The Toyota Innova 2.0X isn't the most complete of MPVs, but it's darn well close...
More often than not, our vehicle ownership journey begins with a relatively smaller car that is ideal for a single individual.
During this phase, travelling in a car usually consist of occupants that are not your immediate family, meaning space and practicality are not really on top of the priority list.
However, as we progress in life, many of us get hitched, start anchoring down into married life, have kids, and become family-oriented people. When this happens, our needs, as well as our priorities, change, and this also includes our choice of vehicle.
Just like many Malaysians, the need for speed, character, and style sometimes changes into the need for space, comfort and versatility and while there are many MPVs out there to choose from, only one really offers an outstanding balance between value, robustness and peace of mind.
Of course, this particular vehicle that we are singling out is the Toyota Innova, a long time Malaysian favourite MPV, built on a body-on-frame chassis shared with the Hilux.
The Innova's Hilux ties might not make it sound appealing for those looking for a more polished yet affordable MPV, but don't push it aside just yet as Toyota has worked hard to turn it into a capable MPV, especially in the X variant.
For those of you who are not familiar with the Innova range, the X is the fully kitted top of the range Innova. It was initially introduced in 2016, and the current one offered on Toyota showroom floors is the facelifted version.
It is equipped with an aggressive front and rear bumper spoiler, overfenders and rocker lower moulding. It also comes with LED headlights, darkened edges at the L-shaped taillights and black tailgate trim that bridges the rear lights together.
These additional bits of the refreshed body kit and features essentially add to the Innova's aggressive exterior body styling, giving you the perception that it is not a softy MPV, but instead, one that is hardy like some of those much in demand Japanese 4x4s.
What also sets it apart from the other variants of the Innova range, the G and the E, are its second-row leather laced Captain seats, which other variants do not get as they come with the typical bench seats.
Thanks to this Captain seat configuration, the Innova offers comfort levels close to an MPV worth double its price. The Captain seats also don't affect other aspects of the Innova that many people love because its body-on-frame chassis shared with the Hilux and its larger footprint on the road means third-row passengers still get that spacious room at the very rear, where it doesn't make the passengers feel like economy class travellers.
Toyota has clearly put in a lot of effort to maximise the price-to-plush ratio here, and the benefits need to be experienced to be believed because pictures do not justify how much the Innova's interior is nearly as plush as its bigger brother.
You can't help but draw comparisons between the Innova and the much more luxurious and expensive Alphard. It's as though Toyota has distilled the essence of a class-leading MPV and are selling it for a quarter of the price. Even the interior's blue ceiling ambient lights remind us of the Alphard, and the impressive noise insulation in the Innova 2.0X is a further reminder.
One of the Innova's features that don't remind us of the Alphard is its powertrain. The Innova is equipped with Toyota's trustworthy 1TR-FE 2.0-litre petrol engine and 6-speed automatic transmission. It delivers a decent 139 PS and 183 Nm of torque while consuming around 9-10 litres of fuel per 100 km.
We call it trustworthy because the engine is a robust unit that will not give you any problems. Unfortunately, the superlative words about the engine end there because to be quite frank, we wish it wasn't as underpowered when the car is full of passengers and bags.
We might be a bit harsh about this, but the engine feels more suited for urban driving where the MPV is driven at lower speeds. It launches off the traffic lights just fine and has enough power to help the driver weave through traffic.
On long stretches of road like the highway, the engine has to work really hard to maintain high speeds. It cruises okay when things are flat, but if there is even a slight incline, the engine feels out of puff and has to drop a gear or two to maintain its speed. If it's unladen, the engine feels okay, but you will have to adjust your expectations with a whole family in there.
However, if you are the type of driver who has completely ditched the need for speed life and have turned into an entirely relaxed zen motorist, then we can't see you complaining about the engine's performance.
Handling wise, there's really nothing terrible about the Innova as it typically handles like an MPV. We have to give kudos to Toyota for this, however, considering that it is a body-on-frame construction.
Comfort compared to its monocoque/passenger-car based competitors is also not bad, and you might even find it great if you've just moved from a car with body-on-frame construction. Yes, there's no mistaking you will feel the difference between the Innova and monocoque based MPVs, but we like the fact that it is built tough because of its ladder chassis underpinnings.
The Innova was designed as a product to suit a wide range of road conditions (the majority being the worst conditions) in countries such as Indonesia. A high degree of robustness has been designed into the suspension, and it feels great to know this when you are heading off on holiday to places where roads are not so great. It gives you the confidence to explore places you have never been before, which makes it a great vehicle for family road trips.
With the Klang Valley turning into one big construction site, we can also appreciate the Innova's overall tough build as it will probably present you with worry-free motoring for many years to come. That coupled with an outstanding interior and refinement really does make the Innova one of the best MPVs on the market, even if it is underpowered in certain situations.
Specifications for Toyota Innova 2.0X
- Engine: 2.0-litre, Inline-4 Longitudinal, Dual-VVTi, Petrol
- Power: 139 PS at 5,600 rpm
- Torque: 183 Nm at 4,000 rpm
- Transmission: 6-speed torque converter automatic, rear-wheel drive
- Safety: Seven airbags, electronic stability control (ESC), blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, hill start assist, ISOFIX (2x, rear), Toyota Vehicle Telematics System (VTS)
- Price: RM141,880 (on-the-road prices without insurance, inclusive of sales tax)