How I bought a Toyota Hyryder hybrid without even test driving it

I walked into the empty showroom and was greeted by a subtle maroon Hyryder. Spent a good half hour with it. The car was feature-rich, and a step up from the loaded EcoSport.

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Unfathomable that we bought a car without me driving it, but that is exactly what accompanies a new job and a lot of work travel! Here’s what happened, the competition we assessed, and some pointers on what a 150kms with the Hyryder Strong Hybrid V feels like.

Back in August, we booked both the Grand Vitara and the Hyryder. We were looking for a car that would replace our immaculately maintained EcoSport Titanium Diesel and my all-time favourite Mitsubishi Cedia (damn you, NGT). The post covid world meant that we could happily downsize and manage with fewer vehicles between two homes although I would really have loved to retain the Cedia purely for its nostalgic value. Anyway.

So – the car we would get needed to play a unique role in borrowing characteristics from both vehicles. It had to be reliable, efficient, built to last, fun to drive, and reasonably powerful. It needed to be a car that received a thumbs-up from my parents, my partner, and me. Very different judgement criteria were to apply but two had to hold: My father’s knee insisted on an automatic, and my mother’s back refused to live with the ‘trauma-inducing’ backseat of the EcoSport.

The initial reviews I read placed a looming question mark on multiple areas – build quality, interior finesse, and power. I for one was rather dismayed and suggested we look at alternatives. While I could make my peace with other aspects, the supposed lack of power was upsetting. I loved the easy-going nature of the Cedia and its rev-happy attitude! Nonetheless, we checked out the Maruti sister and came away not too impressed. The doors didn’t have the heaviness that we were used to from the tank that is the Ecosport, and the interior didn’t scream Korean luxury. We’d almost decided against it but opted to wait for a test drive.

Two and a half viable alternatives emerged. Of the Korean sisters, we preferred the Seltos and immediately drove to the showroom. The interior quality blew us away. It was a segment or two above the GV and the Hyryder. I’d driven the petrol turbo before and had thoroughly enjoyed putting it through its paces. My mother did however find the setup stiff although she said it was better than the EcoSport. The Seltos can sure spoil you. It’s a tough car to beat, but one major factor worked against it and that was the abysmal safety rating. Although we slipped often, and almost put it a booking amount, the 3-star safety rating kept holding me back. In 2016, the EcoSport’s high safety rating and a variant with six airbags had swayed us towards it, and we didn’t want to compromise on this aspect.

We found the Kushaq to be extremely comfortable and I loved its mannerisms. The 1.5 DSG is blissfully fun to drive and became a key contender. The in-time five-star rating helped tremendously. The interiors were reasonable, but DSG horror stories and the general perception of Skoda played in my mind. We also flirted with the idea of the 1.0 which would solve one problem at least.

I travelled through most of October and early November, and during this time, my family found a chance to take a short drive of the Hyryder and they came home seemingly satisfied. During this period, GRAP guidelines often meant that our cars were grounded forcing us to slightly hustle. Through the time I was away, I watched and read everything that existed on the Hyryder. For a week, I stayed in a hotel next to a Toyota showroom in Bhiwadi. One late evening, I walked into the empty showroom and was greeted by a subtle maroon Hyryder. I spent a good half hour with it and found some flaws fading. The car was feature-rich, and a step up from the loaded EcoSport. I missed rain-sensing wipers but liked the ventilated seats, the sunroof, the comfortable seats, and the general airiness of the cabin. I didn’t particularly mind the interiors and I noticed that the AC controls were the most rudimentary in a cabin that was otherwise reasonably well put together. The curtain for the sunscreen is the most obvious flaw. I did not get a chance to drive the car but conveyed my thoughts to my family back home.

There was one factor that kept attracting me to the car and it was one that the Kushaq and the Seltos could never compete with. We expected the car to be used for 1.5-2k kms per month and the fuel efficiency was drool-worthy. Some back-of-the-envelope calculations suggested that we’d incur a significantly lower overall cost vis-à-vis the Seltos and the Kushaq petrol variants. We wanted the car to serve as a primary and efficiency mattered.

The G variant is the greatest value for money and that’s the one we wanted to settle for. Our initial booking though was for the V and as luck would have it, a blue V made itself suddenly available. “Take it this week”, they said. So, the family (sans me) took another long test drive and came away rather satisfied. On the 15th of November, the Hyryder was home. We opted out of most accessories, and I was happy to see no pressure being exerted by the dealership.

On the 17th, I finally drove myself home from IGI airport in the blue somewhat blingy Hyryder! I’d say that it is one rather good-looking car!

What’s to like:

First things first, the silent cabin is bloody eerie. On EV mode, all that accompanies you is a slight whine and contrary to many reviews, I found that in general operation, you can’t really tell when the engine engages. You can however definitely notice if you’re at a standstill and I’d agree that NVH could have been better handled in this scenario. Truth be told, I was expecting the car to be an absolute slouch, but I’m glad to have been proven wrong. While I haven’t hit a highway yet, I found progress to 90 very satisfactory. Acceleration is fairly rapid, and you can certainly close gaps extremely quickly. On most occasions, I found that battery and engine power came together to form quite a harmonious union. Having said so, there is a way to drive this car, and that way is not pedal-to-metal. Neither is this car expected to win you a sprint from 0-100. However, if you’re pottering around in the city between 20-30-40, you’ll be hard-pressed to feel that there is any lack of power and on most occasions, the torque should keep you happy.

This is an extremely comfortable car to drive. It seems large from the outside but is very nimble and sure-footed. Its relatively quiet nature makes the clatter of the EcoSport feel extremely rudimentary. The auto-box has none of the rubber band effect that I’ve felt earlier and works silently in the background. On most occasions, I did not find it hunting for gears. The handling is great, although the EcoSport is probably better. The suspension is downright exceptional and very little filters through, especially at higher speeds! My mother’s very happy!

The build quality is good in most places, and the car feels well put together, but the doors have none of the weight we’re familiar with. Somehow though, the ones on our Hyryder shut usually on the first attempt.
The energy flow meter means you drive conservatively, and I was able to achieve an astonishing 31kmpl on my drive back from the airport. I will admit that I tried rather hard, but on the days that have followed, I have yet to see it fall below 25. For a car this size, that is somewhat surreal.

This car is loaded to the gills. I love the ventilated seats even in the winters, and the sunroof is a fun addition although I don’t expect to be able to use it much considering the harshness that is Delhi’s weather. A wireless charger (for TWS earphones I love but often forget to charge), great headlights, and an adjustable armrest are features I immediately liked. Oodles of space to hold your accessories. The blue-coloured engine start-stop button is funky and appeals to the environmentally conscious human in me. The folks love the rear AC vents.

A mixed bag:

The audio system is acceptable and cannot match the Seltos. The 360-degree camera helps because the rear headrests prevent a clean view, but I wish Toyota hadn’t offered a camera that makes the old Nokia 6600s look good. Obviously, Toyota and Maruti should offer better controls for the HVAC even if they leave the rest of the cabin the way it is.

What’s not to like:

Toyota’s voice assist comes on too often, and I turned it off without the first half hour. The TPMS is still in KPA and I’ve found no way of switching it to PSI. That sheer curtain is going to be hell-on-earth in the Delhi summer. Additionally, I wish there was some genuineness to the claim of ‘premium tuned sound’, and I’d have liked electrically adjustable seats. I’ve adjusted to the interior now and I find it somewhat welcoming. I also don’t particularly care for the HUD, and I’m waiting to see if the boot can manage our luggage. Although the HUD shows you navigation prompts, it sucks that the car doesn’t have in-built navigation. Lastly, the location of the drive mode button is ridiculous and fiddling with it while driving is a recipe for disaster.

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