The only thing hotter than sport utility vehicles (SUV) are small SUVs. These have come to replace the small hatchback as the entry-level vehicle of choice by first-time buyers. Unfortunately, they've all coalesced into a simple format where they're only differentiated by the particular needs of the purchaser or the financial incentives offered by the dealer. The Raize, as a Toyota, comes with the brand's history of reliability, low running costs, and potential high resale value. Dig a bit deeper in the specification sheets and the Raize GX offers something missing in its class rivals, a fun to drive factor.
Outside, the Raize ticks every box to entice buyers at this end of the market. These small SUVs are pitched at a younger demographic, so it has the looks of an SUV with a chunky upright shape and the de facto plastic body cladding around the wheel arches and lower body. There's also a plethora of standout colours to be had, plus the ability to mix and match roof and body for that trendy dual-tone appearance.
That boxy space means there's plenty of room on the inside. The angular design of the body continues on the interior. Multiple textures are used across the dashboard and panels to keep things from being boring hunks of plastic. Large easily recognisable buttons are within reach of the front occupants for ergonomic operation of major functions. The infotainment is similar with fast simple operation and large hard buttons for shortcuts. It can be controlled via the steering wheel or cut out completely by connecting a smartphone for Android Auto or Apple CarPlay interface. Younger owners will enjoy the separate USB ports, one for music, the other for charging, and the several display options for the digital instrumentation.
The sizeable interior means there is plenty of storage in addition to a rather large trunk space. New or young drivers, and families will all have peace of mind in the Raize due to its host of safety features, and this where it moves from the pack.
Performance and driving feel are not usually elements high on the list of most small SUVs. It's just about looking good, having modern technology, being practical, and having great fuel economy. The Raize GX is able to inject some fun into the driving experience due to its turbocharged 1-litre, three-cylinder motor. In urban environments, it operates unburdened as the meaty torque makes short work of traffic and easily hits fuel economy expectations.
Since most other class rivals use naturally aspirated engines, the Raize has a high level of cabin refinement as one never has to rev the motor for acceleration. This goes well with a chassis that soaks up bumps despite the taller ride height. Take the Raize out on Jamaica's narrow country lanes and it shines. The turbocharged power delivery allows a good driver to get into a nice flow. And as compliant, the suspension is on potholed urban streets, it works just as well as on the slowly decaying pieces of tarmac connecting either end of the island. Even better, there's way more grip than expected and the Raize gives more than enough warning when that limit is reached. So, it's fast, but never scary, getting the blood pumping in the right way.
The Toyota Raize could have just fallen in line with the rest of its rivals, but for those who want a bit more out of their piece of daily transportation then the GX, with its Turbo badge, is the driver's choice.
MODEL: 2022 Toyota Raize GX
ENGINE: 1-litre turbocharged, three-cylinder â€” 97bhp/103lb/ft
DRIVETRAIN: Continuously variable transmission/front-wheel drive
SUMMARY: Drives better than it has any right to.