About five months ago, we posted a few spyshots of a mysterious MPV in Thailand, which our Thai colleagues at AutoSpinn.com strongly believed to be a Toyota Sienta.
At that time, the all-new Sienta hadn’t been launched yet, so it was difficult to conclude anything.
Now that the second generation all-new Toyota Sienta has already been launched in Japan, we looked back again at the same set of spyshots and noticed several key items on the heavily disguised car that seems to match the all-new Sienta.
At a glance, this development ‘mule’s’ upper body appears to be too upright and too boxy to be a Sienta but look closely at the base of the A-pillars and you will notice that the A-pillar’s width is narrower at the base than the top, suggesting that a lot of padding have been inserted behind the ‘camo’ materials to hide the car’s true silhouette.
The rear sliding door’s rail is at the same height as the Sienta’s, cutting into the tail lamps at the same angle and position.
The outline of the tail lamps can be seen beneath the blackout materials and it matches with that of an all-new Sienta. The same goes for the outline of the rear windshield.
The position of the wing mirrors, height of the tail lamps, width and profile of the radiator grille also appears to match that of the all-new Sienta.
The pictures were submitted by an anonymous reader (Pee71) from Thailand, via our Thai sister-site Autospinn.com.
Toyota’s current MPV model line-up in the region consists of the Indonesia-made Avanza and Innova (also assembled in Malaysia). There's also the Noah (NAV-1) in Indonesia but it's not a big seller there.
The Avanza is dominant in Indonesia but less so in other parts of ASEAN.
The Innova on the other hand has been hugely successful in many emerging markets including Indonesia, Vietnam and even India, where the car is seen as a pseudo-premium car and is often chauffeur-driven.
Both models however are less successful in Malaysia, where consumers are more demanding and expect a bit more sophistication from their family MPVs – an aspect which the Sienta should be able to meet.
While both the Indonesia-focused Avanza and Innova are extremely durable vehicles with a high ride height to tackle Indonesia’s notoriously bad flash floods, the seven-seater Sienta boasts of a very passenger car-like, low ride height (step height into cabin is only 330 mm from the ground) for easy ingress and egress, a trait which would appeal to families with young children, and the elderly.
Special attention is paid to make ingress and egress as easy as possible – including conveniently positioned grip rails around the door aperture, and a wide 665 mm electric sliding door. The Sienta also adopts a stadium seating format, where occupants in the third row are seated higher than occupants in front.
The second-row seats have a tumble mechanism that allows them to be folded with one touch; this creates a 495 mm-wide door opening at waist-height, facilitating easy ingress and egress.
The dashboard-mounted gear shift lever and wide opening between the front seats makes it possible for occupants in front to simply walk to the second row seats.
The third row seats not only fold flat, but can also be stowed away beneath the second row seats.
Like many compact Honda models, the Toyota also features a slim fuel tank located beneath the seats. Toyota stopped short of calling it a centre tank layout as Honda holds a patent for that design.
Enough text for now, we will just let the video the below do the explaining.
When will it come to Malaysia?
We can’t say for sure if it is coming to Malaysia, but seeing that the car is currently undergoing testing in Thailand, and considering that Malaysia has a bigger market for privately registered MPVs than Thailand, the likelihood of it coming to Malaysia is very high.
Remember that Toyota was a pioneer in affordable family MPVs in Malaysia. The company started the affordable MPV trend in the late ‘90s with the Unser, and later extended its dominance in the 2000s with the Avanza, before the introduction of national-brand MPVs like the Proton Exora and Perodua Alza pushed it out of favour.
We expect to see more news of the Sienta by 2016, with a possible introduction in Malaysia by late-2016, assuming our speculations are correct.
We would like to stress that neither Toyota Motor Thailand nor UMW Toyota have confirmed anything about the Sienta.
What engine will power the Sienta?
The majority of Sientas sold in Japan are powered by a 1.5-litre 1NZ-FXE petrol-electric hybrid engine that’s shared with the Prius c (Aqua in Japan).
Considering that duty exemptions for locally-assembled hybrids will expire on 31-December 2015, we don’t expect this engine to be offered here unless the government offers any extension to the duty exemption period.
The other option offered in the Sienta is a 1.5-litre high-efficiency Atkinson cycle 2NR-FKE engine shared with the Japanese-market Corolla.
Both engines are quite sophisticated, and are both high cost engines. We would be very surprised if they are in fact offered here. We haphazard a guess that the 1.5-litre 1NZ-FE engine from the Vios will power the ASEAN-market Sienta instead.
How much will it cost?
A fair bit higher than MPVs with regular opening doors like the Toyota Avanza or Nissan Grand Livina.
Sliding-door MPV generally cost more to produce as they are more complex and require additional measures for side-impact protection.
Remember that this is a family-MPV and it has to comply with a stricter set of passive safety regulations that regular commercial vans with sliding doors are exempted from.
The closest thing to the Sienta that we ever had was the 1.5-litre Honda Freed, which cost RM99,813 before it was discontinued in June 2014.
The Freed was very successful in Japan and Indonesia, but the benefits of a tall body, sliding-door MPV is less appreciated here.
However, the youthful Sienta has a distinctively different image from the conservatively styled Freed.
It will be interesting to see if the Sienta is available to pick up from where the Avanza left off, and do what the Freed was unable to do – to convince local consumers why families all over the world overwhelmingly prefer MPVs with sliding doors rather than conventional doors.
If UMW Toyota played its cards right, the Sienta might just be ace card it needs for this decade.