Toyota Innova Crysta: Test Drive Review

How many cars selling in the Indian market have had a very successful run for over a decade, with sales performance consistent throughout its life cycle regardless of multiple price hikes without much feature additions? There are none, except for the Toyota Innova. A product which redefined the Indian MPV space completely. The predecessor was a boxy SUVish Qualis which was quite a benchmark to beat, but then, Toyota did this very well when they launched the rather Van-like Innova  in 2004. Yes, the design wasn’t something we were used to back then, but it grew on almost every potential customer of an MPV. The Innova became synonymous of a reliable people carrier, be it for personal use or commercial. Look at the used car market, the demand for an Innova is very high and the product enjoys the best resale value compared to competition. Over the past decade, the Innova became utilitarian, and very spartan when it came to offering features, driveability, refinement, etc.; but the demand remained unchanged. And with no major feature addition, Toyota even managed to ask for almost 60% more money for the same old product, which customers happily paid looking at the hassle free ownership experience on offer. After 12 long years, Toyota finally brought an update for India’s favourite MPV, and it is now called the Innova Crysta. An all-new product ready to re-write the success story.2016-toyota-innova-crysta-review-04

The all-new Innova Crysta is priced at Rs. 13.83 lakh onwards (ex-showroom Mumbai). One can opt from a total of 10 variants with 2 engine configurations, 2 gearbox options, 2 seating capacity options across 7 trim levels. The top spec Innova Crysta retails at Rs. 20.77 lakh (ex-showroom Mumbai).

Till date, there’s been no manufacturer brave enough to launch a product as a direct rival to the Innova. All brands have launched a product in the segment at a lower price point trying to lure customers with a cheaper asking cost, but still, the Innova dominates the segment. So is the Innova Crysta good enough by today’s standard? Does it up its game? We drove this much loved MPV across the streets of Goa to find out.

Exteriors:
The new Innova Crysta is a glamorous evolution of the existing design rather than a completely new package. Yes, all the body panels & the likes are new, but the overall silhouette is more or less the same. This could be an intentional effort to retain the brand connect the masses have with the Innova. Also, the name should suggest this, that it still is an Innova with a new suffix – Crysta – which is just some spice to the overall product. If you ask us, we really like how the Crysta looks. It is much more balanced to look at compared to the outgoing model, and also looks like a product of today’s time unlike its predecessor which had started showing age irrespective of multiple cosmetic updates.

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At the front, the new Innova now has a bolder impression. It has a flatter face with a slightly SUVish front end rather than a sloping MPV look. You get a large hexagonal grille with two chunky chrome & silver slats on top housing the Toyota logo and a multi-slat all-black air dam below. Headlamps are nice and sleep units with LED DRLs & projectors with HID. The chrome accents within the headlamp also mingle very well with the front grille. The turn indicator is nicely placed next to the fog lamp on the lower section of the bumper, with silver accents around it. The bonnet & bumper get bold crease lines giving the car a very dynamic look compared to the older model. Fit & finish is top notch.

Come to the side, and things are reminiscent of the older model. The overall appearance and layout remains the same. Toyota hasn’t tried too hard to please the customers by adding funky elements, and we appreciate this understated design language. The Innova Crysta gets large front & rear doors with chrome handles. The front handle also gets a request sensor for keyless entry. The window section gets B & C pillars blacked out. The rear view mirror gets a chrome case for the top spec trim and has integrated turn indicators. The Crysta rides on 17″, silver 5-tri-spoke alloy wheels. There 3 are bold crease lines on the side one just below the window sill, one on the doors and one between the two wheels. Wheel arches are also flared enough to add some character. The rear quarter glass is for reference is now inverted in design compared to the older model. It ends towards the top and has enough greenhouse to allow light for the 3rd row.

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At the back, the Innova Crysta looks more stylish than ever. You have a new tail lamp design in two-parts, placed on the rear side panel as well as the tail gate. The turn indicator at the rear adds some kink with a clear lens and placed below the primary tail lamp bulb. The Crysta gets a rear spoiler with a stop lamp and the rear windscreen also has a wash & wipe system. Below, you have a number plate section below the Toyota logo, but no chrome or silver accents here. Kept nice and clean. The rear bumper has two thin reflector strips on either ends. Below the LHS tail lamp, you have the Innova Crysta badging & under the RHS one, you have the engine & variant badge.

Where the old model was lacking, the new Innova Crysta more than makes up. Place the Innova Crysta along with all other MPVs on sale in India, you will note it is the Toyota which looks the most premium at the moment. Good to go for another decade a few would say.

Interiors:
Toyota has done a fantastic job inside the Innova Crysta. The new cabin is nothing short of a revolutionary change when compared to the outgoing model. It has the right mix of luxury, features and feel good. It is also the most well laid out cabin in the MPV segment. Step inside the new Innova Crysta and you are greeter with a dual-tone black & tan cabin.

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The dashboard is completely new with a single piece top section creating a nice floating effect. We really liked the AC vents which were thoughtfully placed without interfering in the design and mingled well. There’s also a chunky wooden trim placed in the centre of the dashboard. The leather wrapped steering wheel also gets wooden insert on top, and has all the controls well laid out. Audio, menu and call controls are placed on the steering, while the cruise control stalk is placed below. The instrument cluster gives a 3D effect with white & blue backlit. You have a MID screen in between the tachometer & speedometer. The MID screen displays multiple data such as trip computer, temperature, odometer, music display, compass and other car settings.

In the centre, you have a 7.0″ touchscreen infotainment system with audio, video & bluetooth compatibility. While the screen does offer all the features required, the touch quality & the screen output is just average. The screen also acts as a display for the reverse camera & has satellite navigation option. The screen also has silver accents on either ends to attract attention. Below, you have a very small automatic climate control unit. Through this strip of controls, you can manage the AC settings for the front as well as rear cabin. Buttons and controls are easy to use, but the display screen is tilted upwards, which makes reading a bit difficult when driving under the sun. Below the AC controls you have switches to toggle between the engine mode, passenger airbag activation and traction control. Below this, you have 2 bottle holders along with a recessed cubicle to store oddities. For the automatic variant, the console between the front occupants is flat and the gearbox has a H-matic layout. For the manual gearbox, the is a smaller stalk compared to the older model, but it still shakes a fair amount. The console is neatly cut to make use of the handbrake easy. There’s also another cup holder placed here. There’s a two part glove box at the front out of which one is cooled. Also, to keep your beverages cool, there is a small pull-out cup holder ahead of AC vents on either end.

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Space was always the selling point for the Innova, and the Crysta carries it forward. The driver seat gets electric adjustment and is nicely contoured. What we liked was that the bolstering was not too prominent which will allow drivers on the heavier side to be easily accommodated. The passenger seat gets the conventional manual adjustment. There’s a armrest between the front occupants with storage underneath, USB port and a slit to park your smartphone. Ergonomics for everything else is spot on, except for the power window switches. The tan portion of the doorpad protrudes a bit too much and does not allow your wrist to easily reach the switches. You have to work your way to control it. In the long run, the driver will get used to it though. All power windows get one touch up / down.

Jump to the 2nd row, and you will be greeted with the familiar captain seat layout of the older Innova. This time with a better look and feel though. Both seats are nicely spaced out with no chances of either passengers elbowing each other. The seat offers decent all-round support to the occupants. The can be adjusted front & back, as well as recline to suit individual needs. The sore point continues though, that the 2nd row can’t recline when the 3rd row is folded. Both occupants also get a armrest. The seats are a mix of tan & black, which will be very well appreciated by owners. The tan section is on the main seating area while at the back you have black. This will make it easier to clean and maintain the interiors. Behind the front passenger seats, you have trays on which you can park your beverage or have your meals. This could also be used to place your laptop while working on the go. Toyota is offering a lot of cup holders, and there’s another small folding one placed on the side of the LHS 2nd row seat. Floor is reasonably flat, which will make passenger movement at the back easy. Also, if you’re sitting on the LHS of the 2nd row and want extra legroom, you can easily push forward the front passenger seat via a lever on top of the front seat.

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Coming to the highlight, the rear AC unit. Toyota is now offering an automatic climate control even for the rear passengers. This can have independent temperature setting and is very easy to operate. The full unit is nicely integrated with a curved roof design with wooden insert and ambient lights giving a very cool & relaxed feeling at night. AC vents are similar to the old Innova, and we’re not complaining as there is nothing wrong with it.

Now, if you have to jump to the 3rd row, you can fold the 2nd row seats with the independent folding levers on the side. The 2nd row seat folds & tumbles to allow access to the 3rd row. Kids or the petite adults can walk through between the 2nd row even without folding. 3rd row seats are supposed to seat 3, although we would recommend only 2 to be seated here comfortably. As is the case with almost all 3rd row seats across multiple products, things here are less than ideal and best for short trips (a bit longer in the Innova though). Adults, especially the taller ones will find their knees ponting towards the roof due to less legroom. There’s ample storage space around the 3rd row seat to park your bottles, phones, or even charge your smartphones. 3rd row also gets its own cabin lamp, assist grip, 3 independently adjustable neck restraints & seat belts.

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With all seats up, the Innova has space enough to occupy 3-4 medium sized bags. And if you want more space, you can always tumble & fold the 2nd & 3rd row seats. Just in case you’ve lost count of how many bottle holders are available, there are 20. Plenty?

Engine, performance and handling:
The old Innova was powered by a 2.5L diesel engine which was not only noise, but was also a bit underpowered for the purpose it was built. With just 101 horses on tap, and with 7/8 passengers on board, the Innova was not a very fast mile muncher. Now, the Innova Crysta brings good news even under the hood. The new model brings 2 new diesel engines from Toyota’s GD series of oil burners.

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Powering the new Innova Crysta will be a 2.4L, turbocharged, GD series diesel engine producing 148 BHP of power @ 3,400 RPM and 343 NM of torque @ 1,400-2,800 RPM. The bigger 2.8L, 4-cylinder, turbocharged diesel motor produces 172 BHP of power @ 3,400 RPM and 360 NM of torque @ 1,200-3,400 RPM. Power will be delivered via a 5-speed manual gearbox for the 2.4L motor and a 6-speed AT for the 2.8L motor.

The cattle class 2.4L motor is which will be put to use the most, as it is available with the affordable trim levels. Compared to the older model, you now have more power & more torque on offer. Similar to the older unit though, this motor is also a little unrefined. Yes, it is better, but not completely refined like oil burners from other brands. NVH isn’t great and the engine is audible even on idle. Slot it in first, and the new motor helps this big car crawl easily. The first gear is very short, and the engine noise gets to the cabin very quickly suggesting an upshift ASAP. The 2nd gear is very tractable and allows you to start off even from a standstill. It is best to keep the revvs well under the redline and cruise comfortable rather than pushing hard to churn out more from each gear. Drive around 2,500 – 3,000 RPM mark and the engine settles down to a decent hum. With more power on tap, you can note the nose jumping up on sharp throttle inputs. In city acceleration is now clearly better than before. Out on the highway, the new 2.4L motor makes the Innova a full 4.4 seconds faster than the older model in a 0-100 kmph stint which is completed in 13.1 seconds now. When overtaking on the highway, you can maintain the current gear and just push the pedal for swift progress. The taller 5th gear also helps in cruising during long drives. A 6th gear for overdrive would have been ideal though. For those who want more economy, they can shift to the ‘Eco’ mode while those looking for punchy performance can switch to ‘Power’ mode. You can easily make out the change in engine maps on both these settings. With inputs on the pedal, the Eco mode makes sure that you get more miles for every drop of fuel while power mode tries to gallop as fast as possible. For your daily grind, staying in Eco mode is what we would suggest and also what most fleet owners would prefer.

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The bigger 2.7L, 4-cylinder, turbocharged diesel engine takes the game even further. Where other (smaller) MPVs do not have an engine beyond 1.5L, this motor for the Innova could become the biggest a competitor could ever think of introducing. Also, with the diesel engine ban making future of oil burners uncertain, it is commendable that Toyota went out and offered this engine to Indian customers who want more power while driving a people mover. With 174 BHP of tap, this engine can sprint along with other popular SUVs in the market. Performing a 0-100 kmph stint in 11.5 seconds, the new Innova is not at all slow by segment standards and considering that it weighs 1.9 tonnes. This engine is a little louder than the 2.4L motor. This motor also gets Eco & Power driving modes. While we appreciated the added power on the smaller engine, this bigger motor seems a bit too much for the segment. How many times would you want to push an MPV with 7 on board?

The Innova Crysta offers fuel economy of 14.29 Km/l for the 2.8L 6-speed automatic transmission variant and 15.10 Km/l for the 2.4L 5-speed manual transmission variant (as per ARAI certification).

The 5-speed manual gearbox offers decent driveability with the 2.4L motor. Gear stalk is sized smaller than before, but still rattles on start-up and when on the go. Gear gates although well defined than before, slotting feels a bit rubbery. Mechanical shift quality though is very good and the clutch is very light compared to the old Innova. The 2.8L motor comes paired only to a 6-speed automatic gearbox with an H-matic layout. The automatic slush box is smooth, but not quick as you would expect. There is a fair bit of lag between gear changes. For times when you want to have fun, you can switch to the manual tiptronic mode. 6th gear offers very good performance on the highway, with a quieter cabin.

 

The new Innova Crysta comes built on a new frame, which is basically a modified version of the current one. However, this frame is heavier than before. Toyota hasn’t played too much with the driving dynamics department and has kept the Innova’s strength intact – of keep a very comfortable ride quality. The new Innova has a very absorbent ride quality and soaks up bumps & potholes with ease. You do hear thuds inside the cabin, but it isn’t uncomfortable at all. But this has more to do with the large 17″ wheels. Within the city, the suspension setup will keep occupants in all rows happy. There’s barely any surprise thrown. Even on the highway, the Innova rides rather flat allowing passengers to relax in the spacious cabin. Now, on high speeds, the Innova maintains its line and undulations does not result in too much vertical movement. This is something customers will appreciate for a product of this size. The Innova is not a very dynamic MPV to drive around, and there is noticeable body roll. On winding roads, it is best to drive in a sedate manner. The steering wheel is a hydraulic unit, and needs some effort to turn around. Larger in dimensions, the Innova also finds it difficult to make U-turns which are unplanned. The steering though weighs up well on high speed, unlike EPS units. Braking performance is adequate.

While the old Innova brought only ABS & airbags on offer, the new Innova Crysta brings a lot of safety features. Equipment includes dual front airbag and ABS as standard. On higher trims, you have 7-airbags with a driver-side knee airbag on the ZX trim. You also have Vehicle Stability Control, Hill-Start Assist Control, 3-point seatbelt, Keyless entry with start-stop button. This makes it the safest MPV on sale in India.

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So should you buy the new Innova Crysta? YES! If you want a car to ferry your family in the most comfortable fashion, there is nothing better than the Innova. If you want to own a car which will provide hassle free ownership for over a decade, again, the Innova stands up to this claim. And if you’re looking for a car which will offer the best resale even after using it for over 1 lakh km, it is the Innova which rules the charts. So overall, there is nothing that beats this favourite MPV in India. Yes, it is now more expensive; but is powerful and luxurious as well. We have to say this, that there is no automotive investment under Rs. 30 lakh better and safer than the Innova Crysta.

 

Click here to check out the Toyota Innova Crysta photo gallery

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Parichay Malvankar

Parichay Malvankar

Founder, owner and editor-in-chief of www.shifting-gears.com; a born gearhead, nothing apart from a set of wheels gets his pulse racing.