Rating 8 8

Toyota Innova Crysta review, road test

27th Jun 2016 2:53 pm

After 11 years, Toyota has finally launched the all-new Innova and taken it even more upmarket. We find out if it’s worth the extra premium.

  • Make : Toyota
  • Model : Innova Crysta

Arguably the most successful Indian passenger vehicle of the 21st century, the Innova has crushed all competition to stay the unchallenged king of the MPV segment for over a decade. And despite several price hikes during its decade-long rule, its fan following has only grown. Why it commands such incredible loyalty is obvious. There’s simply no other MPV that’s quite as good. And that was the biggest challenge for Toyota’s engineers when they set about the task of developing the all-new Innova – how do you improve on something that is so well-loved?

No surprise, Toyota hasn’t tampered with the winning formula. Unlike the old Innova, which was radically different from the Qualisit replaced, the new Innova Crysta, as it’s officially called, doesn’t stray from the script. What Toyota has done is upped the luxury quotient substantially in the Crysta by smartening up the design, making it better to drive and dramatically sprucing up the interiors. The Innova is no longer as utilitarian as before and now, Toyota has positioned it as more of a luxury MPV than a functional people carrier. But how far does your money go and is it worth the extra premium? That’s exactly what we find out after this exhaustive road test.

The biggest improvement to the new Innova is under the hood. Out goes the ageing 102hp 2.5-litre diesel and in comes two powerful state-of-the-art diesels – a 150hp, 2.4 and a 174hp, 2.8-litre unit from Toyota’s new GD engine family. Both these four-cylinder engines are twin cam, 16-valve units with small capacity, fast-response turbos and timing chains that don’t need replacement for the life of the engine. The smaller engine is mated to a five-speed manual while the larger 2.8-litre unit is only sold with a six-speed automatic. What’s new on both the engines are three driving modes —Eco, Normal and Power, which alter engine fuelling and in Eco mode, also the air-con performance. Unlike some other engines that also lower the rev limit in economy mode, the Innova engines are allowed to spin all the way to the redline but in a more slow and relaxed manner.

The old Innova engine was known for its responsiveness from low revs and was quite drivable, thanks largely to its short gearing. However, it lacked top-end performance (it lumbered to 100kph in a lazy 17.5 seconds from standstill) and it wasn’t a relaxed cruiser either. At 120kph low gearing made the engine turn over at a buzzy 3,400rpm in fifth gear and this impacted fuel efficiency too.
The new 2.4-litre unit, on the other hand, is far peppier with a 0-100kph time of 13.11 seconds (in Power mode) and while the lack of a six-speed gearbox is felt on long highway runs, the taller ratios mean the engine is now spinning at a far lower 2,900 rpm at 120kph. Performance is quite strong in the bottom and mid range and the broad spread of torque makes overtaking far more relaxed and effortless. It’s not as responsive off the line as the earlier car and there’s a bit more turbo lag, but that’s only until about 1600 rpm after which, the power delivery is quite linear. The gear lever is now shorter but the shifting effort is too high and the clutch pedal too hard for a comfortable drive in dense traffic. And it is in these conditions that the 2.8-litre engine with the automatic gearbox is the far better option.

Performance too, from the bigger engine, is at a different level. The 0-100kph dash is covered in a very fast 11.46 seconds, putting it in executive sedan territory; this, despite the MPV weighing nearly 1.9 tonnes. In Power mode, you can even do long, rear-wheel burnouts! The auto gearbox has a fairly quick shift for a conventional torque convertor unit but you do get a bit of delay in response when you mash the throttle pedal from low revs. In Normal mode, it has a tendency to shift up earlier than you’d like, which is why we preferred keeping it in Sport where it hangs on to each ratio longer. There are no paddle shifters but there is a manual tip control.

The gearbox also has a Normal and Sport shift option. What’s interesting is that you can mix and match the gearbox and engine to any of the modes. So, you can have the engine in Eco with the gearbox in Sport, or the engine in Power with the gearbox in Normal, which is a good way of enjoying a slightly engaging drive with the engine providing ample power and the gearbox not letting the revs climb too high, which brings out the engine’s only drawback – the high noise levels. At higher revs, the noise  is fairly intrusive. This is also true of the smaller engine.
Coming to the various driving modes, Sport is undoubtedly the most entertaining and in this setting, the engine is the most responsive and delivers a lusty slug of torque, noticeably more than in the other modes. In fact, for everyday driving, using Sport mode can be a challenge, as you need to temper the way the Crysta surges forward when the engine is in the meat of the powerband. Moving from Normal to Eco dulls the throttle response with power delivery getting progressively flatter, but even in Eco, the Crysta doesn’t feel underpowered, especially the 2.8.

The Crysta comes with a 7-inch touchscreen with DVD, Bluetooth, USB, aux-in and a remote on the VX and ZX cars and no system on the lower trim cars. The unit also has navigation and a reverse camera display. The sides of the display has touch zone buttons for key functions like phone and audio controls. The interface is not very intuitive and takes some getting used to. However, there are some nice features like the customisable homescreen. Sound quality is fairly decent but at this cost, it should have been better. Those appreciating good sound will want to upgrade the speakers.

To say the new Innova Crysta is an improvement is putting it mildly. Toyota has not only enhanced the Innova's core strengths of space, comfort, practicality and quality but has addressed its key weaknesses too. It's no longer underpowered or under-equipped, and it looks very modern too. However, it's not all perfect. The Crysta is bigger and heavier and not as nimble as the earlier car, putting it at a disadvantage in the city. Refinement levels could have been better and there are some ergonomic issues too. With on-road Mumbai prices starting at Rs 17.33 lakh and rising to a stratospheric Rs 26.11 lakh for the auto ZX, the Crysta begs the question. Is it worth the premium? For the same money, you have more sophisticated sedans and SUVs that are better value. But if you want a luxury MPV to carry your friends and family around in comfort, there is no better choice. Factor in the Toyota reliability and strong resale value and the asking price seems worth it. 

Full marks to Toyota for completely modernising the design and yet retaining the essence of the Innova’s character. Although every body panel is new, the overall silhouette and proportions leave you in no doubt that this is an Innova and a good looking one at that. The long nose is still the defining characteristic and the car is now distinguished with a muscular bonnet that has a sharp ‘V’ and a very prominent and large SUV-style grille. The stretched headlamps housing projector lenses look sleek and come with an LED cluster unit.

The styling is sharper and more angular than before and is quite evident in the sides where the most striking design feature is the sharply raked kink in the D-pillar. There’s also a strong shoulder line and a sharp crease running through the doors that liven up the Crysta’s massive flanks. The inverted L-shaped rear lamps, which are now horizontal,give the Crysta a wider look, and a keen eye will also catch the tiny fins on the lamp units that Toyota calls ‘Aero Stabilising Fins’ that help manage airflow around the vehicle for better stability.

Filling out the muscular wheel arches are smart, 17-inch alloys shod with 215/55-sized tyres but it’s only the top-end ZX cars which gets the larger wheels, the GX and VX cars come with 16-inchers shod with 205/65 tyres.

While the exterior design has been thoroughly updated, the underpinnings of the Crysta continue to be low-tech. Instead of using lightweight and modern ‘hydrofomed’ construction for the chassis, Toyota has stuck to using traditional but strengthened tubular sections. The Crysta also comes with an old-school hydraulic steering, which Toyota prefers because it’s a tried-and-tested system, especially on a high, front axle-load vehicle.

Suspension comprises the familiar double wishbone with coil springs at the front and the four-link axle with coil springs at the rear, but it’s completely new and engineered to better control pitch and bounce. While the wheelbase is identical to the earlier Innova, body length and width have been increased for more space inside. The length is 150mm more than the previous car. Weight too has gone up substantially by 170kg – the top-trim 2.4 ZX Crysta now weighs a portly 1,855kg and the 2.8 weighs an even heavier 1,870kg.

To say the Crysta’s interiors have gone upmarket would be an understatement. The cabin is far more plush than the previous Innova’s and more in line with a premium car rather than an MPV. The single-piece dashboard, with its swoopy design, is unique and the multiple surfaces and textures work well. The all-black interior theme with a dark wood trim suits the cabin really well. The liberal use of dulled silver-finish accents running down the sides of the centre console, across the dash, door pads and side vents look really classy. Toyota has also given the Crysta mood lighting with blue LEDs lining the roof light unit in the front and running across the roof in two arcs in the middle.

Other plush bits include felt lining for the door armrests and  sun visors although the door pads in the front aren’t of the same high quality as those in the rear. Also, some plastics have a hard and shiny feel, especially in the lower section of the dash.

The VX versions come with a mix of artificial leather for the seat sides and real leather for the seat inner portions. While the top-of-the-line ZX auto gets a tan leather interior, the similarly specced manual car gets all-black leather. On the whole, the colour schemes, lighting and quality of materials makes the mood inside the Crysta very lounge-like, especially in the higher variants.
It’s important to note that though Toyota has released prices starting from the base E variant, specs for E and G trims have not been disclosed. The base versions, according to Toyota, will be made to order and hence, variant details are only available for the GX, VX and ZX cars.

The Crysta is far better equipped than the previous Innova with features that you would find in a comparably priced luxury car. So, you get climate control or an auto air-con system with vents for the middle and third row though there’s no provision to control temperature from the rear. Infotainment is now handled by a 7-inch touchscreen with in-built navigation and a reverse camera display. There’s also a display screen on the centre console that shows the regular trip data and also replicates some key navigation, stereo and phone info.

What’s a neat touch is after feeding in fuel cost, the trip computer can display the fuel used both in litres and in rupees. There is also an Eco drive indicator that scores your driving style, helping you improve efficiency. For safety, there are seven airbags that include a knee bag for the driver and full curtain bags that extend all the way to the third row.

Coming to the all-important seats, the front buckets are now a touch larger than before with more under-thigh support and on the ZX cars, you get, for the first time, an eight-way power adjustment. The chunky steering, which feels good to grip, adjusts for rake and reach too. A useful touch, possibly inspired by the VW Vento, is a small lever allowing rear passengers to move the front passenger seat to optimise legroom. Also pampering middle-seat occupants are foldable seat back trays with cupholders. The captain seats on the seven-seater are now even more comfortable thanks to a wider seat base and more legroom.

The middle seats can be reclined as well but sadly, this throws up a serious flaw. Reclining the seat pushes the lower portion of the backrest outwards, forcing you to arch your back. Also, the armrest rises upward and does not stay level.

The third row is where you’ll find the biggest improvement over the earlier car. Access to the last row is quite easy, thanks to both the captain and bench seats having a handy, one-touch tumble mechanism. Although with a high floor you still sit knees up, there is significantly more legroom now and if you squeeze in three people, there’s even a three-point seat belt spooling down from the roof for the middle passenger.

The Innova has the ability to store an astonishing 20 bottles of water, but sadly, it has only one USB port for both data and charging. Charging more devices will require a car charger to be plugged into any of the two 12V DC sockets. By way of storage, the Innova has dual gloveboxes with a cooled upper unit. However, both are fairly small and perhaps a single, larger unit would have been better. The good news is that the increased length has been well utilised in enlarging the luggage space – you can now fit a couple of small bags or a full-sized suitcase with all three rows up.

With the Crysta’s completely revamped suspension, Toyota claims to have controlled pitch and bounce and it’s quite evident. But just don’t expect sedan levels of ride quality. On rutted surfaces, the Crysta feels a bit jittery and sharp edges filter through into the cabin. Where the suspension excels is in its ability to soak up really bad roads. We threw some potholes, speed breakers and sunken-in manhole covers at it and it surprised us with its ability to soak them up without flinching. The long travel suspension makes the Crysta superbly suited for tackling any kind of surface. Handling though, is a bit ponderous and the heavier Innova is just not happy to change direction as quickly as before. What makes the experience worse is the numb steering that feels like it’s churning a pot of ghee. At parking speeds too, the weight is far too heavy and at higher speeds, the steering is a bit too slack. There is a fair amount of body roll and hustling it through a twisty ghat section will have some passengers feel queasy. Straightline stability is not an issue, the suspension and the sheer weight does a good job of keep things steady. The Crysta also gets Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) in case things get out of hand. There is also ABS and hill start assist to ease worries of starting on a slope. 

The Crystas return an ARAI-certified figure of 15.1kpl for the manual and 14.29kpl for the auto. These figures make both the Crystas more efficient that the old car which had an ARAI figure of 13.31kpl.

However, in our testing things were a bit different. The old car which was a manual, gave 10.3kpl in the city cycle and 13.8kpl on the highway. The new Innova manual returns 10.6kpl and 14.3kpl for the city and highway, respectively. Expectedly, the automatic gearbox was lower all round with a figure of 9.2kpl in the city and 13.2kpl on the highway.  As per our testing standards, the fuel efficiency runs were done in Eco mode.

The Crysta comes with a 7-inch touchscreen with DVD, Bluetooth, USB, aux-in and a remote on the VX and ZX cars and no system on the lower trim cars. The unit also has navigation and a reverse camera display. The sides of the display has touch zone buttons for key functions like phone and audio controls. The interface is not very intuitive and takes some getting used to. However, there are some nice features like the customisable homescreen. Sound quality is fairly decent but at this cost, it should have been better. Those appreciating good sound will want to upgrade the speakers.

To say the new Innova Crysta is an improvement is putting it mildly. Toyota has not only enhanced the Innova's core strengths of space, comfort, practicality and quality but has addressed its key weaknesses too. It's no longer underpowered or under-equipped, and it looks very modern too. However, it's not all perfect. The Crysta is bigger and heavier and not as nimble as the earlier car, putting it at a disadvantage in the city. Refinement levels could have been better and there are some ergonomic issues too. With on-road Mumbai prices starting at Rs 17.33 lakh and rising to a stratospheric Rs 26.11 lakh for the auto ZX, the Crysta begs the question. Is it worth the premium? For the same money, you have more sophisticated sedans and SUVs that are better value. But if you want a luxury MPV to carry your friends and family around in comfort, there is no better choice. Factor in the Toyota reliability and strong resale value and the asking price seems worth it. 

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