IF you manage to sell nearly 500 units in the month of a new vehicle’s launch, you’re undoubtedly doing well. For Toyota, July proved to be a very pleasant surprise, with substantial success for its new Rush.Toyota delivered 494 units of its Rush to customers last month and, considering it’s not a budget vehicle (retail is just beyond R300k), to capture that calibre of sales volume in your debut month is remarkable.PUNCHING ABOVE ITS WEIGHTYou’d suspect Rush might have cannibalised from other product in Toyota’s portfolio, but this has not been the case. Rush sales have mostly been conquest. The only comparable product to Rush, in terms of configuration, is Avanza — which is priced more adorably.Rush’s entry to the market hasn’t influenced Avanza sales at all, with volumes for the latter actually increasing from 413 to 544 between June to July. If Rush’s introduction hasn’t influenced Avanza numbers, the only conclusion is that the near-500 sales it made in July must have impacted its competitors.Segmenting Rush is challenging. It competes against a swathe of rivals — Duster, Ecosport and Creta perhaps being the most pronounced and most are currently in a cycle of renewal.Ford launched its new Ecosport in the last week of July, so the runout volumes will make it difficult to discern how Rush influenced the small Ford SUV’s market positioning.A BIT OF COMPETITIONA Creta facelift is due soon for Hyundai, hence its lower volumes last month (down from 597 in June, to only 209 in July) which could mostly be attributed to inventory management before the refreshed Creta arrives in September.By the end of September, a clearer picture should emerge, detailing exactly who will own the mini-SUV segment. Ford could probably claim to have established the mini-SUV market with its Ecosport back in 2013, although historically Daihatsu’s Terios predated it before the Japanese brand left South Africa in 2016.The compact SUV market is populated with vehicles which are gravel travel capable instead of being pure crossover evolutions of front-wheel drive hatchbacks — and it has grown tremendously.With price points much lower than traditional SUVs, they provide an option for smaller families who don’t require the space and towing capacity of a full-sized SUV but desire prodigious dirt road capability for rural touring. Vehicles such as Ecosport, Creta, Duster and now Rush, have been the choices.A DOWNSCALE OF SORTSOne of the mini-SUV market’s unexpected features has been the number of older buyers, many in retirement, who choose a smaller two-wheel gravel travel vehicle. These empty-nesters don’t have children to accommodate and no desire for the size and unwieldiness of a larger SUV.As such, the mini-SUV options have found favour for those South African retirees who seek value and wish to downscale without sacrificing dirt road ability. — Wheels24.