Cars > Driven

Toyota Innova V: Still the king of MPVs

Reigning in its segment since 2005

Launched almost 17 years ago and still the most popular in its segment. PHOTO BY RED SANTIAGO

Wherever you go and look, you would definitely see a Toyota Innova on the road. And it is easy to understand why. It has a bulletproof engine with legendary reliability, is loaded with features, and can seat seven people comfortably. These very same qualities made it my own vehicle of choice. In fact, the first-generation model I am still driving now has done more than a 100,000km in the seven years it has been with me. Since then though, many other automakers have come up with a vehicle to try to rival it, trying to get a piece of the huge MPV sales pie. With more competitors now available in the market, is the Innova still king of MPVs? I got my hands on a second-generation version to find out.

Front, back and side, the Innova has a shape that people can easily spot from a mile away. PHOTO BY RED SANTIAGO

The latest Innova has certainly grown up and become better in every conceivable way compared to the older one that I own. Outside, styling is modern, yet not offensive. The edgy design is now improved with the use of a redesigned grille. The latest, face-lifted version still looks a lot like the ones released in 2016, however. The sameness can also be observed inside. Aside from the new Apple CarPlay and Android Auto infotainment system, nothing much has changed in the interior.

Nothing new in this cabin, and that may be a good thing. PHOTO BY RED SANTIAGO

Some may see these minute changes as bad, but it also means familiarity and ease of use, especially for those who have been Innova owners for a while. Even in its top trim, there aren’t really a lot of electronic toys to play with, which some may find boring. But this also means that it will stand the test of time, and have lesser things going wrong with it while it is being used.

Speaking of similarities, the 2.8-liter diesel engine stays here. Paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, the powertrain produces 170hp and 360Nm—one of the highest power and torque figures in the sea of MPVs available today. Frugal and responsive, the 1GD engine just delivers. With three available driving modes, the engine is smooth, yet has generous reserves of power and twist on tap.

The author's mom would have wanted the second-row bench, but this is the top-of-the-line trim. So it has captain seats. PHOTO BY RED SANTIAGO

Driving it loaded with adults and kids is effortless. Power is available across a wide rev range. And it happily idles at around 1,500rpm while doing 100km/h on the highway. The ride quality is very good as it irons out most imperfections, yet allows you to still feel the road under you. Noise, vibrations and harshness levels are at a minimum, too. Which had my occupants snoozing on our way to our destination. My mom found the captain chairs comfortable (though she still would have preferred the second-row bench that lower variants have).

But as good as this Innova is, it does come at a price. And at P1,754,000, this variant is not at all affordable. In fact, it is the most expensive MPV in the market today, which shares almost the same price point as the more preferred entry to mid-variant pickup-based SUVs. It is not the most-equipped MPV either, as there are far too many features available in other options that do not cost as much.

This 2.8-liter diesel engine is just reliable. PHOTO BY RED SANTIAGO

The Innova V may have a higher ground clearance, tougher underpinnings, a frugal engine, and that well-known Toyota reliability, but its P150,000 premium over the similarly equipped G variant makes the range-topper a tough sell. But for reasons I cannot fathom, it just makes sense to me. Perhaps it is the fact that I own one that comes into play. Also, perhaps, what make it click are the value and the practicality that it offers. Or maybe it is knowing that you are riding the top dog, which also happens to be the safest variant, thanks to more airbags for protection.

The Innova is not perfect, and the high sticker price of the top-of-the-line variant may not make sense to some. But truth be told, there is just no other MPV that offers the same level of practicality, dependability, and peace of mind that the Innova gives. It may be hard to explain or rationalize, but with this vehicle, even with its most expensive variant, everything just feels good and right. And I guess that is what really matters. And for those reasons alone, there is no other MPV that offers far better value than this acclaimed vehicle.


Engine2.8-liter four-cylinder, turbo diesel
Transmission6-speed automatic
Power170hp @ 3,400rpm
Torque360Nm @ 1,200-3,400rpm
Dimensions4,735mm x 1,830mm x 1,795mm
Drive layoutRWD
UpsideIt’s reliable, comfortable, and decently equipped.
DownsideCould use more features to justify the P147,000 premium over the G variant.

Red Santiago

A jack of all trades, Red is passionate about cars, motorcycles and audio. He sometimes drives for a ride-hailing app company—just because he really loves driving.