There's no doubt about it, when it comes to the AUV or Asian MPV class, the Toyota Innova is the best all 'rounder in my book. 7 years after it first went on sale in early 2005, the Innova is performing very, very well on the sales charts, and is second only to the Toyota Vios in terms of overall sales.
Now it's time to improve it even more, and thus Toyota gives us the most significant upgrade and design update for the Philippines' second best selling automobile.
The most noticeable change is a the new front end. Based on first hand experience on the sales floor back in '05, many male customers really weren't sold on the look of the Innova; the most common comment being it wasn't “manly” enough for them, and kept asking if we still sold the old Revo.
Toyota has addressed that, and gave the 2011/2012 Innova more edges up front, giving the car more of a premium, more modern look. The tweaks out back are relatively minor, but still, it looks much better than the original. Being an E-grade model, this Innova rides on 15 inch alloys, and doesn't have the color keyed (or chromed) door handles and wing mirrors. Also, fog lamps aren't fitted.
Inside, the Innova E gets several shades of gray. Personally, I prefer the gray interior, as I've always found the beige/tan interior in the higher grade models to be extremely easy to scuff and dirty up. The dash remains the same, but the center console for the stereo has been altered with a new audio unit (fully iPod compatible) and new aircon control dials. The most obvious change is the new steering wheel which resembles the more expensive models in the Toyota line like the 2007-2012 Camry's. The gauges have been redesigned too.
The 2-3-2 seating layout remains the same; a feature that is still the best in its class in terms of versatility. All seats are very comfortable, and wrapped in gray fabric. I was never really a fan of leather seats (they do heat up quite a bit) in our tropical weather, so it wasn't an issue. The 3rd row, as before, folds down and up towards the sides for more cargo room, and the 2nd row folds and tumbles forward for even more trunk space.
There was never anything wrong with Toyota's formula for the Innova's mechanicals, so they didn't change a thing underneath. Engine choices remain the same with either the 136 horsepower (and 182 Nm of torque) 2.0 liter VVT-i gasoline engine or the 102 horsepower (torque at 200 Nm for M/T or 260 Nm for A/T) 2.5 liter D-4D common rail turbo diesel engine. Transmissions are either the 5-speed manual or the 4-speed gate-type automatic.
This particular variant is the 2.0 E, and it performs better than I thought it would, as I'm a bit partial towards the perfect match the Innova made with it's diesel engine. Fuel economy in the city isn't stellar, but decent at 6.9 km/l (moderate traffic), thought on the highway it does improve to around 10.5 km/l (light traffic).
Honestly, Toyota could've taken a break and let the Innova sell as is. The way I see it, other manufacturers have had to go a bit niche to get a chunk of the pie that the Innova commands in the class for the past 7 years... just like the Revo before it.
Toyota, the purveyors of the Kaizen philosophy, however, is not a brand to sit on the laurels of their own success, and worked hard to improve the country's best selling AUV... and raise the bar just that much higher for other brands to try and beat.
2012 Honda Civic 1.8 EXi
So, how does this new Civic stack up then? Will it be a problem for Honda, or will it signal their rise from the troubles of 2011?