• Leading by example Toyota Innova 2.0G

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    innova20160927Toyota lives by one, all-encompassing philosophy: kaizen. It’s a word that means a lot to the company, as it represents the constant drive to improve themselves, its performance, its processes and its products.

    The new generation Toyota Innova is proof positive of that. Since 2004, the Innova has been the winning recipe in the multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) segment, unifying the looks of a modern minivan with seven seats, advanced engines, as well as the long-term durability of body-on-frame construction. Toyota didn’t really need to build an all-new Innova, but they did it anyway. After spending some time with this Innova 2.0G, I can easily say that it’s much better than we expected.

    The previous Innova wasn’t something we can call stylish, but that doesn’t hold water for this second-generation model. The new Innova uses many of Toyota’s new design cues such as the grille that seamlessly integrates with the headlights and blends fully with the shape of the front air intake. The rear is neat, especially with the unusual taillamps; this Innova is definitely edgier in the design department. The new Innova is also clearly longer, wider and taller than its predecessor. The platform is new and improved, utilizing many of the lessons learned from the previous 11 years of the Innova.

    If there’s one aspect that the Innova has clearly stepped up, it’s the interior. The design used on the dashboard, the interior door panels and even the ceiling has definitely come a long way; if anything, it’s now comparable to more expensive Toyota models. There are even shades of Lexus in there with the buttons and the fonts.

    Climate control is standard on this G variant, and there are vents on the ceiling for the rear passengers. Steering wheel buttons are fully integrated and not an add-on like on the previous Innova. The AVT 2-DIN head unit is standard, and has certainly leveled up in terms of interface and functionality. There are cupholders on the driver and passenger side air-conditioning vents to keep a drink cool, while the upper glove box has a vent to cool drinks as well.

    The Innova G now seats eight instead of seven; two in the front, three in the middle and the back. The second row is actually a very nice place to be in for a long drive, thanks to that folding center armrest and small folding tray tables mounted on the backrest of the front seats. You do have to be mindful that the rear occupants will tend to have limited knee room.

    I particularly liked how Toyota improved on the ease of folding the third row. Toyota designed the holding strap to clip onto the D pillar instead of the grab handles like before. Also, that third row is spring loaded, so it folds up with barely an effort.

    2.0-Liter gas engine carryover
    The 2.0-liter gasoline engine is a carryover from the previous Innova. The 1TR-FE is decent motor, offering 136 horsepower and matched with a six-speed automatic gearbox. I do have my doubts about the torque, because at 135 foot-pounds (184 Newton-meters), it’s going to have challenging time moving a heavier vehicle that can now carry eight occupants.

    As a town tooler the Innova works well, especially with its good suspension. As expected, the engine has to be motivated a bit to get the Innova moving. It’s not quick by any means, but it’s quiet and smooth. Being a body-on-frame MPV, you can easily traverse most road debris or obstacles with the ground clearance of the Innova.

    Fuel economy is where the Innova 2.0G can use an upgrade. In moderate to heavy traffic (17 kilometers per liter average), the Innova clocks in at 6.4 km/L with Eco Mode. That improves up to 7.6 km/L when traffic gets lighter (20 kph average) and on the highway at 12.2 km/L (87 kph average) but still, it could be better.

    On an uphill, the driver can activate Power Mode to get going, but it does sacrifice fuel consumption to do so. On a downhill, it’s all good; the handling and braking are decent for its size and weight. Still, if you drive up mountains on a regular basis, the diesel is the way to go. The only question that remains is pricing: this 2.0G is priced at P1.232 million. Sure, the 2.0-liter gasoline may not be a great engine, but it’ll be very inexpensive to maintain long term.

    Without a doubt, the Innova leads by example. Sure, the diesel is still the preferred choice, but customers will certainly appreciate the superb leaps made where it matters most: design, quality and comfort.

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