• Wheels24 reader Remelda de Jager is an avid Toyota fan.
• She points out the gap in Toyota SA's compact SUV line-up.
• According to de Jager, the brand has no suitable compact SUV offering in the R280 000 to R380 000 price range.
• For more motoring stories, go to www.Wheels24.co.za
Earlier in July, Lance Branquinho wrote about the Toyota Corolla Cross, and why it would be such a perfect fit for our local market. However, Toyota South Africa has not yet confirmed any indication that the vehicle is being considered to bring it over here. And, with the global economy in such dire states, it's no surprise either.
However, Wheels24 reader Remelda de Jager is a loyal consumer of the brand, but she has recently found herself in a predicament. I have to say, compared to the hundreds of emails we receive about dodgy vehicle purchases riddled with problems, her letter is rather refreshing.
Despite De Jager's outcry, I admire her tenacious efforts in her research to purchase a specific vehicle and it's evident in her letter below. She is studying the market, all various options and competitors, and also international trends. She knows exactly what she wants, and I sincerely hope she will eventually be able to buy the car that will suit her needs, and tick all the right boxes in the process.
READ | Toyota's new Corolla Cross is a Rav4 lite
Below follows De Jager's letter:
As a huge Toyota fan, I have been following this mystery car for months now and was anxiously awaiting its official debut.
It all started when I decided that after 14 years of loyal, no-hassle service of my Yaris hatch, it may be time to replace it with something more up to date. I started looking around, knowing exactly what I wanted.
I was looking for a small, affordable, nice-looking, practical, reliable SUV crossover vehicle.
Toyota told me that there was the C-HR as an entry-level SUV and the seven-seater Rush to compare with others like the Ford EcoSport etc.
I was not happy at all as the Rush does not score any points in the looks department in my books. It looks like a wagon with a built-in Venter trailer. And, I felt like Toyota was missing the plot here when they offered it as the only option in that price range. The other nearest option, the C-HR, is too big, and too expensive for me.
So I started looking at other car brands - with a very heavy heart but also an open mind.
Hyundai Venue - Image: RoadTrip/Ryan Abbott
My shortlist at the end looks like this:
Ford EcoSport Trend
Mazda CX-3, and soon the CX30
However, I was still keeping an eye on the internet, and this was when the Toyota Raize was revealed. I was hopeful that it might eventually arrive in South Africa. I decided to wait a bit longer but then to my disappointment, I found out that the Raize is not on the cards for South Africa.
New hope came alive as I read about the forthcoming new Yaris Cross then. Again, I was hugely disappointed when they said that the Yaris Cross is also not coming to South Africa.
I was aware of this Corolla Cross, and that Toyota was secretly working on a new mystery SUV. But I also knew that since the Yaris is under the Corolla, it would then obviously be a bigger and more expensive car compared to the Yaris Cross.
Despite that, I continued to check in to see the progress; I checked all the spy images and the artist renderings. It was exciting to see the actual car at the end.
In terms of its styling, it is much better than I expected. The front end was a bit obvious at first, but the design sank in very quickly when I looked at the entire car and saw the grill in context. It is a surprisingly more softer and sleeker design than expected - which I like. It is quite a looker and has all the bells and whistles. This is the perfect car, and I would love for it to come to South Africa - I just don't know if I would be able to afford it.
Toyota C-HR. Image: Toyota
Naturally, I have a few objections:
It was speculated that this car would be cheaper than the C-HR because of its Torsion Beam and McPherson suspension as opposed to the C-HR's new double-wishbone suspension. I feel the C-HR is not practical and way overpriced. Now, it was revealed that the Corolla Cross would be more expensive as it slots in between C-HR and the RAV4.
The fact that it is smaller than the RAV4 doesn't necessarily make it a small SUV, and even if it is built in South Africa at the end, it will still not be in the lower-than-the-C-HR price range. Compared to the Raize, it is enormous.
Most people look for a small SUV in the price range of R280 000 - R380 000 with a full-house option at the top price. If the Toyota Cross comes to South Africa, then it may lower the RAV4, Corolla Hatch and C-HR sales numbers but it would definitely not cater for the needs of most people who still seek an SUV in the price range of R280 000 and R380 000. Toyota would again not fill the gap of need. Also, it will compete with other brands like the Honda HRV and the Mazda CX30 as other reliable Japanese brands.
So, this may mean that the Corolla Cross may not necessarily increase the overall sales numbers of Toyota in South Africa but rather replace some of the volumes.
In Japan, the Raize outsold Corolla by 2000 units in January, and there was a waiting list of approximately four months. It received the highest rating possible in a collision safety test - namely 5-star JNCAP in Japan. The ground clearance is significantly higher than the Corolla Cross, and it has AWD as an option which the Corolla Cross doesn't. This should say something about the Raize.
I can only guess that the entry price for the cheapest Corolla Cross Sport 1.8 will start with a R400 000-pricetag. And that would put it outside my budget.
If Toyota SA wants to increase their total sales, they should genuinely start considering the consumers when making decisions on what cars to bring to South Africa.
Could consumers not have a role in what Toyota SA is deciding? Provide consumers with the options and possible or estimated prices, and let consumers then decide.
If I had a say in which small Toyota SUVs should come to South Africa then I would choose in this order:
1. Toyota Raize: very popular overseas, top-seller and 5-star Japanese safety rating. Perfect size, looks and features - South Africa Toyota has nothing in this size available.
2. Yaris Cross: beautiful, a true-Toyota loaded with specs and features. Smaller than the Corolla Cross. Toyota SA has nothing in this size and price available either.
3. Corolla Cross as a top-up option after Yaris Cross or Raize: Toyota SA is now considering the Urban Cruiser (a rebadged Suzuki Vitara Brezza) as a possible option instead. Another plot-loss for Toyota SA.
Toyota Corolla Cross interior. - Image: Toyota
If people wanted to buy a Suzuki then they could go straight to Suzuki and pay cheaper for the same car - I'm not interested in that.
I would instead buy the Suzuki Across (rebadged RAV4 with real Toyota inside) than the Toyota Urban Cruiser (rebadged Suzuki inside).
Also, the Vitara Brezza alias Urban Cruiser is smaller than the Raize and Yaris Cross and looks like a student car option - not a young dynamic career person's choice. Again there will be no middle ground. There will still be a big open space in the small SUV market for Toyota South Africa.
There are many choices above R450 000 but nothing in the R280 000 - R380 000 range. Other automakers have these models in this gap, like Hyundai's Venue or Ford Ecosport, etc.
Toyota should explicitly categorize their SUV sizes to understand the needs, for example:
Mini SUV: Urban Cruiser
Small SUV: Raize, Yaris Cross
Medium SUV: Corolla Cross
Large SUV: RAV4
Extra Large SUV: Fortuner
Giant SUV: Prado etc.
If you look at it this way, you will readily detect the gap in South Africa.
With the Corolla Cross, Toyota again made it clear that Toyota fans looking for a small SUV with the size, shape, looks and features like the Raize or Yaris Cross, need to move on to other car brands as Toyota gives them no other option.
The Corolla Cross is beautiful but out of reach for those who hoped that eventually a true Toyota inside, 'small' SUV is going to come to South Africa.
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