Archive for October, 2012

Rumion Wrap-up: the Verdict

October 3, 2012 Leave a comment

Two weeks and a good number of kilometers later, how did the Rumion fare, you wonder? Well wonder no more, as I have a few more insights to share.

First, with the good: this capable little hauler managed to get four adults, a toddler in car seat and luggage everywhere we needed to go, and for most of us, in comfort – more on that later. It proved confidence inspiring on the highway – well planted, easy to maneuver though traffic and remarkably quiet, given the big, upright windshield. And it did so, when driven judiciously, with reasonable economy, reaching close to the rated 16.6 km/l on the highway over a few stretches. (Toyota still refuses to use the modern JC08 standard for mileage, stubbornly and misleadingly sticking to the uselessly optimistic and outdated 10・15 mode numbers). But more on this later as well.

Now, for a few gripes – none of them deal-breakers, but all frustrations none the less: First, the counter-intuitive smart key system, about which I’m not sure where to start. I’m extremely tech savvy and my wife is not – predictably, both of us had issues with the system. I did my best to use it as intended – never pushing the buttons on the key – but I found the variety of alarms, beeps, inadvertent multiple pushes on the door handle sensors and a variety of other quirks endlessly frustrating. This was compounded when a passenger would manually lock or unlock a door, sending the system into hysterics. After two weeks, I had wrapped my head around all the impossibly large number of permutations of inputs and could suss out what state the car would be in after a variety of interactions, but it took much too much effort. For my wife, it became too much of a frustration, and she settled on using the buttons on the fob, turning it into a traditional remote-keyless system. The only difference is that in the end, she wasted less time and mental energy. So much for ‘smart’ key – it is unquestionably the opposite.

The CVT, which initially I sang the praises of, also hit a snag in the form of an unaccustomed driver. While I enjoyed driving the car as if it were a game, trying to keep my RPM’s as low as possible under every circumstance, my wife while driving on the highway, was in love with the responsiveness. In top gear of an automatic, the engine doesn’t have enough in it to really accelerate quickly, but that helps keep your speed constant by smoothing out inadvertent inputs; you really have to give it some gas before the engine will kick down a gear when you need acceleration. With a CVT, and particularly with the programming of this CVT, tiny inputs can be quickly translated into acceleration without the need to drop a gear, which has the side effect of leading do frequent unintended changes in speed, as well as a lot of additional fuel burned. Thus my wife frequently found herself suddenly driving 15 km/h faster than intended. Predictably, during her stints, even on the expressway, mileage fell to an appalling 11.5 km/l – a 25 percent reduction. Obviously this is an error that needs pretty immediate attention by Toyota’s transmission engineers.

Lastly, we come to the center seat in back. I won’t dwell here; suffice it to say that between the pronounced hump and the lack of cushioning, bolstering, shoulder belt or adequate head rest, the Rumion fails at carrying a 5th passenger for any distance despite its ample width.

Do these shortcomings outweigh the otherwise commendable attributes of the car? That depends on the kind of driver you are. If you’re someone who wants space but values style and performance, and who is capable of adapting to some of the attendant quirks , by all means, I recommend it. If you’re a casual driver, it’s a very tough sell. And perhaps that’s why they’re not a common sight on Japan’s roads.

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