Text: Vince Pornelos / Photos: Vince Pornelos | posted June 17, 2016 13:51
The Next Generation MPV
For over a decade, the Toyota Innova has been the number one in its class, and the number one selling vehicle in the commercial vehicle category (CV), and with good reason. Since 2004, the Innova has offered the winning recipe in the segment by unifying the looks of a modern minivan, a versatile seven seater layout, the efficiency of modern commonrail diesel or smoothness of VVT-i gas engines, as well as the long term durability of body-on-frame construction.
Truth be told, Toyota didn't have to build an all new Innova, but they did it anyway. After spending some time with this Innova 2.0G, I can easily say that it's much better than we expected.
For starters, it's got the looks. From experience, back in 2005 Toyota customers missed the more rugged looks of the Revo that the Innova replaced. The latter was seen as a softer, more family friendly vehicle instead of the quasi SUV looks of the Revo; that's one reason why the Crosswind and Adventure are still selling well despite their age, especially in the provinces. The new Innova seeks to address that issue with the design.
The new model is far sleeker than before, utilizing many of Toyota's newer design cues, such as the grille that seamlessly integrates with the headlights and fully blends with the shape of the front air intake. The side profile has more profound design elements compared to before, but I'm not so sure about the shape of the D pillar; I find it a bit odd. The rear is neat, especially with the unusual taillamps; this Innova is definitely edgier in the design department.
The new Innova is also clearly longer at 4735mm (+180mm), and slightly wider and taller at 1830mm (+60mm) and 1750mm (+45mm) respectively. The platform is new and improved, utilizing many of the lessons learned from the previous 11 years of the Innova, though the wheelbase is exactly the same.
If there's one aspect that the Innova has improved by leaps and bounds, it's the interior; a testament to the Toyota Motor Philippines' manufacturing quality at their Santa Rosa, Laguna factory. Looking around the cabin, Toyota has clearly stepped up their MPV's game in terms of appointments, features, and luxury. The design used on the dashboard, the interior door panels and even the ceiling has definitely come a long way; if anything, it's now comparable to more expensive Toyota models. There are even shades of Lexus in there, especially with the feel of the materials, the switchgear, and the look of the gauges. The pattern of the seat fabric is interesting, but not everyone who saw it is a fan. The unexpected bit is the use of airline-style mood lighting on the ceiling; it's unecessary, but a nice touch nonetheless.
The list of features is long, and well thought out. Climate control is standard on this G variant, and there are vents on the ceiling for the rear passengers. Steering wheel buttons are fully integrated and not an add-on like on the previous Innova. The AVT 2-DIN head unit is standard, and has certainly leveled up in terms of interface and functionality. There are cupholders on the driver and passenger side A/C vents to keep a drink cool, while the upper glove box has a vent to cool drinks as well. The USB and Aux ports are on the center box, so the rear occupants can plug in their iPod easily. ABS is standard along with a lot of airbags and three point seatbelts for all occupants; to do that for the middle passengers in the middle and third rows, Toyota installed the seatbelt reels on the ceiling.
When you start exploring the seating arrangement, you'll realize that the Innova G now seats eight instead of seven; two in the front, three in the middle, and another three in the back as evidenced by the new headrest in the middle. The second row is actually a very nice place to be in for a long drive, thanks to that folding center armrest and small folding tray tables mounted on the backrest of the front seats. You do have to be mindful that the rear occupants will tend to have limited knee room.
I particularly liked how Toyota improved on the ease of folding or stowing the seats away for cargo. The middle row can now be folded and tumbled by pulling the recline lever. The third row can easily be folded and stowed as Toyota designed the holding strap to clip onto the D pillar instead of the grab handles like before. Also, that third row is spring loaded, so it folds up with barely an effort.
The Innova that I'm testing is of the 2.0-liter gasoline variety. The engine is a slightly improved version from the previous Innova; it now gets dual VVT-i, but oddly retains the same output. I would have preferred if they put the larger 2.7-liter 2TR-FE (Fortuner engine) in this one, or made the diesel standard. Still, the updated 1TR-FE is decent motor, offering 136 PS and matched with a 6-speed automatic gearbox. I do have my doubts about the torque, because at 183 Nm, it's going to have challenging time moving a heavier vehicle that can now carry eight occupants.
As a tooler for town use, the Innova works well. The suspension is far better than before, transcending the ride of its AUV roots to feel and ride more like a well sorted SUV. As expected, the engine has to be motivated a bit to get the Innova moving. It's not quick by any means, but it's quiet and smooth.
Visibility around is excellent, and the small window at the base of the A pillar makes it easier to maneuver. Parking was easy with the back up sensors, but I wish Toyota included a rear camera with the package. Being a body-on-frame MPV, you can easily traverse most road debris or obstacles with the ground clearance of the Innova.
One thing that the Innova 2.0G could use a bit of an improvement on is fuel economy. In moderate to heavy traffic (17 km/h average), the Innova clocks in at 6.4 kilometers to a liter with Eco Mode on the transmission activated. That improves up to 7.6 when traffic gets lighter (20 km/h average) and on the highway at 12.2 km/l (87 km/h average) but still, it could be better.
On an uphill climb, the Innova's throttle also needs to be prodded to get going. The driver can activate Power Mode to get up a mountain, but it does sacrifice fuel consumption to do so. On a downhill slope, it's all good; the handling and braking are decent for its size and weight. This is a vehicle that really should have the diesel as standard, especially if your intention is to take it up to places like Baguio or Antipolo on a regular basis.
The only question that remains is pricing: this 2.0G is priced at PhP 1,232,000. Sure, the 2.0 gasoline may not be great, but it'll be very inexpensive to maintain long term. The 2.8 diesel version with the 6-speed automatic, which is the one I would gravitate to, is considerably more expensive at PhP 1,349,000.
As it stands, the Innova is still the class leader that we expected it to be. It won't impress in terms of fuel economy or performance, but customers will certainly appreciate the superb leaps made where it matters most: design, quality and comfort