Toyota Australia has confirmed that its upcoming Rukus ‘urban utility vehicle’ is essentially the same as the updated Scion xB launched recently at the New York motor show. The model is also sold – badged as a Toyota – in Japan.

Marketing manager Scott Thompson said the Rukus would appeal mainly to young, urban trend-setters – many of whom have previously never owned a Toyota.

“Rukus is anything but a standard car – and that’s exactly why we’re introducing it to the Australian market,” Thompson said.

“Its iconic, boxy shape deliberately challenges the norms of car design – a bold move that is sure to spark vigorous debate.

“Rukus is not a mass-market car: it’s an acquired taste that will polarise opinions.

“Fans will be passionate – and not just because of the space, performance and great standard features.

“Many owners will dress up Rukus, adding their own flair by customising it with Toyota and aftermarket accessories.”

Australian models will be imported from Japan, with the same updates as the US Scion version.

Thompson noted that Scion version of Rukus has been named a “Top Safety Pick” in each of the past two years by the US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety – its highest safety designation. The institute is an independent non-profit research and communications organisation funded by auto insurance companies.

To qualify for the award, a vehicle must earn the highest rating of “good” in the Institute’s front, side, rollover, and rear impact tests and be equipped with vehicle stability control.

The testing was made more stringent in 2010 with the addition of the rollover test.

“‘Top Safety Pick’ recognises the vehicles that afford buyers the best overall protection in common crashes,” said Institute president Adrian Lund.

“With more top performers, there’s no reason to buy a small car with less than stellar crash-test ratings.”

To earn a “good” rollover rating, a roof must be able to support the equivalent of four times the vehicle’s weight compared with the current US federal standard of 1.5 times.

During institute testing, the roof of the xB withstood a force equal to 6.8 times its vehicle weight.