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Toyota's Innova MPV driven

2011-10-06 07:02

ROUGH 'N TUMBLE: Innova's commercial vehicle underpinnings ensure its ruggedness.

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer TOYOTA
Model INNOVA
Engine Four-cylinder 2.7-litre petrol
Power 118kW at 5200rpm
Torque 241Nm at 3800rpm
Transmission Five-speed manual
Fuel Tank 65 litres
ABS yes
Tyres 205/65 R15
Front Suspension Independent double wishbone
Rear Suspension Four-link
Service Intervals 15 000km
Service Plan Five-year or 90 000km
Warranty Three-year or 100 000km

Hailey Philander

It’s not pretty – at all! – but Toyota’s new Innova MPV isn't relying on its looks to sell. We carried the launch story 24 hours ago... this time we see for ourselves what it's all about.

Wheels24 carried the basic details on its latest people carrier, Innova, yesterday, but what’s it like to drive?

The Innova isn't new to the Toyota stable but the local subsidiary is hoping it will have fresh appeal. The vehicles are built for South African buyers in Thailand and Toyota SA sees the MPV as slotting between its Avanza and higher-end Verso models. It shares a platform with the Toyota Hilux bakkie and the Fortuner SUV and certainly is spacious.

It's close to five metres long, easily seats seven (in the higher-spec version) or eight, with decent head, leg and hip room for adults - even in the usually cramped third row.

FAMILIAR?: Innova's rear resembles that of a grown-up Avanza.

Even with all three rows in use the luggage volume is useful, easily taking the handbags, jackets and backpacks of three journalists. When the rear bench is not in use, though, the seats fold up and over the wheelarches – Fortuner style - and a big plus has to be the individual "captain" seats that make up the seven-seater’s middle row; they're super soft and comfortable.

BAKKIE BASICS


Since the Innova shares its chassis with the Fortuner and Hilux, the ride height is a commanding 168mm; the ride quality, however is decidedly agricultural despite double wishbone independent suspension front and rear. Toyota claims it was designed as a passenger vehicle first with ride and handling befitting such a vehicle, but, on a bumpy road, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re riding in the load bay of a bakkie but under a really fancy canopy.

The good thing, though, is that it will probably be able to stand up to years of agony on South Africa’s pothole-riddled roads without so much as a squeak; it did well to soak up the holes and bumps along the launch route that took us from Gauteng, via the North West province, to Parys in the Free State and back via the relatively unblemished national road.

The Innova is powered by the four-cylinder 2.7 VVT-I four-cylinder petrol unit familiar in Hilux bakkies. With 118kW and 241Nm on tap at 5200 and 3800rpm respectively, a lack of power is unlikely to pose a problem to eager drivers although the five-speed manual gearbox driving the rear wheels can’t be great for the fuel economy – Toyota quotes a consumption figure of 11.2 litres/100km to go along with CO2 emissions of 265g/km.

However, if that’s not quite to your liking, other things in the cabin might interest you. The Innova is very well-specced and, of course, all that space is a bonus. Even the base eight-seater has colour-coded bumpers, front fog lights, power-assisted steering, auto aircon, Bluetooth and USB jacks.

CABIN: Leather seats are really comfortable; not too sure about the wood veneer, though.

NEW TECH

Toyota’s new display audio system is standard; a 15.5cm touch screen through which the Innova’s front-loading CD and MP3 player, plus any other audio devices, can be connected. On the seven-seater the screen also displays input from a reversing camera.

Unfortunately the Innova suffers the same fate as Fortuner with its pale interior (particularly the beige cloth seats) and I definitely was not mad about the so-called wood veneer on the centre console and door. Worse, the steering wheel is adjustable only for height.

So, Toyota’s Innova is no supermodel, but its proven underpinnings are likely to result in a machine that is practically unbreakable. The R250 000 to R270 000 MPV market where Innova’s set to play is not uninhabited but Toyota could have the edge over slightly smaller and less-rugged competitors.

It’s not pretty, true, but chances are it’ll do the job – no quibble.

PRICES:

Innova 8-seater – R249 700
Innova 7-seater – R265 500

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