Earlier this week, Toyota released a replacement for its Avanza – the Rumion.
The major upgrade over the Avanza is a cheaper starting price and a 1.5-litre engine powering all models.
Eager to find out how different the Rumion is, we spent a few kilometers behind the wheel of the range-topping model, ahead of its arrival in dealerships later in October.
To get the most obvious observation out of the way – yes, it is 100% a Suzuki Ertiga, except for the badges.
I drove the range-topping Rumion TX manual which features the aforementioned 1.5-litre, normally aspirated, four-cylinder engine that puts out 77kW and 138Nm.
Fuel consumption is said to have improved to a claimed 6.2l/100km, but expect it to hover in the 7.0l/100km range. The 45-litre fuel tank will then cost approximately R750 to fill up from reserve at today’s petrol price.
Mated to the five-speed manual box – a four-speed automatic is also available – the 1.5 pulls the car along better than I expected.
The clutch is light and steering well-weighted. It’s no robot-racer, but that was never the intention.
Although a good test would have been to drive it with a full complement of six passengers and the driver, I unfortunately do not have that many friends on call.
I also cannot fault the ride quality of the Rumoin.
I drove the Rumion through the speed-bump-laden suburbs of Johannesburg, on the highway, and finally through some pothole-infested roads in inner Rosebank, and it felt solid.
The suspension soaks up undulations and despite its firmer torsion beam-equipped rear for extra load carrying capacity, there’s no exaggerated bounciness from the back – which I was expecting.
Comfort and convenience
The Rumion is a comfortable car. You sit high up and unlike some of the plastics used in competitor vehicles, surfaces look and feel more premium.
The TX Model is fitted with what can only be described as hydro-dipped, wood-look decals across the dashboard and steering insert, which – while obviously faux – is not too tacky and lifts the mood of the otherwise all-charcoal cabin.
The steering is fitted with height adjustment but not reach, and all windows and side mirrors are electrically operated.
Keyless entry and push-button start are standard on the TX, too, and it gets the touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support.
Additionally, the Rumion features the Toyota Connect telematics system that provides a host of app-enabled car status functions like battery charge, an electronic logbook, vehicle locator, and service bookings.
The versatility inside the cabin is what most buyers will buy this MPV for.
So, while it’s a full-time seven-seater with two rear rows of seats, there is boot space behind the rear row for school bags and luggage.
Both the second and third rows fold flat to make an abundance of seating and load carrying arrangements possible, too.
For example: folding the rear seats flat provides a massive 550 litres of boot space.
The main question, however, is does it fit seven people? The answer: Not without a bit of cramping.
Although six medium-sized adults are plausible, entering the rearmost seats is not an elegant maneuver, as you have to crawl through a tiny gap over a folded seat back.
The B-segment in South Africa is mostly populated by tiny SUVs, but for those wanting something that feels a little more understated, better constructed, and more elegant, there are MPVs.
At R301,600 for the TX model, it’s slightly more expensive than the Suzuki Ertiga and priced directly against the Mitsubishi Xpander, so it will likely come down to the dealer and brand preference at the end of the day.
Toyota is not necessarily going to upset the segment with the introduction of a car that already exists, but it will appease Toyota loyalists who need an MPV and were not keen on the Avanza.