people and/or luggage) can be a challenge.

Thanks to a body-on-frame construction, the Rush can carry cargo with ease and does not easily 'squat' when carrying heavy loads. It does have a multi-link suspension at the back but it was optimized for bearing weight rather than delivering a soft ride. The result is a bouncy ride when you're driving solo or with a companion. Fill it up with people and luggage however, and the ride does improve but only just. With a tall ride height and plenty of ground clearance (220mm), going over obstacles and puddles of water was not a problem for the tiny Rush. While it is only RWD, it does give peace of mind for drivers that may find themselves in debris-laden terrain.

The brakes were fine although they were a little spongy. While braking with the Rush in city or heavy traffic will not be much of a problem, one has to stand on the brake pedal when slowing down at highway speeds. When fully loaded with cargo and passengers, you may have to adjust your braking distances, as well as your brake pedal input. Here's to hoping Toyota can do something about its brakes.

With fuel economy, the 2018 Rush was able to return reasonable fuel consumption figures. In light city traffic, the Rush was able to average around 7.0 – 7.5 km/l with three occupants inside (driver, two passengers). At highway speeds, the seven-seater SUV was able to sip fuel at around 13.0 km/l. While not particularly stellar figures, you do have to remember that the Rush only comes with four speeds.

2018 Toyota Rush 1.5 G TRD Sportivo

So what is my verdict for Toyota's smallest seven-seater SUV? While Toyota did hit the mark on making a small seven-seater go up against the likes of the Honda BR-V and Mitsubishi Xpander, they could have refined the Rush a bit more. Yes it has a stylish exterior and a nice cabin. But what it really needs is a more powerful engine, softer suspension and maybe more comfortable seats.

Despite all that, it is important to point out the level of standard equipment present in the Toyota Rush. Whether it's this top-of-the-range 1.5 G, or the base model 1.5 E with a manual, all variants of the Rush come with six airbags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, traction and stability control, hill-start assist, security alarm with immobilizer and rear parking sensors.

There are some extras that are only available in the G version, though, like a reverse camera, roof rails, 8-speaker sound system, bigger 17-inch alloy wheels (E models only come with 16-inch wheels), an engine start/stop button and the previously-mentioned automatic climate control.

Retailing for Php 1,164,900 (standard 1.5 G retails for Php 1,070,000), the 2018 Rush 1.5 G with the complete TRD Sportivo kit is quite the investment. However, the bodykit can be bought by a piece or as a whole set.

The 2018 Rush has a decent powertrain but it could have received a torquier engine to help it move all that precious cargo. In-car features and amenities are aplenty although I wished it came with more comfortable seats, especially for the driver and front passenger. Handling and ride comfort, on the other hand, are adequate, if a bit rough. It's true redeeming factor, however, are the wide array of standard safety features throughout the model range.

If you're not in the market for a small MPV like the Avanza, the 2018 Toyota Rush may just be the alternative you need.

  • Make: Toyota
  • Model: Rush 1.5 G A/T TRD Sportivo
  • Engine: 1.5-liter DOHC 16-valve Inline-4 Dual VVT-i
  • Max Power: 104 PS @ 6000 rpm
  • Max Torque: 136 Nm @ 4200 rpm
  • Transmission: 4-speed automatic
  • Price as Tested: ₱1,164,900