Are you looking for the perfect family vehicle? Are you torn on which Pickup-based Passenger Vehicle (PPV) to get? Well, might as well end the search right now because you are looking at the best mainstream 7-seater in the business. Sure, it doesn’t have that masculine SUV body style you’ve been lusting over, but you shouldn’t care. The 2016 Toyota Innova is best suited to your family’s needs.
Priced at P 1,445,000 for the 2.8 V, there’s naturally going to be some apprehension against going for the Innova; after all, it’s priced in the same bracket as some mid-grade PPVs. But what it doesn’t say in any brochure is this Toyota’s good packaging. Compared not just to other PPVs but to its predecessor as well, it has a spacious interior. Not only does it offer excellent shoulder and legroom in all rows, but there’s no lack of headroom anywhere as well. The second row Captain’s Seats, a standard feature on the V grade just like before, slides and reclines, but now tumbles as well for easy access to the third row. Meanwhile, the third row seats still offer genuine space for three adults, but now come with adjustable headrests for everyone.
There’s only one problem with the Innova’s packaging and that has to do with how the third row is when not in use. Folding it is easier for sure—the spring loaded mechanism and rear seatbelt positioned anchors are godsends, but having to stick the middle headrest in a crevice when not in use feels awkward. Another instance is when the second row passengers decide to recline a bit, only to have their headrests hit the flipped up third row. Finally, anchored using just a hook and some Velcro, the third row isn’t secured well enough. Going through a pothole is enough to cause the seats to come crashing down. In fact, it happened twice in the course of a week and was caused by worn out Velcro straps.
The dubious third row seats aside, there’s nothing more to complain about the Innova’s interior. The first-generation model set the benchmark when it first launched in 2005 and the all-new one continues to live up to that expectation. It’s full of sweeps and curves, highlighting an almost organic approach to its styling. It’s also very easy to use with large, clearly marked buttons with logical placement. The stalks, switches, and controls are also well damped with a nice, crisp feel. The interior plastics are still not of the soft-touch variety, but they’re finished consistently and feel solid and well-wearing. Those with young kids will likely find the velour-like finish on the door panels a bit of a concern. Not only do they attract dirt (libag), but they can be a pain to clean as well.
The driving position compared to the previous Innova is more car-like with its high set dashboard. It offers excellent visibility in all areas, particularly the front, making it easy to navigate through small spaces. The steering wheel, though offering adjustment for both tilt and reach still doesn’t fall naturally in hand, but the new seats do more than make up for that with its great support.
The biggest cause for concern to would-be Innova buyers is the powertrain and not for obvious reasons. Without question, there’s a lot of power under the hood. The new-generation 2.8-liter 4-cylinder diesel engine, with its 171 horsepower and 360 Nm of torque, offers locomotive-like power delivery in any given situation. Granted it’s not as refined as one would have hoped for, suffering from a non-linear throttle and overeager (jerky) automatic transmission, it does make it more adept at handling full loads or impromptu drag races with previous-generation Fortuners. The biggest question mark is in fuel economy. With a displacement that’s up by some 300-cc compared to the previous D-4D, some have called out the Innova for being a potential gas guzzler. That’s absolutely not the case.
It’s simple physics, really. The Innova’s stronger motor combined with a similar curb weight means less inertia to overcome. This means the new 2.8 V can easily match or even better the previous generation’s 2.5 V: 9.17 km/L versus 9.09 km/L, despite a decrease in average speed by 3 km/h (14 km/h). The better power-to-weight ratio and more forward gears also mean excellent highway economy figures: 15.38 km/L (average speed 76 km/h with ECO off). Engaging the ECO smoothens the jerkiness and extracts an additional 4.23 km/L on the highway (19.61 km/L).
Riding on a Double Wishbone front and 4-link coil spring rear suspension, the Innova manages to improve on its road manners. It feels much more natural in handling curves and corners, though the hefty steering still requires more turns to get it dialed in. In a straight line, it’s surprisingly stable and quiet with just a hint of steering lift past 140 km/h. And thanks to its toughened frame, it’s more capable at absorbing large potholes. Some jolts still do enter through the steering column, but it’s easily plusher and more comfortable than any PPV, especially on pavement. Granted it’s not designed for off-roading, it offers some cushion against floods with its 176 millimeters of ground clearance and 500 millimeters of water wading depth.
Design-wise, the Innova is supposed to visually convey strength and toughness; in other words, look like an SUV. And while that didn’t work out exactly, it does appear more polished, upscale, and modern. Just the right amount of chrome bits along with the slender headlights and added angularity give it a tinge of luxury and presence. Along with this upscale look, Toyota has also thrown in almost everything: automatic LED headlights, power folding mirrors, automatic climate control, touchscreen GPS navigation, front seatback trays, interior mood lighting, push button start/stop with passive keyless entry, 7 airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability control, and rear parking sensors. Surprisingly, they omitted leather seats—a sin considering this is a P 1.5-million MPV.
There’s massive demand in the PPV segment and it’s only one of two segments currently growing in the local auto industry. And yet, for all the SUVs’ promise to be the steed of the modern Filipino family, they’re still soundly beaten by the MPV that started it all: the Toyota Innova. The Innova may not offer macho styling or towering ride height sought after by some buyers out there, but there’s no doubt that it comes out as better packaged, more refined, and better equipped to be the practical everyday car. When it comes to buying the best family car, if mind trumps over heart, the all-new Innova comes out on top.
2016 Toyota Innova 2.8 V
|Ownership||2016 Toyota Innova 2.8 V|
|Vehicle Classification||Entry-Level MPV|
|Body Type||5-door MPV|
|Engine / Drive||F/R|
|Under the Hood|
|Aspiration||Common Rail, Turbo|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||I4|
|BHP @ rpm||171 @ 3,600|
|Nm @ rpm||360 @ 1,200-3,400|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Diesel|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,835|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, Double Wishbone|
|Rear Suspension||4-Link, Coil Spring|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Tires||Yokohama Blue Earth E70 205/65 R 16 H (f & r)|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Parking Sensors||Yes, Rear|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40 (2nd row); 50/50 (3rd row)|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, with Fold|
|Climate Control||Yes, Dual Zone|
|No. of Speakers||6|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|