Practical and comfortable
Hi, I'm a happy owner of a Toyota Innova J diesel (the cheapest diesel variant) living in the Philippines. I must say I really like this vehicle, and I'd recommend it... unless your dealer has apalling service or has a bunch of them with several defects, like one of the reviews here.
Before I chose this car, I have to choose from a whole myriad of the other competitors- the Crosswind, Adventure, Serena, CR-V, Escape. I chose the Innova for it's practicality with comfort, being easy to drive and handle, the positive reviews, and the Toyota reliability and quality it has.
Ok, let's get down to the review.
The Innova is one of the most popular car in the Philippines because it's as cheap as a Corolla, and with that famed Toyota reliability and quality. Lucky me, I got one that has no defect (so far) and the dealer I bought it from has good service.
The exterior is aerodynamic, and its lines are smooth and (feminine) sexy. It does look like a smaller Previa though (side view), but this one is on steel wheels with a hub cap because it's the cheapest diesel variant in our country (kind of like an E diesel in India). Everything else in the outside is generic Toyota, with the usual inoffensive design of the tail lamps, grille, tires, etc.
The interior is bland and a bit dreary with a gray scheme, because this is an entry-level variant. The top-line variants have more luxurious beige scheme with faux wood trim. I don't know if it's the same in India. Instead of the fabric seats, this variant has vinyl, but good thing it looks like leather.
It's spacious inside, despite being just as long as the Toyota Corolla (Corolla's length- 4530mm, Innova's length- 4555mm).
The front seats are spacious, as my 5'11'' and 220lbs frame can fit comfortably in there. They also have good enough support for a few hours, but they can be a pain in a long journey, a typical Toyota weakness, even in the more expensive Camry.
The pedals are arranged in the usual Toyota way, but the brake pedal is too high for comfort. The steering wheel is comfortable to hold, and every controls are in the familiar Toyota layout. Operating the radio can get a little bit of getting used to.
The middle row are the best seats in the house and is a Toyota strong point, as they're spacious even for my large frame, and they're also comfortable. You won't complain here even after several hours in a long journey, as these seats have the best support in its class, whether it be in lumbar, back or butt. The have a 60/40 split-fold function, and they can fold down and tumble to increase luggage space.
The rear seats are also comfortable, but not for my large frame. Perhaps someone who is about 5'8'' or shorter with a stomach size of less than 37 inches won't complain here in legroom or comfort. They have a 50/50 split-fold function. They fold to the side- rather crude but it works.
Luggage space with all the rows configured for max legroom is limited to a couple of bags or thin airport suitcases. With (only) the 3rd row folded up, you can bring in TVs, balikbayan boxes and tons of grocery bags. With both the middle and rear rows folded, you can bring large pieces of furniture and other large stuff, like a large table set.
Under the dinky hood lies a small new-generation 2.5-liter 16-valve, inline-4 DOHC CRDi diesel dubbed D-4D. It pumps out 102 horsepower and 200Nm of torque (AT variants have 260Nm of torque instead).
My previous car, the Toyota Revo (a.k.a Kijang, Qualis), has a 2.4-liter pre-combustion, distributor-type diesel. Since I have experience with this diesel, I wasn't expecting much with the Innova. Imagine lethargic acceleration, plus the annoying diesel noise and vibration.
The Innova diesel however, surprised me. It may have only 0.1-liter additional displacement, but the CRDi system did the trick.
At startup, it cranks and grumbles to life, but this time- no violent shaking, no more heater indicator and no more hard starting. At idle, the engine is quiet and refined- no more of those annoying vibrations associated with the usual diesels. You can still hear a some diesel noise, but at least it's much quieter than the old 2.4.
The 2.5-liter CRDi diesel makes quick work of accelerating the 1.6-ton minivan with no problem, even with a full load of passengers and cargo on an uphill climb.
On the open road, pushing the 2.5-liter to 140km/h is no fuss at all, with the engine still having some reserved power. At around 160km/h, the engine still likes to keep on going a bit more, but the vehicle is a bit unstable this time around. The fastest speed I measured is around 170km/h.
Overtaking slower vehicles in the aformentioned 2-lane highway is no problem, as one single push of the pedal does the trick.
The 2.5-liter diesel returns a cheap 11km/L in mixed city-highway driving. With a 55-liter tank, it could travel for about 600 kilometers in a full tank.
The brakes are front vented discs and rear drums. Despite this setup, braking feel is ok with a firm pedal feel and good stopping power.
Steering is ok, but parking the vehicle is a bit harder because behind you is a long piece of van.
The Innova has front double wishbones and a rigid axle with 4-link coil springs. Even though the ride quality is firm, it's comfortable, filtering most bumps with ease.
One thing I hate about the suspension are the tires. The Yokohama Aspec tires it originally has are of the VERY low rolling resistance tires, and because of this, it squeals heavily when the vehicle is turning at a corner, long and gentle or slalom. It looks worn out even though it's new. It also generates more tire noise than the usual tires, but the worst thing is that these new set of tires easily losses traction (imagine if the roads are wet) accelerating, so the engine is struggling a bit more to efficiently accelerate this car. Also because of the lack of traction and grip, the ride quality is a bit bumpier than the usual. Take my advice and CHANGE THE TIRES! (205/65R15)
Pricing and summary
In the Philippines, there are 7 variants:
Entry levels J gas and J diesel has only manual, and is worth Php763000 and Php813000 respectively. It only has power steering, vinyl seats and 2 speakers. The wheels are steel. This variant has a dual-zone aircon as standard.
Mid level E has changes to the equipement, also a manual and has only a diesel and is worth Php902,000. It has alloy instead of steel wheels, has semi-fabric seats, power windows and door locks (no power to the side mirror) and 4 speakers.
Top-line G has 4 variants:
G gas MT (Php948000) G gas AT (Php1003000), G diesel MT (Php999000) and G diesel AT (Php1064000). It gets more equipment and airbags. The inside scheme changes to beige, the gauges have optitron, there's a parking sensor, the radios have 6 speakers and more. However, it brakes are still front disc and rear drum with NO ABS, even as an option
This car is recommended for those who want practicality, are always going to work (especially those that have to deliver this and that to places), reliability with a comfort and a hint of luxury.
My car: currently 19000kms. Sent it to dealer for maintenance once. No squeaks, rattles or defects yet.
Sorry if the review is too long.
Disclaimer: this reviewer lives in the Philippines. The things speculated above may not be the same or is not available in other countries.