2013 Toyota Innova India first drive
What do you do when your car turns a decade old? If you are an enthusiast, you'd probably spit and polish it for the umpteenth time, probably carry out another set of performance upgrades, and maybe even get a set of new, shinier and larger alloy wheels. But, if you are married, you'd be sentimental about it by this time. You wouldn't want to sell it; after all, this is the car that carried the 'Just Married' board, and brought your bundles of joy from the hospital to home (so very clichéd, I know). But, because you have probably bought a more modern car, you still won't find the time or money to bring the old girl up to shape.
But, if it were a car manufacturer, in 10 years time, the model would probably have gone through a mid-life revision and even a generation change. Not so with the Toyota Innova, though. One of India's most successful people carriers will turn a decade old next year in India, and so far, even with three documented revisions, it isn't very different to the model that debuted in 2004. Yes, you don't fix something that isn't broke, but, you at least improve it to keep up with the times.
That hasn't happened with this Toyota either. So, in so many years it has gotten new lights and bumpers, a few new trim finishes on the inside, and a steering wheel borrowed from the Corolla. Mechanically, though, it is still the same. The same 2.5-litre diesel engine mated to a 5-speed manual powers the body-on-frame chassis, it still uses the same suspension, and, it still runs on the exact same tyre size. Clearly, nothing has changed when it comes to the driving experience.
Not that the customers were complaining too much, because the Innova just kept flying off the shelf. Not any more though. With the advent of competition (and of course our economic situation), the Innova isn't selling half as well. The rivals are cheaper and equally well-equipped; these are quicker and more efficient; and these are lighter, easier to drive, and in most cases, as well-built.
So, how has Toyota responded?
With a new Innova, of course! But, it still doesn't get a new engine. It still doesn't have an automatic variant. And, it still runs the same underpinnings. Mechanically then, it is still the very same. In fact, the changes on the new Innova are so little, we won't even term it as a full-fledged facelift.
To bring you up to speed, it gets a new grille, a tweaked front bumper with new fog lamp bezels, some stickering on the sides, and new chrome garnishing on the boot lid wraps up the exterior changes. Inside, there's dark wood-like finish on the doors and gear knob, silver and wood finish for the central console, two-tone seats, and that's it! O yes, there's also a new trim level -- the ZX -- which will sit above the current top of the line VX trim. These changes are, however, limited to the top three versions -- the ZX, the VX and the GX. The G and the E trim will continue to look like the current car.
So, what do we think about the new Innova? Well, if the older version was struggling because of stiffer competition, these changes don't change a thing. They simply don't improve the ownership experience in any way.
What will matter is 2015, because by then the new generation of the Innova will be ready for an India launch. We expect an improved drivetrain, a more premium interior and still better dynamics. There will be one catch to the new generation car -- if the current Innova already retails for almostRs 18 lakh on the road in Mumbai, how much steeper would the new version be?