Why would I buy it?
- Solid road presence
- Spacious cabin
- Hybrid efficiency
Why would I avoid it?
- Third row access on top-end versions isn’t ideal
- No diesel option
What is it?
8 / 10
To say that the Innova is a popular family car is like claiming that Virat Kohli is in good form, or that Elon Musk is an eccentric billionaire. Everyone knows that. However, not everyone is aware that Toyota has been somewhat struggling with the Innova Crysta since they stopped producing the diesel model due to “high demand pattern” and “increased waiting period”.
That will change in 2023 though when the order books for the diesel model open again. More importantly, the diesel Innova Crysta will be joined by an all-new generation of the Innova and that’s what we have driven here. It’s called the Innova Hycross and it’s available as either a strong hybrid or a pure petrol powered model.
Whichever way you look at it, the Hycross is a giant leap forward for the Innova brand as we know it. It looks smashing, it’s a high tech self-charging hybrid and on top of all, it’s got features that we haven’t seen in any Toyota yet. Measuring 4.75m in length, 1.85m in width, 1.79m in height and with a wheelbase of 2.85m, the Innova Hycross makes for a fairly large MPV. However, that’s not the talking point here. The real highlight is the SUV-centric design which lends it the presence and poise of a big burly SUV and not a people mover.
I especially like how ‘in-your-face’ the front end is with its high bonnet and that massive bumper. You also get chrome finish on the 18-inch alloy wheels for extra pizazz. Sadly, Toyota has decided that the top-end ZX and ZX (O) versions should come with 50-section low profile tires which do not really fill up the wheel arches that well.
Is the cabin any good?
7.5 / 10
The cabin is also bit of a talking point. Again, Toyota has taken a big step forward when it comes to perceived quality and the overall look. For instance, the most expensive Hycross gets a dual tone dash finished in what looks like dark chestnut, with soft touch materials nearly everywhere you touch across the top half of the cabin. So yes, compared to its predecessor, the Hycross’ cabin is not just good, it’s great.
The Hycross continues to impress when we talk seating comfort. The front seats are large and set fairly high so you have a commanding view of the road. In fact, the driving position is more akin to an SUV than a people mover. Visibility from the side windows is great and because the A pillar is slimmer than the one on the Crysta, the Hycross is much easier to maneuver in traffic.
The Innova Hycross’ pièce de résistance is its second row seating and the features around it. So you get individual quilted leather seats which can be electrically adjusted. And if that’s not enough you also get electrically adjustable footrests for both and a retractable storage bin in the middle to keep your smartphone or a small tablet.
Now in terms of comfort, the Ottoman seats are generously sized and they are well cushioned, too. Given the long wheelbase and the ability to slide the middle seats all the way back (provided nobody is occupying the third row), the amount of legroom on offer is incredible. There is no shortage of headroom either and because the Hycross is a fairly wide MPV, shoulder room feels abundant.
Things get a little tricky behind the business class-like second row. Firstly, it takes patience to access the third row in this top spec version with the electric seats – because they are electric there is no one-touch option to manually fold them forwards quickly and you will have to wait for the electronics to move the backrest at their own sweet pace. Secondly, the third row cannot accommodate three people even though Toyota might claim otherwise. There is just about enough shoulder room for two adults but let me tell you, neither would be complaining for sitting awkwardly. The Hycross is a proper three-row vehicle with the amount of headroom and legroom the third row has. More importantly, the backrest is large and under thigh support is just about enough since there is legitimate vertical space between the seat base and the floor unlike many three-row models.
The Innova Crysta has never had enticing features but all that is about to change with this new model. In this top-spec ZX (O) version, Toyota has covered all the basics and then some more. You get electrically adjustable Ottoman seats in the second row, a large panoramic sunroof with ambient lighting, ventilated front seats, dual-zone climate control (for front and rear), a nine-speaker JBL audio system including a subwoofer, a 360-degree camera, electric tailgate, rear sun blinds and driver assistance systems including adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross traffic alert and pre-collision warning tech. The only couple of features missing as standard are wireless charging and TPMS.
Is it nice to drive?
8 / 10
The Innova Hycross is nice and easy to drive whether you are commuting in everyday traffic or out on a weekend trip. Its intimidating size, chunky doors and controls may seem like it would be a handful but the Hycross isn’t really. As it turns out, it’s pretty effortless to maneuver or park and that’s mainly down to the combination of light controls and the hybrid powertrain. So it’s got a 2.0-litre strong hybrid set-up where the petrol engine makes 172bhp/188Nm and is paired to an electric motor which is good for 11bhp/206Nm. The combined power is sent to the front wheels (yes, the Innova is now a front-wheel drive monocoque MPV) through an e-CVT.
The startup sequence is pretty wild for an Innova. Thumb the starter button, pull the gearlever down to D, let go off the brakes and you are moving in hushed silence, courtesy of the nickel metal hydride battery which forms a part of the hybrid setup. Around town, the Hycross gets up to speed in an incredibly smooth manner, so much so that it’s difficult to get your head around the fact that you are driving a noiseless, vibe-free Innova. Of course, you will be greeted by some noise as soon as the petrol engine cuts in but even so, it remains remarkably smooth and refined.
Given that it’s a self-charging hybrid, you have a dedicated EV driving mode which allows you to move forward using electric power alone, however, the battery can run the car for a short distance before it’s out of juice. Ultimately this setup works best in stop-and-go traffic wherein you tend to spend a lot of time without covering a whole lot of distance. With both the motors working together, performance is adequate with a strong surge of power up until triple digit speeds. The Hycross gets up to highway speeds with ease though it does get loud while doing so.
The move from ladder-on-frame to front-wheel drive monocoque has resulted in some drastic changes on the road, most of which are on the positive side. Firstly, this Innova’s body is stiffer than before and at the same time the whole car is around 200 kilos lighter despite the complexity of the drivetrain. Also, the underpinnings including a McPherson strut at the front and semi-independent torsion beam at the rear may not seem very high tech but the way the Hycross rides over a variety of surfaces is a testament to all the work that has gone into setting up the suspension locally. The Innova no longer jostles or struggles to mask its weight over uneven surfaces – there is a newfound pliancy to its ride that makes it so good over broken/undulated roads.
Unfortunately, the profile on the 225/50 section tires is way too low for certain environments – our first drive was limited to what were mostly good roads outside Bangalore but I suspect it will be a challenge to preserve these 18-inch wheels over the harshest of Mumbai roads.
Should you buy it?
8 / 10
The all-new Hycross is pretty much everything the Innova loyalists have been waiting for. It’s spacious, comfortable, has loads of road presence and it rides nicely. Sure, it won’t be as efficient as the diesel Crysta over long distances but if you are someone who wants a big vehicle for your big family and you happen to drive predominately in the city then, yes, you should consider buying the Innova Hycross.
Pictures by Kapil Angane