Toyota Innova Crysta: First Drive
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It’s been over 10 years since the Toyota Innova was launched and while it got cosmetic updates and new features, it has remained the same car, more or less, over the years. And now, Toyota has finally given the popular MPV an all-new avatar. We took the new Toyota Innova Crysta for a spin around Goa to see what’s new and here is what we think!
The Toyota Innova is pretty much a household name, with a presence found almost everywhere. In fact, it has been omnipresent as the only family car and, at the same time, shared the garage with more premium wheels. All this is not without reason. Even after all these years, few cars offer the kind of reliability, practicality and peace of mind that the Innova does. Toyota finally unveiled its successor - the Innova Crysta, as it will be called now. We took a quick spin around the streets of Goa to see what the new car is all about.
The Innova was rather long in the tooth when it came to design. Despite the multiple updates, the basic design remained the same for over a decade. For the new car, however, Toyota has really gone all out as far as the design is concerned. The vehicle had to appeal to people who would want to choose the Innova over a luxury sedan and one look at the new Crysta will tell you that Toyota has pretty much got it right.
The front is stretched out and wider than before and gets a twin slatted grille and huge wrap-around multi-element headlights. The lower grille is finished in glossy black and lends quite a purposeful look to the front. The fog lights that come integrated with the turn indicators are a neat touch.
On the side, the Innova’s van- like proportions do come into play, but Toyota has done well to design the C-pillar glass window differently to add a little bit of flair to the otherwise mundane side profile. What also adds to the looks are the new seventeen-inch alloys that fill the wheel arches well.
At the rear, the integrated spoiler and the flush fitting tail lights make sure the Crysta looks presentable when being followed. Overall, the shape of the car is more attractive, and though the side is decidedly van-like, the car on the whole looks very desirable.
Now most owners of the Innova are usually chauffeured around and the interiors had to be a big step up for Toyota. And that is exactly what the new Toyota Innova brings to the table. From the moment you step inside, the Innova makes you feel like you are sitting in an uber modern lounge and not just a car.
Toyota has worked extensively to make the details stand out and to make it a very harmonious design. Get into the comfortable driver’s seat, the first thing that strikes you is the futuristic dash. What you notice first-up is the single aluminum strip running right across the dash from either of the corner aircon vents. This is something that Toyota found very difficult to achieve, considering how wide the dash is. The only real negative on the interior front though is the fact that the plastic quality on the lower half of the dashboard is a little poor and could have been much better.
The next thing to catch your attention is the 4.2-inch TFT screen that sits bang in the middle of the dash. Now this screen does not fit flush into the dashboard, but still looks quite funky. It’s like a tablet fixed in the middle of the dashboard that gives out the navigation, audio, telephone, and other details. Right below the screen are the aircon controls, which are devoid of any unnecessary buttons. Just two dials and some chrome buttons in the centre with a legible display to make it as user-friendly as possible.
The leather-wrapped steering feels good to hold and comes with all the connectivity buttons you need; so you don’t need to lift your hands off the wheel at all. The instrument binnacle is brilliant as well. While the tachometer and the speedometer are pretty easy to read, it is the screen in the centre that grabs attention. It reads out the fuel consumption, cruising range, average speed, and even has a compass.
In fact if you’re bored driving on a highway, you can even set fuel-efficiency targets, with the screen telling you how well you have fared. Pretty neat and especially usefull for all the ‘Kitna Deti hai’ obsessed Indian junta. The Innova also gets plenty of storage, including two gloveboxes for knick-knacks. These can hold as many as twenty-one one-litre bottles and was designed keeping the Indian customer and the hot Indian climate in mind.
Moving to the back, the rear seats feel very comfortable. Now these are all-new seats that Toyota have designed considering the long distance driving most Innova are used for in the private and commercial market. They can now accommodate larger frames more easily and provide better support as well. Rear passengers also get a tray attached to the back of the front seats to place laptops or for refreshments.
A very practical touch is the cup holder on the side of the rear seat and sits open at the touch of a button and can hold two cups. Other than that, the rear passenger can also slide the co-driver’s seat forward using the lever located on the co-driver’s seat itself. Thanks to the increase in length, both the rear passengers and the third-row passengers get more room as well. The Innova Crysta is longer, wider and taller than the current Innova by 150mm, 70mm and 35mm, respectively. The wheelbase however, remains the same.
The rear passengers also get cozy lounge lighting on the roof, along with a screen for the rear aircon controls. It’s a pleasant place to be in and the chauffer driven are in for a really good time. Toyota has really stepped up the game here and this is going to be a hard precedent to follow.
A point we must add before we move on to the mechanical bits on the new Innova is the fact that the wind noise in the cabin was actually quite high. There was a constant hum and woosh that we could hear on both the cars and that did become a little annoying after a while.
Engine and Performance
After ten years of being powered by the 2.5 litre D-4D engine, the Innova Crysta finally gets not one but two new engines. First is the 2.4- litre 2GD-FTV engine that now puts out a very impressive 150 PS and an even more impressive 343 Nm of torque and comes mated to a five-speed manual transmission. Driving this car first, the Innova Crysta has plenty of oomph. Thanks to all that torque available from as low as 1400 rpm, the Innova should not have any issues munching miles on the highway or clambering inclines.
There is a bit of a lag if you really let the revs fall but as long as you keep it above 1500 rpm, the engine never feels out of breath. Both the engines also get a Power and Eco mode that play with the ECU map settings, depending on how you want to drive the car. But all is not well in paradise. NVH levels are pretty high on the engine and it makes you immediately want to shift into a higher gear so that you don’t have to hear all the diesel whining. And thanks to the heavy-duty mechanicals and the nearly 1.9-tonne weight, the Innova is still not an effortless drive.
The hydraulic steering feels heavy in tight conditions and gear throws require effort as well. It’s definitely better than in the previous Innova where the gear lever would be in a vibration tizzy, but it’s still not as car-like to drive as, say, the Ertiga or the Lodgy.
The other engine option available is a larger 2.8-litre unit that is lifted straight from the Fortuner. With 174 PS and 360 Nm available, the new Innova is sure to set the roads on fire. But there’s a catch: the engine does not get the five-speed manual but is coupled with a six-speed automatic gearbox instead. No twin clutch complications here, just a plain ol’ torque converter. Not only does this increase the convenience factor, especially when driven in bumper-to-bumper traffic, it also enhances the Innova’s appeal across a wider audience.
It’s a good thing that Toyota mated this gearbox to a bigger engine, considering the auto-box does sap power. Floor the pedal in D and the Innova whooshes like turbulent winds through a tunnel before getting up to speed. The engine can get pretty loud, especially when the gearbox drops a gear or two. Once the speeds get steady, though, it goes pretty quiet with no drama whatsoever. You also get a sequential shift option where you can shift gears manually, but it’s not the best way to enjoy the drive. Leave it in D and let it do its thing. Both the engines feel powerful and at the same time will be more frugal (manual) than the previous Innova, and this has put the Innova Crysta in a different league altogether.
Ride and Handling
Toyota has decided not to mess around too much here and stuck with the ladder frame instead of shifting to monocoque. According to Toyota, the rugged ladder frame is more suitable for Indian conditions and hence the ‘why fix what is not broken?’ approach. Now the Innova is supposed to carry six to seven people across country or within the confines of the city, and that is a task that it carries out with aplomb. Ride quality is better than before and the Crysta soaks in bumps and potholes with ease. The larger 17-inch tyres, along with the re-calibrated suspension, work brilliantly.
We still have to try the car with a full load, but I’m assuming that shouldn’t be a problem and if anything, it could be even better. The Innova was known for its car like dynamics and, thanks to that double wishbone set-up, it’s still a good drive in most conditions. The 55-profile tyres are the only fly in the ointment, though. A lower profile warrants stiffer sidewalls, which do compromise the ride quality a little when but then the upside is better dynamics.
The new Innova had been a long time coming, but it was definitely worth the wait. The Crysta looks much better than before and comes with top of the line features, as many as seven airbags and two brand new engines along with a long awaited automatic option as well. With the Crysta, Toyota plans to bring customers from the rear seat to the front, thereby trying to change the Innova’s image. But, inevitably, with all these improvements and upgrades, the Innova Crysta is expected to be heavier on your pocket.
Toyota has tried its best to keep costs down (what with the conventional chassis and extensive parts sharing with the Fortuner and Hilux), but do expect a slight jump in prices. We anticipate the Crysta to be priced around the Rs. 20 lakh mark, which will make it the only premium MPV to have. But will the customers pay? With the launch just around the corner, that’s a question to which we’ll get an answer soon.