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Toyota Zenix Q HEV: Revolutionary good

The latest iteration of the king of MPVs is a bold step in the right direction

This isn't your usual Innova. PHOTO BY RED SANTIAGO

If you are old enough to remember, back when Toyota Motor Philippines launched the Innova in 2005, its promotional materials, ads, and brochures used the tagline “A beautiful revolution.” The word “revolution” was a nod to the model it replaced, the Revo.

And it wasn’t merely a marketing spin. It was indeed revolutionary. It had modern powertrains, several items never before seen in the segment, and modern safety features.

The first-gen Innova was revolutionary in every way. IMAGE FROM CAR BROCHURE COLLECTION PH

It went against the SUV-ish styling of AUVs then (remember the Mitsubishi Adventure Super Sport and the Isuzu’s Crosswind XUV?). The exterior had a softer, blown-up hatchback-like design. The interior came with plush amenities.

The first-gen Innova was packaged so well that buyers came in droves, ignoring the fact that the vehicle seated three fewer people and had more electronics that could go wrong. It was a resounding success. It was indeed a beautiful revolution for ASEAN MPVs.

The Zenix rides on Toyota’s latest TNGA platform. PHOTOS BY RED SANTIAGO

The second iteration improved on almost every aspect of the first one. It got even better engines, more creature comforts, and dramatically improved safety. And while it sold well, it was an evolution of the first IMV platform. It was good, but it wasn’t as revolutionary as the one before it.

We were expecting the new one to come in 2025 (following the first-gen’s life cycle), but Toyota pulled a surprise and unveiled the all-new Innova Zenix. After a few months of waiting, TMP finally launched the vehicle in the country. Now, we finally get to sit behind the wheel and test this latest MPV.

The Zenix still comes with an Innova badge. PHOTOS BY RED SANTIAGO

And so we drove the Zenix Q HEV—the range-topping variant—around for a week to see if it could still endear itself to the customers it catered to.

Outside, it was a complete overhaul. Sure, you’d still find some elements of the old one. But it was modernized and now looks like a crossover. After all, the Zenix is based on the Corolla Cross.

The interior is modern yet very familiar. PHOTOS BY RED SANTIAGO

I know beauty is subjective, but I love this vehicle’s looks. Well, save for the front end. It lacks the aggressiveness of other Toyota’s offerings, like the Yaris Cross. But it makes sense that Innovas are meant to blend in and not stand out (though it regularly photobombs exotic cars during sightings).

The interior is familiar yet entirely new. But I don’t dig the hard gray plastics and the brown leatherette trim. I would prefer it to look similar to the monochromatic interior of the Indonesian-spec model. I completely understand that some Pinoys might like it.

There are acres of space thanks to the new unibody construction. PHOTOS BY RED SANTIAGO

While all-new, you’ll see familiar elements like the instrument cluster shared with the Corolla and the Corolla Cross. Since it is not a global model, it’s understandable that Toyota used some items from its parts bin to keep costs down.

But do not get me wrong. It is eons better than the current model. Despite the modest styling, people can’t help but do a double take when they see it. Some curious guys went around it and peeked at the tintless windows, checking out the interior.

The improvements take riding comfort to a whole new level. PHOTOS BY RED SANTIAGO

Despite having captain seats in the second row, it still seats seven people. I just wish that TMP offered one with a second-row bench. After all, Pinoys want to carry as many members of their family or friends during road trips.

But to be fair, these come with ottomans. Adjustments, even reclining, are done electronically. This makes for a very comfortable seat, making it the best one in the vehicle. The Zenix is marketed as a more upscale MPV after all, so it kind of makes sense.

Finally, the third-row seats now fold flat to the floor. PHOTOS BY RED SANTIAGO

The third row is now roomier. Just make the right adjustments and adults can sit there comfortably. Ingress and egress are easier, too, thanks to the aisle between the second-row seats. Because of the new chassis, these seats now fold flat to the floor, making the rear cargo area bigger than ever.

Though the badge at the back is still there, it’s far from the Innova we’ve known and loved. It now moves away from the ladder-frame chassis of the IMV platform to a unibody construction. This means that the Zenix is now front-wheel-drive—like most modern MPVs today.

The huge rims and the low-profile tires improve handling, with a little compromise to ride comfort. PHOTO BY RED SANTIAGO

But the most impressive bit has to be the electrified power unit. It is the first-ever ASEAN MPV with a full-hybrid powertrain.

This is huge since most “hybrid” MPVs are just mild hybrids. Underneath the hood is a 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle four-banger. Coming from the Dynamic Force family of engines, this works with a permanent magnet synchronous motor and a continuously variable transmission.

Total system output is rated at 183hp and 188Nm, closely matching those on the Geely Okavango. It won’t push you down your seats when you floor it, but it is far from being a slouch.

It may be tuned for smoothness. But put the drive mode into Sport and stab the accelerator, and you’ll be surprised with how quick it can be.

There’s a lot of power available, delivered smoothly and efficiently. PHOTOS BY RED SANTIAGO

You can do that and still get amazing fuel economy. During my time with the Zenix, I drove it to as far as Lumban, Laguna, passing by the notorious provincial road along the super-traffic Los Baños area.

In mixed conditions, the trip computer read 20.2km/L without even trying to be extra frugal. Believe it or not, I fell asleep in the car with the AC running for five hours. There were also times when I left it idling for more than two hours while shooting the car.

Drive like a civilized man and you’ll be rewarded with even better fuel efficiency.

The ability to turn the engine off during stops helps keep the Zenix's fuel consumption down. PHOTOS BY RED SANTIAGO

It is also the safest Innova yet, as it now comes with Toyota Safety Sense. Think of any advanced driver aids and safety features, and chances are that the Zenix has it. This makes it easier, more comfortable, and safer to drive.

With just two variants to choose from, I still believe that there’s room for more. In Indonesia, where we source our units, there are three electrified and two gasoline models—something I wish was also done here.

We’ve also lost some desirable features like a panoramic sunroof and a better infotainment system.

The Toyota Safety Sense helps make your trips safer. PHOTO BY RED SANTIAGO

At P1,968,000, this Q HEV model is the most expensive Innova yet. This might scare away customers on a budget who want to jump on the electrified bandwagon. It’s one missed opportunity to sell more of these, I think.

Still, you won’t find a similarly equipped but more affordable seven-seat hybrid model within that price range. Unless, of course, you’d consider some of the Chinese offerings. But those don’t have the reputation and the reliability that the Zenix has.

The future looks bright for the Innova nameplate. PHOTOS BY RED SANTIAGO

As an owner of the first-gen Innova, I am amazed at how much better it has become. I also can’t help but be excited about its future. The Zenix is a groundbreaking offering that puts Toyota a few steps ahead of the competition.

And with the second-generation model still in the showroom, we can expect that (and the Zenix) to continue dominating the local MPV scene.


Engine2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline with electric motor
Power183hp (combined)
Torque188Nm @ 4,400-5,200rpm (combined)
Dimensions4,755mm x 1,850mm x 1,790mm
Drive layoutFWD
UpsideGood looks, long list of standard equipment, great power delivery, and amazing fuel economy.
DownsideSome nice features and variants in other markets aren’t offered locally.

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.