FIRST DRIVE | We take the budget-friendly 7-seater 2021 Toyota Rumion for a twirl

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2021 Toyota Rumion
2021 Toyota Rumion
  • Toyota Rumion is a joint-venture shared-platform product that's imported from India.
  • It's built in the same factory (and production line) that Suzuki's Ertiga is manufactured.
  • The Rumion completes a trifecta of value-driven models for Toyota (including the Starlet and Urban Cruiser).
  • For motoring news, go to Wheels24.

Toyota South Africa is shaking up the compact multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) market with a new product called the Rumion. The seven-seater Rumion comes from India, and it's one of three models that Toyota and Suzuki share across brands (Starlet/Baleno, Vitara Brezza/Urban Cruiser and now Rumion/Ertiga). Toyota launched the vehicle in Johannesburg this week, and it will replace the popular Avanza in the people-mover segment for the company.

A proven recipe

Speaking at the launch event, Toyota South Africa's marketing boss Glen Crompton said that the Rumion is ideal for the ageing Avanza in our market. He said it offers tried-and-tested engineering in a compact body style that's roomy enough for seven adults. He explained that the MPV segment is still very popular in South Africa, despite consumers shifting towards compact and mid-size SUVs.

Toyota Rumion
2021 Toyota Rumion TX

Measuring 4395mm in length, 1735mm wide and standing 1690mm tall, the Rumion is generously proportioned. Its 2740mm wheelbase ensures that there's enough room between its axles to provide decent interior space. In some seven-seater vehicles, the third row is very cramped, but that's not the case here as an adult will be comfortable in the back for short trips.

A decent ride height of 180mm gives it the ability to take on some gravel off the beaten track, and its front-wheel-drive architecture makes it more predictable in terms of handling and drivability. The front-wheel-drive layout also contributes to increased space in the passenger compartment when compared to the outgoing Avanza. There's no need for a driveshaft tunnel in the Rumion which means rear-seat passengers don't have to deal with a large hump in the middle of the floor.

2021 Toyota Rumion
2021 Toyota Rumion

On the road

We drove the 1.5TX manual version of the Rumion at the launch in Gauteng. On approach to the vehicle, there's a sense of familiarity in its looks, but Toyota has fitted it with unique alloy wheels that are different from its JV partner's design. Styling is sensible, and it will arguably date well, and its proportions are decent enough without looking bulbous or ungainly.

Fire it up, and it offers a refined, smooth idle, and you can easily engage first to pull away thanks to a lightweight gear throw and an easy to operate clutch pedal. Visibility from the driver's seat is excellent, thanks to slim A-pillars, and even when looking over your shoulder to assess your blind spot, it's a matter of quickly turning your head left. There's no obtrusive B-pillar here that could potentially block vehicles that are hanging around in your blindspot.

Running it through the gears in the congested city traffic of Johannesburg's northern suburbs was a cinch. It quickly kept up with traffic (we were two up in the car), and it was able to maintain 100km/h on the highway without breaking a sweat. The vehicles we were driving were brand new; in the case of the Wheels24 launch car, it had less than 100km on it. There was a bit of firmness to the gear selector when trying to engage fourth and fifth in our car, but we expect this to smoothen itself out as the vehicle is run-in and the mechanical bits and bobs have a chance to seat appropriately.

2021 Toyota Rumion
2021 Toyota Rumion

The car's 1.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine proved to have more than enough power and torque in reserve to propel us with 77kW and 138Nm on tap. It also felt a bit tight when revving it up to keep pace with traffic, but as explained, these cars were new, so they require a little bit of mileage on them before running like a well-oiled machine. For the family man or woman, there's more than enough poke here, and you'll be pleased with its performance ability around town and on the highway.

Toyota claims that the Rumion will sip 6.2 litres of unleaded per 100km in a combined cycle, but we managed to achieve 7.5 litres per 100km, which is still respectable considering the amount of stop-and-go traffic we encountered due to broken traffic lights. With its 45-litre fuel tank, you'll be able to realistically achieve more than 500km per tank depending on your driving style and the number of people or amount of cargo you plan to lug about with you.

2021 Toyota Rumion
2021 Toyota Rumion

Is it worth buying?

The Toyota Rumion is a highly compelling product. It's fitted with all the essential creature comforts you might need, particularly the TX models, with electric windows and mirrors and a multimedia audio system that allows smartphone screen mirroring. The TX also comes with a rear air-conditioning system that can be controlled separately by rear-seat passengers. It even has ISOFIX anchor points for moms and dads who do the nursery school run.

Indeed, on the comfort and convenience side of things, you'll have most of what you need. Our only reservation around the Rumion is that it lacks safety features, such as electronic stability control or traction control. It also only has two airbags, one for the driver and one for the front-seat passenger. If you're not too concerned about these features, then it won't be a deal-breaker for you. If you're looking for a car to transport your growing family, or if you need something for your shuttle service business, or you want something to carry your mountain bike around, but you don't want to buy a bakkie or SUV, this Rumion might be the ideal thing for you.

It's straightforward. There aren't too many high-tech engine or drivetrain features here that could potentially lead to hefty repair bills once it's out of warranty, and it's just an honest car that does what it says on the box. As far as compact seven-seater MPVs go, the Rumion is probably one of your best choices if you're looking for an extensive network of dealers to support your movements around the country too.

2021 Toyota Rumion
2021 Toyota Rumion

All Toyota Rumion models sold in South Africa come with a three-year or 100 000km warranty, and they come with a 4-services or 60 000km Service Plan.

2021 Toyota Rumion prices in South Africa

Toyota Rumion 1.5 S manual- R245 600

Toyota Rumion 1.5 SX manual - R273 500

Toyota Rumion 1.5 SX automatic - R289 200

Toyota Rumion 1.5 TX manual - R301 600

Toyota Rumion 1.5 TX automatic - R317 200

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