One is not used to seeing 25 km/litre and above fuel efficiency on any petrol car’s tripmeter, not even in small cars like the Maruti Suzuki Alto. But here is a large SUV that not only consistently returns fuel efficiency of above 25 km/litre (that too being driven in urban stop-and-go traffic), the fuel efficiency struggles to fall below 18-20 km/litre no matter how you drive it.
Mass-market hybrid cars are late to the Indian market, but these have arrived.
Earlier this year Honda launched the City e:HEV, and now Toyota the Urban Cruiser Hyryder, which I drove it in and around Bengaluru.
What is the Urban Cruiser Hyryder?
It is Toyota’s first mass-market hybrid car in India (after the niche Prius, Camry and Vellfire). It has been developed with Suzuki and that’s why Maruti Suzuki India will soon launch the Grand Vitara (re-badged Hyryder).
The Hyryder is available in a full hybrid option (1490cc petrol engine as well as an electric motor) and a mild-hybrid variant (called the Neodrive, with a 1462cc petrol engine).
What defines its design?
It looks handsome, but not really striking. I mean it looks good, but isn’t a head-turner in the same league as the first generation Hyundai Creta was, or the current Kia Seltos is. The Hyryder looks more understated.
The cabin looks a lot like Maruti Suzuki Brezza (this reminds you that it’s a vehicle developed by both the carmakers together).
How spacious is it?
The Urban Cruiser Hyryder is the most spacious SUV in its segment, as also the longest. The rear seating space is so big that tall adults can easily sit cross-legged. The boot space of the hybrid variant, however, is small because the battery has taken some space under the boot floor.
The most noticeable thing inside the cabin can’t be seen, and is barely heard—the cabin, most of the time, is eerily quiet.
How does it drive?
—When you start driving slowly, there is no sound, because it drives only on electric motor.
—If you don’t floor the accelerator pedal, you can continue driving on electric motor for some distance (depending on battery charge level).
—If you floor the accelerator, both the engine and the electric motor start powering the wheels.
—As you approach a traffic signal and apply brakes, the regenerative braking turns the Hyryder’s kinetic energy into electric energy and charges the battery.
—On a complete stop, the petrol engine shuts down but the electric motor remains on, ensuring the AC is running, without the unnecessary fuel consumption and emissions associated with idling.
All this leads to stupendous fuel efficiency.
What is the real fuel efficiency?
The claimed fuel efficiency is 27.97 km/litre, and the real-world fuel efficiency is almost as good. Driving on the highway at speeds above 90 km/h, my test car returned 23 km/litre (as indicated by the tripmeter), but the surprising figure was driving in city traffic, where it returned a high of 26.5 km/litre!
But why is that so?
The answer is regenerative braking. In urban traffic, you tend to use brakes more often than driving on the highway, and the energy regenerated by braking goes back to the battery. The battery gets recharged enough to be driven for a longer time in the pure electric mode, and that leads to better fuel efficiency in city traffic conditions.
(The Neodrive mild-hybrid variant returns 21.12 km/litre.)
Is it a good buy?
The hybrid variants are priced Rs 15.11 lakh (S 2WD), Rs 17.49 lakh (G 2WD) and Rs 18.99 lakh (V 2WD), which makes it a far better deal than the City e:HEV sedan (Rs 19.89 lakh). As of now, the Urban Cruiser Hyryder is the most affordable hybrid car in India and also the most fuel efficient. It’s also surprisingly powerful (especially when petrol engine and electric motor both power the wheels together) and most spacious.
All these traits make the Urban Cruiser Hyryder hybrid the best buy in the Rs 10-20 lakh segment. The only thing missing in it is the all-wheel drive system (but that’s feature rarely needed because most SUVs are driven on the road, not off it).
(The V AT 2WD NeoDrive mild-hybrid variant is priced Rs 17.09 lakh, and prices of more affordable variants of the NeoDrive will be announced soon. The NeoDrive will also have an all-wheel drive option.)