Toyota Innova, the smooth-er operator

By JAY WONG | 1 February 2017

Forget "rough” being associated with the first generation Innova and start thinking “refined”, because Toyota’s new Innova (AN140) is seeking to impress above everything else.

We joined a fairly large group of motoring journalists for an organised drive that would have us wide-eyed and “wow-ed” by the end of the day, with the range-topping 2.0G variant which happens to cost RM126,000 (on-the-road with GST and insurance) and comes with a 5-year unlimited mileage warranty.

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With a kerb weight of 1,720kg (+105kg), a 55-litre fuel tank feeds the same but re-tuned 2.0-litre 1TR-FE in-line four-cylinder engine, mated to six-speed automatic, which now produces 139PS (+3PS) at 5,600rpm and 183Nm (+1Nm) of torque at 4,000rpm for the rear wheels.

Although it still maintains its initial 2,750mm wheelbase, the new Innova is a little more bulkier than before at 4,735mm-long (+150mm), 1,830mm-wide (+70mm) and 1,795mm-tall (+35mm). But it also sits higher with a ride height of 200mm (+24mm) while wearing 16-inch aluminium wheels with 205/65 series tyres.

The 2.0G is equipped with halogen headlights, daytime-running lights, fog lamps, chrome accents, new rear light cluster design, easy-close tailgate (not to be mistaken for a powered tailgate) and even keyless entry with push-start button to name a few.

Its additional 105kg heft is largely attributed to its more rigid ladder-frame that employs thicker high-tensile steel.

But when compared to the outgoing model’s comfort levels, the difference is like night and day.

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Out and about in traffic, the Innova will quietly putter about its business.

Don’t bother to floor the accelerator, it’s just not going to impress - try 16.44 seconds to reach 100kph from standstill.

Still, it’s an improvement over its predecessor’s 16.9-second century-sprint time.

Nonetheless, occupants will enjoy the cabin’s comfort levels for all three rows.

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Yes, even the third row has some comfort dialed in and passengers will appreciate the suspension’s ability to soften the shocks and reduce the “bounce” from bumps - something the older Innova never really did very well.

Not to mention, the seats can be moved forward and back along with the ability to recline, folded down or up with an easy one-touch operation.

Taking it out onto the highways and there’s that typical “floaty-feel” the Japanese love and the Innova does well to remain level around bends or undulating terrain.

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It shines brightest when trundling over potholes and uneven road surfaces, which is normally experienced with more premium vehicles. Hence the wide-eyed expression.

Combine the new-found comfort levels with a light steering wheel that’s now adjustable in the telescopic sense and the “need to speed” takes a back seat.

There’s a peculiar relaxing air within the Innova as the engine noise is kept from intruding while a hint of wind-noise adds to the serenity.

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As laid back as it may seem, the Innova can become rather responsive, only don’t expect to be sucked into the seat’s back rest when flooring the throttle, because there’s just going to be a lot of engine noise for quite awhile before getting up to the desired speed.

But honestly, there really isn’t any desire to push the Innova to its road-holding limits.

Just sit back, relax and enjoy the comfortable cruise within a more modern design layout thanks in part to the Hilux.

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The seats are plush, comfortable and feels almost premium to the touch and then there’s even a soft faux-suede pad on the front door inserts where the elbow rests, while second row passengers can make use of fold-away seatback tables that can support up to 10kg.

There’s also the cool-to-cold air-conditioning vents for all three rows and the spacious accommodations for up to eight people - although seven would be most ideal, while blue-neon ambient lighting with varying brightness (and an off-switch) adds to the interior’s character.

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Full-grown adults in the third row will find it rather hard to fit three, but as long as they are of “papadam” proportions it is a real possibility with some actual legroom, after adjusting the second row seats forward, of course.

If safety is an issue, not to worry, there’s plenty of safety kit in the 2.0G, for instance.

There’s seven airbags, anti-lock braking system, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist, hill-start assist and vehicle stability control.

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Having been around for more than 10 years, it’s timely that the Innova has undergone a transformation from “work-horse” to “show-horse” with plenty of refinement, comfort, amenities, practicality and best of all - affordability.

And that makes the Innova a hard package to resist.