In business, it is well observed fact that retaining the leadership position is far more strenuous task than achieving it. Over the time only a handful of players are able to retain their marketsupremacyas preserving this pole position mandates unshakable perseverance and continuity of directional efforts. Toyota’s Innova is one name that features prominently in the blessed list of all-time favourite vehicles that has not only successfully guarded its leadership but also enhanced its winning margin over the preceding players for long time now. Soon after its launch, Innova became the segment leader and that throne is still gracing the Toyota’s living room as Innova has successfully clamped down rivals’ dethroning conspiraciesover all these years. Even after the advent of way cheaper contenders like Maruti’s Ertiga and Mahindra’s Xylo, Innova stood its ground well owing to its spacious interiors and rock-solid reliability though the aging and familiarity had silently become rivals’ accomplice in slowing down Innova’s sales momentum. Toyota took no timein identification of these conspirators and as a result of preventive step, new Innova, with host of exterior and interior changes,hasbeen launched in the Indian market. With the long festive season ahead, we think the timing of the move is brilliant as Innova, in its third up gradation, seems all set to raise the segment’s sales and competitiveness benchmark. Now there is no better way to judge the mettle of this heavy sheet metal than to put this Japanese heavyweight under the comprehensive road-test scanner of ecardlr. So without any further ado, we invite you to tag along with us in this freewheeling and no-holds-barred examination of the new avatar of MPV segment king; Innova.
In its latest avatar, Innova comes with host of outsider changes though barring the frontal one; all other differentiators are subtle in nature. Frontage of new Innova comes loaded with a new large and bold grill that has got the multi-slated chrome treatment. New sturdy and square-ish bumper houses the chrome surround fog lamps and in-combination with the inserted plastic clad the front looks striking and more grown-up.
In contrast, profile view seems less extrovert and the change has surfaced in terms of chrome moulding running across the length of Innova, Although there has been addition of the graphics too as one move towards rear, this addition is not very apparent and easy to get a miss.
Rear too has got some nice detailing; especially the chrome bar with reflectors just looks striking. Toyota has also added the rear spoiler to up the dazzle factor though the theme seems not very appropriate with the MPV nature of Innova; still it adds some zing in the overall proposition. Muffler has also been given chrome though nobody is going to notice at least this addition.
Overall the new Innova feels more grown-up courtesy of its front face changes and the liberal use of chrome is sure to aid the luxurious factor of this rather long in tooth MPV. There has been no tinkering with the dimensional part as the overall length, width and height has been carried over and that suggests that the cabin, like its predecessor, is sure to score high on comfort and convenience.
Inside the cabin, there is abundance of room and this feeling has got sufficient exaggeration by the bright colour interiors used by Toyota. Grey-silver combo of the dash blends seamlessly with wide and comfy seats of Innova. Inserts of faux wood in the centre console and armrests up the luxury ante of Innova and so is done by the overall choice of plastics and grains. Centre console comes with a standard audio system and automatic climate control but feels incomplete as the housing wraps up quite in the midway though it liberates the sufficient room at the bottom. There are plenty of stowage spaces and the driver armrests housing a deep storage area is a very handy touch.
In terms of seat comfort, Innova has always remained the segment benchmark. With the options of two captain seats at the second row, the Innova can seat six passengers in utmost comfort and this space is completely unrivalled across the category. The provision of rear cup holders as well as roof mounted air-con vents come in handy in the overall comfort and convenience. Entry to the third row of seat is quite easy and the apace at the extreme back is decent too.
Unlike the other small MPVs’ that has the third bench only for the sake of having it, Innova’s third bench can literally seat two adults and 3 children comfortable. Even on the long journeys there won’t be incessant clamour from the back for having a regular break to swap the seating arrangement.
HEART AND TRANSMISSION VEINS
Under the hood, Innova’s story is same as the Toyota has retained the mechanicals of the vehicle. Longitudinally mounted 2.5-liter D-4D engine of Innova rumbles to life with quite a typical diesel clatter and noise is quite audible. In terms of refinement, the engine is mediocre and so are the power-performance figures. 102 PS of power and 200 Nm of torque are rather unimpressive to read out on spec sheet though in reality Innova feels as powerful as any other 200 PS power vehicles; at least in city. There is apparently no turbo lag as the Innova starts pulling well from the low-down the rev range. City manoeuvrability is like a child’s play as power and healthy torque coming at quite early in revolutions band prove its worth amply. The typical diesel turbo lag and resultant gear-changing botheration is not present in Innova. Now coming to flip side of the motor is its lack of punch once you get out on the highway. The progress to the three digit speed mark is good though after it the motor labours to keep up with the pace. So overtaking requires a bit planning especially when you try to speed past the vehicles cruising above 100 km/h mark.
Mated with 5-speed manual transmission, Innova’s gear box is not a very pleasant affair to deal with. First of all the long lever though falls quite well in hand, it spoils the shifting experience as the transmission feels a bit on the notchy side. The engagement of gears’ teeth mating into each other feels quite precise but the long throws robs the gearbox of any direct feel. Clutch however feels quite light by MPV standard and the high seating position makes driving this long and strong vehicle very much easy both in city and out on highway. Brakes needs a special mention here as these bite very well and convincingly assures the owner about the stopping power of the vehicle. With no change in the heart-veins package, we expect the Innova to remain as fuel-efficient as its predecessor was and that’s another diamond in the Innova’s crown.
Innova ride is comfortable and well sorted on even bumpy roads and the 4-link suspension at the back is really the acumen behind this well-cushioned ride. Also the up-front coil spring double wishbone does its job well but in direct comparison to the back seat comfort, the front fades a bit. Almost all the city undulations, road pimples and even the potholes are dispatched by Innova with aplomb. This makes Innova one of the most comfortable riding MPV available around.
Handling too is good by the standard of such a long vehicle though there is roll and mass-shifting at the back that is perceptible during the hard cornering manoeuvre. Of course you can’t chuck this MPV around like a Swift but then this will not threaten to wave like the Tata Bus in the hilly and winding roads. Steering wheel is perfect in size and though its lightness is boon in traffic, we would like to have some feedback from it especially at the high speed.
Charging premium has been in the heredity of the Japanese and even though Toyota has shed this in case of Etios and Liva, Innova continuous to follow the footsteps of the premium charging policy of company. The new model comes with a marginal price hike of Rs 10k to 15k with new prices stretching between Rs 12.45 lakh to Rs 15.06 lakh. On value for money front, Innova’s performance is quite dismalas the vehicle seems priced steeply especially against its direct rivals like Maruti’ Ertiga and Mahindra’s Xylo. This low VFM is one and perhaps only deterrent in the Innova’s proposition that otherwise is brilliant in all aspects. It has got almost everything that this segment requires and in fact the Toyota has exceeded the expectations of the masses with its rock-solid and reliable Innova. Now cladded in more contemporary avatar, we see no stopping for this segment benchmark that still sells itself with a grace of waiting period.
Style& Substance 4/5 Ride & Handling 3.5/5
Interiors & Ergonomics: 4/5 Safety & Equipment 4/5
Power-Plant & Transmission 3.5/5 Fuel Efficiency 4/5
Value for Money 2/5