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Toyota Innova Crysta First Drive Review

What is it?

 Toyota has dominated the premium MPV segment in the 21st century. Toyota first entered the market with the robust Qualis which was abruptly replaced by the much more modern Innova. Launched in 2005, Toyota has always charged a premium on the Innova and despite that the sales numbers have always been on the up. In the last 11 years, the Innova’s price went up by a whopping Rs 6 lakh depending on the variant. So why were stingy Indians ready to shell out nearly Rs 20 lakh for a decade-old MPV? The answer is simple – peace of mind. There are still thousands of Qualis’s running on our roads with lakhs of kilometres on the odo and still feeling indestructible. This is a testament to the thorough reliability and engineering know-how of Toyota.  Now Toyota is about to launch the next generation of the MPV and after driving the new Innova Crysta one thing is clear, they are going even more upmarket with this one, with a more sculpted styling and a completely redesigned interior which boasts of segment first features.

When you first lay your eyes on the Crysta, it is easy to see, Toyota has gone for a more evolutionary route and it looks very similar to the current Innova’s silhouette. But Toyota has added elements like the prominent crease which gives it a more dynamic look and the larger 17-inch rims add a bit of muscle. The angular quarter glass behind the C-pillar looks quite unique and adds character too. In the front, the large hexagonal grille dominates proceedings and the two slats on top neatly meet the angular projector headlamps which has DRls too. The rear end is simple but the boomerang-shaped tail lamps give it a sporty appearance. Overall the appearance is positive and the new generation Innova looks much more aspirational than before.

The new Innova is based on a brand-new chassis and to make the new ladder-frame extremely rigid, Toyota has added more cross-members and additional welding points. On the flip-side this has made the chassis much heavier than before and despite the weight-saving high tensile steel for the body, the Innova Crysta weighs nearly 200kg more than the old car. On the measuring scale the Crysta has grown in every direction too. It is a substantial 180mm longer, 60mm wider and 40mm taller than the old car. Incidentally, the wheelbase at 2750mm is exactly the same as the old car. 

How is it on the inside?

 Arguably the biggest change comes on the inside of the new Innova. To begin with, the cabin feels spacious, open and crisply styled. The design is fresh, well-detailed and the swooping dash top looks really great without being overdone. The single piece of metal strip which runs across the top of the dashboard from the left most air vent to the right most looks classy and highlights the dash design. The manual transmission variant gets an all-black cabin which looks sporty, while the automatic top variant features brown upholstery which lends the cabin a more upmarket feel. Visibility from the high front seats is good and this makes it easy to drive especially in traffic. Despite the swooping dash, ergonomics are spot-on and everything from the touchscreen to the Air-con controls are tilted upwards for ease of use. The blue backlit instrument cluster looks modern and the digital centre screen hosts a comprehensive trip computer. USB and aux-in ports are cleverly placed in the middle for an easy access for front and rear passengers. As an observation, we would have preferred more USB ports especially considering it’s a premium seven-seater. The touchscreen is intuitive to use and it hosts various information like satellite navigation, eco display (which shows how efficiently you are driving), Bluetooth telephony and music system controls. On the downside I would have preferred the volume control to be a knob, instead of a button for easier access while driving. Overall quality is a big jump over the old car and Toyota has paid great attention to detail to make the car feel more premium. The touch points like the armrest on the doorpad is covered in soft velvety fabric, the chunky leather wrapped steering with large control button is great to hold, the gloss black finish on the front doorpads look classy (weirdly, the rear doorpad gets wood finish) and even the control stalks are of high order. But as you look further down, some of the bits disappoint. The sea of black hard plastics around the glovebox and doorpads look shiny and the graining could have been better too. Even the air-con buttons are too small and the chrome finish doesn’t look very convincing.

Thanks to the larger dimensions, the cabin feels wider and more spacious than before. Seat comfort is first rate and the contoured front buckets are very comfortable. The driver seat in this top Z variant is powered too, so finding an ideal driving position is extremely easy. The middle row sees the biggest improvement and wider cabin has allowed Toyota to give wider captain seats which are better than the outgoing model in every way. They are more supportive. Underthigh support is really good and the reclining backrest makes this a great chauffer-driven car. You also get adjustable blue ambient lighting on the ceiling which livens up the cabin. Even the front passenger seat can be adjusted using a well designed lever from the back. If you love working on the go, the foldable trays in the back are placed at an ideal height and their 7 kg weight capacity make them perfect to place your laptops on. The third row though is not a huge improvement over the old car and the combination of the high floor and low seat makes it comfy only for short stints. You also get a removable headrest for the middle passenger (how will he fit in the narrow seat is a different matter) and all three occupants get three-point seatbelts. Visibility from the third row though is hampered by the stylish triangular quarter glass. With all three rows up, boot space is reasonable and can be extended by folding the last row when not in use.

We had the top Z variant on our drive and it was packed to the brim. It gets a touch screen infotainment system, navigation, bluetooth, USB and aux-in ports, Eco and Power engine modes, powered mirrors with retract, three-zone climate control ambiente roof lighting folding tables for the second row, 12-volt sockets for all three rows and a massive the 20 one- litre bottle holders.

In terms of  the safety kit, the Innova Crysta really impresses. The top Z variant came with seven airbags, ABS, brake assist, ESP and hill-start assist. Toyota also revealed that the Crysta will get three airbags (driver, passenger and driver knee airbag) and ABS standard across the range.

How does it drive?

As far as engines are concerned the Innova has gone from being one of the slowest in its class to being the most powerful. The manual transmission is powered by a 2.4-litre which makes 150bhp at 3400rpm and 343Nm of torque between 1400rpm and 2800rpm. While to compensate for the extra weight and power-sapping torque converter transmission, the automatic variant motor displaces 2.8-litres which is good for 174bhp at 3400rpm and 360Nm of torque between 1200rpm and 3400rpm. Toyota claims the ARAI fuel efficiency figures for the 2.4-litre manual is 15.10kpl, and the 2.8-litre automatic is 14.29kpl

Let’s start with the manual transmission first. A turn of the key is all it takes to establish the fact that this new common-rail diesel engine under the hood of the Innova Crysta is leagues ahead of the earlier 2.5-litre motor. It’s much smoother, the machine-gun rattle heard during cold starts is much reduced and the nearly 50 per cent hike in power can be felt from the word go. Like before, power is available from the word go and the Innova Crysta accelerates with enthusiasm. This motor feels less strained, the engine is much more flexible due to the wider powerband, and overtaking is now much easier. It’s much more free-revving too and does not feel out of breath on top like the earlier motor. The refinement though better than before is still not the best and the motor does get quite noisy when you rev it hard. The gearbox has shorter throws as compared to the old car but still it feels rudimentary with its rubbery shifts and there are lot of vibrations seeping through, especially at idle. Toyota is offering driving modes too and unlike the Mahindra’s, the Innova is very usable in any given mode. In Eco mode there is a slight hesitation from the motor at low revs as you can feel a step in power around 2000rpm. Switch to normal mode and the power delivery becomes linear and in sport mode the motor feels very responsive and eager. 

The automatic transmission, on the other hand, feels even more potent thanks to the extra horses on tap. Floor the accelerator pedal and power delivery is linear and with the gearbox shifting smoothly around 4000rpm. It feels freer revving than the 2.4 motor and is stronger throughout the rev range. On part throttle in D mode, like all modern automatics the 6-speed gearbox rapidly upshifts in favour of fuel efficiency. The Crysta automatic also tends to coast in Eco mode as soon as you come off the throttle (it’s like driving in neutral with no engine braking). But this also tends to confuse the gearbox as it keeps hunting gears especially while cruising. The gearbox though, is quick enough and makes most of the torque available. Unlike in the manual transmission car, the difference in drive modes is not that pronounced and while behind the wheel it will be difficult to tell which mode you are driving in.

Compared to the old car, the new Innova Crysta doesn’t feel as adept at tackling corners. Thanks to the heavier kerb weight and Toyota going for a softer suspension setting, the new Innova rolls considerably more and it feels like a heavy car too. On the plus side, the steering is quite direct and you can still steer the Innova with confidence and there is loads of grip from the 17-inch wheels. Don’t be mistaken, the Innova Crysta is not a bad handling car, but it doesn’t feel as nimble as the old one.

On the flip-side, the ride has taken a huge step forward. The old car’s jiggly low-speed ride is replaced by a plush one and the long travel suspension dismisses the biggest of potholes with ease. Even at high speeds the Innova felt composed with well controlled body movements. The difference in dynamics between the automatic and the manual transmission car is felt only at low speeds. To compensate for the heavier engine and transmission Toyota has given the automatic a slightly stiffer front suspension setup, which can be felt only at low speeds. Even the steering is on the heavier side.

Should I buy one?

As a product, the Innova Crysta is a huge jump over the old car and it is the most well-engineered MPV you can buy in India. The build quality both inside and out is good, quality and cabin ambiance has taken a big jump forward; it is much more comfortable and spacious than before; its loaded with features; it gets potent motors which makes it one of the fastest MPVs and the comfortable ride makes it a great long distance car. The only hurdle is the price, which we expect to be at least a lakh and a half more than the outgoing model which makes it significantly more expensive than its rivals. But when you factor in the Toyota’s legendary reliability and the sheer feel-good factor I don’t think even the cost will be an intimidating factor anymore.

Where does it fit in?

The Innova Crysta's main rival will be the soon to be launched Tata Hexa crossover and the the Mahindra XUV 500. The Innova Crysta though will be much more expensive than its rivals and will count on the peace of ownership and Toyota brand image for success.  

Pictures by Ameya Dandekar



Click here to know more about the variants 

Click here to find out what we know so far

Click here to read the first look







Toyota Innova Crysta Price in India

CityOn-Road Prices
Mumbai₹ 18.05 Lakhs onwards
Bangalore₹ 18.84 Lakhs onwards
New Delhi₹ 17.53 Lakhs onwards
Chennai₹ 18.27 Lakhs onwards
Hyderabad₹ 18.21 Lakhs onwards
Kolkata₹ 16.8 Lakhs onwards
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