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For the Rush

Toyota Rush

BY RORY DALEY

Friday, October 26, 2018

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The worldwide craving for sport utility vehicles (SUV) has yet to be quelled. So, in an attempt to quench the thirst of SUV lovers, the Toyota Rush is taking the key elements that SUV buyers crave — ride height, high seating position and space, while adding what in today's language is known as a killer app — seven seats.

Taking those elements into consideration, the Rush is styled beyond its $4.6-million starting price point.

Lines are smooth, clean, with a large grille reminiscent of upmarket rivals. Spend some more cash for the S trim and it receives a bit more external bling in the form of larger 17-inch wheels, and additional body accents.

The long, sleek body necessary to hold its extra two passengers is further augmented by the higher-than-normal ride height, especially when compared to other class contenders. Its total appearance is one of a traditional SUV, so much — that during Auto's test drive many mistook it for something it's not — a replacement for the Toyota RAV4. The truth is the Rush is where the Toyota SUV line-up starts. It sits below the RAV4 in the model pecking order, but retains more of a visual connection with the brand's next seven-seater up the line, the Fortuner.

Stepping into the Rush is easy with standard keyless entry. Like the exterior, the interior design looks upmarket, with contrasting colours and stitching. The keyword is looks. The materials, upon touch, break the illusion. It's all plastic; not a lost cause as this is important for a vehicle expected to put up with the use and abuse from its cargo, human or otherwise. The positives: it's easy to clean. Those in the front will enjoy the soft, comfortable seats. From the driver's position all the major controls are clear, easy to read, operate and reach. Many will love the view out the windshield due to higher-than-normal seating position created by a combination of the seat itself, the Rush's steeply angled nose and tall ride height. Visibility is good due to the size and number of windows the Toyota carries. The stereo system provides good sound quality and the standard methods of connectivity, while doubling as the screen for the backup camera.

The real magic happens from the rear backwards. The second row is just as plush as the front, able to handle three adults with relative ease, as a seven-seater space isn't a problem. There're tons of practical storage. How much? Thirteen cup holders greet passengers, for example. Three 12-volt outlets mean everyone can keep themselves powered.

Toyota Rush

Pushing past the 60/40 split-adjustable second row is what sets the Rush apart from its competitors, leading to a third row. As a comparison, the next seven seat SUV would be nearly twice the asking price of the Rush.

To many a third row may sound like a gimmick, but this plays well with the intended target market — families. Pull a lever and either side of the second row easily flips forward for access. The two third-row rear seats are best accessed from the trunk area. With a 2-3-2 seating layout, most will relegate children to the third row during full-load trips.

Can adults fit? Most will, but such an option is best left to short journeys. Kids will scramble away to get into the third-row seats and quickly disappear into their electronic devices much to the glee of parents.

There's enough space that should things get testy between the young ones, they can be separated between the rows. The self-sustainability of the rear passengers includes their own roof mounted air conditioning.

For non-human goods, the Rush's space gives it extreme flexibility. The seats can't be lifted out, but the two rear rows can be folded down for impressive carrying space. Arrange them correctly and the vehicle can handle a good mix of people and cargo. Keeping everything safe are six airbags.

Fire up the Rush and it will glide with ease through city traffic. There's enough power from the 1.5-litre, four-cylinder motor to deal with the demands of urban driving. Not having a continuously variable transmission and instead an actual four-speed automatic transmission does help with driving dynamics. Where the Rush isn't happy is high-speed highway travel. Push it too far and what appears to be a short top gear begins to move the motor out of its peak powerband, causing the engine to go from quiet friend to loud neighbour, intruding the cabin. Otherwise it feels no different than the average sedan.

There is no four-wheel drive available. This won't impact its off-road capacity as, due to over eight inches of ground clearance, the Rush can traverse errant terrain easily. It's no sports car in the corners, but it has no need to be and gives you plenty of warning before the limits of tyre grip are exceeded. The electronic power steering keeps things light and effortless, especially as it has a very tight turning circle given its overall length.

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