Toyota Kirloskar Motor enters booming compact SUV segment with Urban Cruiser

by Mayank Dhingra 23 Sep 2020

India's compact SUV segment just turned even more exciting, A few days after the launch of the Kia Sonet, Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM) today launched its new Urban Cruiser, priced between Rs 840,000 and Rs 1,130,000, ex-showroom, Delhi.

The new crossover while isn’t entirely a ground-up new product, but is a realisation of the Toyota-Suzuki partnership, which outlines a sustainable growth roadmap for the two Japanese companies in a disruptive global automotive environment.

The Toyota Urban Cruiser is based on the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza, which is one of the top-selling UVs in the country and has also been the largest-selling sub-four-metre compact crossover since its launch in 2016. Prices for the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza range between Rs 734,000 to Rs 1,115,000, ex-showroom, Delhi.

With the new crossover, TKM now aims to enhance its market share in India, where it is operating with a total installed capacity of 310,000 units at its two plants in Bidadi, in Karnataka. However, unlike its partner Suzuki, Toyota is working at a significantly underutilised capacity with sales totalling 126,899 units in FY2020, reporting a 16 percent downturn (FY2019: 50,525). In the ongoing fiscal, TKM has only managed 11,436 units in the domestic market thus far, recording a notable 64 percent de-growth.

Clearly, the SUV segment is one of the most lucrative ones at the moment, offering growth potential even in a subdued market environment. UV sales in August 2020 reported a 15.54 percent upsurge with total sales of 81,842 units (August 2019: 70,837) and contributed 38 percent of total PVs which collectively sold 215,916 units in the month (189,129 / +14.16%).

According to Naveen Soni, SVP, Sales and Service, TKM, “From 1 percent in 2013, the sub-compact SUV segment within UVs has grown to over 14 percent and is still not stopping there. So, we are happy to present a product in this segment. It is also the one to be witnessing a lot of attention due to the new found need for personal mobility after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

According to Tadashi Asazuma, vice-president, Sales and Marketing, TKM, “The compact crossover is a rapidly growing segment and it is very important to have an offering in this space. The Indian car market offers maximum volumes at the lower end of the spectrum and we are entering it with the Urban Cruiser.”

The Urban Cruiser is the second model introduced by Toyota under the models listed to be exchanged in the Toyota-Suzuki alliance, first one being the Glanza hatchback, which is based on the Maruti Suzuki Baleno and has clocked 30,000 units since launch in June 2019. While both cars are largely unchanged in terms of their design and fundamentals, TKM is betting big on alluring first-time customers into the Toyota family, based on its renowned aftersales and customer service experience. The company says that the target customer of the Urban Cruiser is the millennial who is young, ambitious and a self-assured experimentalist.

Slight design modifications
While the Urban Cruiser is essentially the Vitara Brezzaunder its skin, TKM designers have brought in minor design changes, in line with the Toyota design philosophy. The most striking element, however, is the revised front bumper and grille that resemble larger Toyota SUVs. The car is almost similar to the Brezza from the sides and rear, barring the Toyota emblems and the Urban Cruiser badge on the tailgate.

According to Soni, “The partnership between the two companies is very unique as it provides competitiveness to each other and also strength by allowing both partners to enter segments where they have not yet been present.”

However, with the lack of a sunroof, the Urban Cruiser has its task cut out against the likes of strong contenders – Tata Nexon, XUV 300, Ford EcoSport, Hyundai Venue and the latest entrant – Kia Sonet.

On the inside, Toyota has adopted a dark brown theme for the interior instead of the all-black upholstery that comes in the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza. The crossover continues to offer the Smart Playcast touchscreen infotainment system and the electro-chromatic inside rear-view mirror. A push-button engine start-stop system and automatic climate control are being offered as standard features across all trims unlike being only in the higher variants in the Brezza.

Petrol-only offering
The Toyota Urban Cruiser will be introduced in Mid, High and Premium trims with both MT and AT options. The crossover comes powered by Suzuki’s 1.5-litre, four-cylinder BS VI-compliant K-series engine that develops 105bhp and 138Nm. It comes mated to a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic gearbox. The automatic variants also get a lithium-ion battery powered mild-hybrid system that deploys an integrated start-stop unit.

The Urban Cruiser replicates the fuel efficiency of the Vitara Brezza and gets ARAI-rated fuel economy figures of 17.03kpl for the manual and 18.76kpl for the automatic variants, respectively.

On not offering a diesel in the Urban Cruiser line-up, Soni explained, “The market is increasingly moving towards gasoline, especially after the onset of the BS VI emission norms. Having said that, diesel is not going anywhere from our portfolio, even if it is from the CAFE norms or customer preference point of view.”

“In our research, we found out that at the lower end of the market, where the utilisation of the vehicle is not immense, 75 percent customers were alright with having a petrol,” he said.

Betting on trustworthy aftersales
So, with the core products being near identical to that offered by Maruti Suzuki, TKM, is relying heavily on offering a much-improved aftersales experience to prospective Urban Cruiser customers.

According to Soni, “The Toyota ‘Q Service’ is comprehensive and among the best in the industry. Today’s lifestyle puts time at a premium and our team of experts can bring lightning quick turnaround on a vehicle during its service. We have cashless repair facilities, doorstep pickup and drop, unlimited kilometres three-year warranty as well as the 60-minute ‘Toyota Express Service’ which are the key differentiators.”

“We aim to offer superior value, quality and personalised service through the 360 Toyota touchpoints across India,” he added.

Deliveries for the Toyota Urban Cruiser will begin from the middle of October and the company is offering a complementary maintenance package to customers who book their cars until then. The Urban Cruiser will be available in mono-tone colour shades - Suave Silver, Groovy Orange, Iconic Grey, Spunky Blue and Sunny White. There are three dual-tone options on offer as well which include Spunky Blue with Sizzling Black Roof, Rustic Brown with Sizzling Black Roof and Groovy Orange with Sunny White Roof.