Toyota Urban Cruiser Hyryder Review: Hybrid technology for the masses

We recently got to drive Toyota’s first affordable self-charging hybrid offering for India, the Urban Cruiser Hyryder SUV. Since the car’s unveiling on July 1, I was excited to see what the Hyryder would be like and if it would pack enough to blow the competition away in a highly popular segment. After all, it is a Toyota, a hybrid and a compact SUV! What could go wrong? Almost two months later, we ended up in rural Bengaluru, with the V variant of the Hyryder strong hybrid SUV and here are our observations…
Although, the dimensions of the Hyryder are comparable to its competition such as the Hyundai Creta and Kia Seltos the Hyryder has a very distinct design. It is something that felt new, sharp and modern. On the front, it has a pair of split LED DRLs on the hood line and the LED projector head lamps sit below them. There is a large air dam finished in metallic black and a faux scuff plate in metallic grey combination is installed at the bottom of the bumper area. The chrome finishing is generous but not too loud which is always good and a new type of grille plaque with a carbon-fibre-ish print sits in the middle of the front fascia. Toyota is calling it a Crystal Acrylic front grille.


On the sides, the Hyryder looks sharp with a strong shoulder line running across but also contemporary with its generous glass area running from the front to the back. The Hyryder is being offered in four dual-tone colour options with black being the filler. This is most prominent in the side profile as the ORVM is blacked out and starting from the A-pillar to the top section of the C-pillar the metallic black theme continues. You will also notice the Hyryder’s squared-off wheel arches that look decent with its 17-inch machined alloy wheels. The ORVM also comes with integrated LED turn indicators and there is also an open-close request button on the front handles.


The sharp and modern design language also continues at the back with the slim rear brake lights that feature c-shape design elements inside. Here too, there is a prominent Chrome garnish in the middle which is noticeable but not an eyesore. Interestingly, the reverse lamp and indicators are housed in a pair of separate units that are housed within the rear bumper, a cue taken from SUVs of the past we assume. However, these are halogen bulbs and not LEDs. The faux metallic grey scuff plate makes a re-appearance on the lower part of the bumper here as well and looks good. Overall, I am sure that the Hyryder will age well given the balance that Toyota is offering in terms of design.
Inside there was an all-black interior theme in the V variant that we drove, with the exception of a light grey roof liner and brown leather treatment in the middle of the dashboard and door panels and front seat’s upholstery. The dark brown leather treatment can be compared to what we have seen in the Fortuner models over the years. Brushed satin silver elements are also running through the front section and the doors and give an overall premium feel to the cabin. The front seats are comfortable and even feature ventilation function, a feature that seems to be popular among a majority of new cars. The toggle switch for the air conditioner’s fan speed and temperature control provide good feedback, however, very slim buttons for the rest of the air-con functions was a miss in my opinion.


When you turn on the ignition, a Heads-Up Display unit pops up from the instrument cluster’s dashboard housing and there is also a 7-inch digital driver display that offers different kinds of information.
The Hyryder’s steering is where it becomes apparent that this SUV is a result of Toyota’s joint venture with Maruti Suzuki, as the same unit can be seen across several models of the Maruti Suzuki line-up but here it sports the Toyota logo. The switch board on the driver side door panel has also been borrowed from Suzuki but features a nice looking metallic black housing.


At the back, things get a little toned down as compared to the front. The rear bench felt pretty basic in its bolstering and design. While I had ample knee room even with the front seat adjusted for my height (5’11), the underthigh support felt inadequate and I had just enough headroom to move around. There are dual air-vents, a USB-A and USB-C charging point and up to 1-litre capacity bottle holders for passenger convenience as well. The rear middle-seat has an integrated armrest with cupholders and can be reclined slightly for extra comfort but the difference is no more than 5-10mm.


The Urban Cruiser Hyryder is also equipped with a comprehensive gadget list. It has a 360-degree camera, Heads-Up Display, 6-speaker Akramys tuned audio system, wireless charger and a lot more. Then there is the 9-inch floating infotainment touchscreen that sits in the middle, above a large circular hazard lights button. The Hybrid SUV also features three drive modes and a dedicated EV mode button. All this infotainment is brought together by Toyota’s I-Connect platform that features over 55 connected features such as remote-start/stop, smartwatch compatibility and more. Then there is climate control and cruise control on offer as well. The front seats have only manual adjustment but between that and the ventilation function, I would take the latter any day.


It’s all about the Hybrid:
After taking in the design and comfort features offered in the Hyryder, it was time to start our drive of the self-charging hybrid to see how it performs. Your hybrid journey begins from the word go, as the engine does not kick in upon ignition but all functions such as entertainment and air conditioning are working, just like it would be in an EV. At crawl speeds and standstill the Hyryder remains on electric for the most part with the engine kicking in periodically to maintain optimum charge in the battery pack. The transition between petrol and EV is noticeable but mainly in an auditory sense. Once settled in and on the go, I noticed that while the SUV goes into ICE mode when you give acceleration input, it immediately goes into EV mode when coasting, driving below 60kmph or in traffic situations. It was nice to understand that on a typical journey to work, local market or more the Hyryder strong hybrid will behave as an EV for the most part. Then there is the moment of two cheers when your eye goes on the fuel efficiency readings, during our drive I was able to churn out 25+ kmpl which is outstanding for a compact SUV in this segment. Toyota claims that the SUV can deliver up to 27.97 kmpl.


However, all these winning propositions come at a cost and that is the outright performance. While on paper, the Hyryder boasts of a combined power output of 115 PS and 122 Nm torque, that performance figure does not translate into instant velocity when you push the pedal down. What is communicated very clearly to you is the 3-cylinder Atkinson Cycle engine’s discomfort in a very vocal noise.
This can be attributed to the 1.5-litre motor’s Atkinson Cycle architecture as it offers reduced power due to short intake strokes at low-speeds (where the electric motors assists) and squeezes out maximum efficiency for fuel at higher speeds due to full length expansion stroke. That is why such engines are widely used in Hybrids across the board. Another factor that might need some getting used to, is the CVT gearbox that has a typical rubber band effect when accelerating. The response does get quicker in Sport mode where the car performs more readily.


On the handling front, the Hyryder strong hybrid left me impressed with its body control and how comfortably it took us over bad patches. The cabin offers low NVH levels, however, the steering gets too light at high-speeds for my taste and the motor gets really vocal under hard acceleration. I hope to get a chance to experience the AWD version soon and will report on it shortly after.
Boot space:
In typical hybrid fashion, the Hyryder’s 1.8kWh battery pack finds home at the rear end of the SUV. This naturally translates into a bit of compromised boot space and the Hyryder has just 255-litres of that. This is 100-litre less than the mild-hybrid variant but Toyota has still managed to offer a full sized spare wheel for emergencies that sits below the vehicle. The loading area is also on the higher side due to the shallow boot but a detachable floor board fits flush with the body and offers a plane surface for your luggage.


Variants + Expected Price:
Toyota is offering the strong hybrid drivetrain in three variants of the Urban Cruiser Hyryder and these are the S, G and V trims. There isn’t much difference between all-three variants except for the omission of some aesthetic elements and a couple of gadgets in the S trim. Unfortunately, I cannot report on the pricing of either the strong hybrid or the mild hybrid Hyryder right now, as they have not been announced yet. I am hopeful that Toyota will soon share the same with us but we expect it to be an under Rs 20 lakh affair.
Currently, compact SUVs such as the Creta and Seltos with diesel engines are selling more than their petrol counterparts, mainly due to their fuel efficiency figures and rising fuel prices. That is where the Toyota Hyryder is bringing in a cleaner and even more fuel-efficient alternative to buyers who want more sustainable mobility. At a claimed 27.97 kmpl the Hyryder has a considerable advantage over its competition in terms of efficiency but the trade off here, is in the performance department. It looks like, the Hyryder’s potential to trigger widespread acceptance of hybrids in the country depends upon its pricing. It needs to be priced competitively against its diesel competition that offer similar levels of refinement, features and better performance. At the least, the Hyryder strong hybrid is definitely a gateway car for those who are curious about the growing EV-verse and worth taking a serious look at if you are looking to buy a compact SUV.


Tell us what you thought about the Urban Cruiser Hyryder strong hybrid, in the comments below!
Watch Toyota Urban Cruiser Hyryder Review: Good to fight off diesel SUVs?

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