Toyota to enter India’s compact SUV market with Urban Cruiser

by Autocar Pro News Desk & Shapur Kotwal 02 Aug 2020


Along with the announcement of its July 2020 sales numbers (5,386 units / -48% YoY) yesterday, Toyota Kirloskar Motor also confirmed that it is entering the dynamic and competitive compact SUV market in India. Its weapon of choice will be the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza-based SUV, likely to be called the Urban Cruiser. The slated launch is the festive season this year, which means end-October, early November.

Although Toyota's first compact SUV for India is essentially a badge-engineered Vitara Brezza, there will be quite a few changes to help differentiate it from the Maruti SUV. While the Glanza – the first Maruti-based Toyota – is identical to the Baleno save for the badge, the Toyota Urban Cruiser will be altered in certain key areas.

The Urban Cruiser will get more of a Toyota identity up-front, with relatively inexpensive-to-change 'soft parts’, like the plastic bumpers and grille, seeing the majority of tweaks. Toyota will also make small changes to the rear of the Urban Cruiser, to help differentiate it from the Brezza. Parts like the headlights and tail-lights, which are more expensive to change, are likely to be only mildly altered, if at all. There will be no sheet-metal changes, with even alloy wheels carried over from Maruti Suzuki’s compact SUV.

Another important change Toyota will make is to the interior. The current Brezza's cabin is a mass of grey plastic and, in order to brighten up the insides and make it look a bit more upmarket, Toyota will use lighter colours and a few fresh ‘graphics’. Toyota's Urban Cruiser could also be the first of the compact SUVs to come with the hybrid tech on the manual version.

Hybrid technology is integral to Toyota's global philosophy and is widely acknowledged as an important fuel saving measure. As a result, the manual version will almost certainly get an improved fuel economy rating from testing authority ARAI. Interestingly, the traditionally thirstier automatic version is rated higher on the Brezza – at 18.76kpl – thanks to the mild-hybrid. Meanwhile, the non-hybrid manual Vitara Brezza (normally a manual is more efficient than its automatic counterpart) is currently only rated at 17.03kpl. 

Though both the automatic and manual Urban Cruiser will be mild-hybrids, there will be no ISG external badging – Toyota refers to the system as the Integrated Starter Generator.

Toyota's Urban Cruiser will be produced by Maruti Suzuki India on the same assembly line as the Brezza. Expect prices of the Urban Cruiser to be similar to those of the Maruti Vitara Brezza, ranging from around Rs 750,000 to 11.5 lakh, but Toyota will lure customers by loading its top-of-the-line variants with more features and providing a longer, 3-year or more standard warranty pack.

Will brand Toyota empower Urban Cruiser a la Glanza?
As has been seen, brand Toyota has been a deciding factor in helping the Japanese carmaker sell the Glanza. Despite being a totally badge-engineered version of the Baleno with no differentiation at all (except for the badges) the Glanza has managed drawn over 26,000 customers in its first 13 months of sales, providing Toyota a successful entry into what was essentially a new market segment for the company. 

The Toyota Glanza hatchback, the re-badged Baleno which Maruti Suzuki India manufactures at its Gujarat plant for Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM), has driven past the 25,000-unit mark in the domestic market. Since its launch on June 8, 2019, the Glanza has sold a total of 25,242 units till end-June 2020.

According to Naveen Soni, senior vice-president, sales and service, while Toyota has a loyal customer base that remains dedicated to the brand's portfolio, a majority of the Glanza buyers are new to the Toyota family. Over the course of the past year, new customers have contributed to as much as 40-60 percent of the premium hatchback's sales. And a key differentiator for attracting a fresh set of prospects has been Toyota's customer experience. Toyota's ease of service, roadside assistance and warranty, along with special sales schemes, are other factors which have helped enhance the value proposition and close the deal."

UPDATE ON August 4
Commenting on the foray into the compact SUV segment, Naveen Soni, said, “We are very excited to announce our plans to launch the Toyota Urban Cruiser this festive season. With a customer-first approach, TKM has always endeavoured to fulfil the aspirations of its customers with timely introduction of new products and the Toyota Urban Cruiser is another such effort to satisfy the evolving customer needs.  Also, we hope that the Urban Cruiser gives us an opportunity to welcome a new set of customers who not only aspire to own a Toyota SUV early in life, but would also like to experience Toyota’s global standards of sales and after-sales services. We will share more details about the car and the launch in the days to come”.