Car Reviews

Review: 2021 Toyota Innova 2.8 V Diesel AT

Does the MPV king still reign uncontested?
PHOTO: Jason Tulio

Anong kalaban ng Innova?”

Someone asked me this question recently, just before I picked up the test unit you’re seeing in these photos. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard it, but even now, I still struggle to come up with an answer. Think about it: What other brand has an MPV that can go toe to toe with Toyota’s in terms of size, engine, and price? Truly, the Innova is a king wearing an uncontested crown.

In early 2021, Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) unveiled the facelifted version of the second-gen Innova. Yes, second. Just like the Fortuner, the Innova feels like it’s been around for a lifetime despite just being two generations into its lifespan. So, does the king continue to impress after all these years?


Pictured here is the top-of-the-line diesel V automatic variant in Blackish Red Metallic. The color is a darkened mix between mauve and maroon. While I normally prefer ordinary colors on cars, I quite like this shade because it’s not something you see often on the road. At the same time, it’s not an obnoxiously loud color, so you can still appreciate it years into your ownership experience.


The chief updates to the refreshed Innova include the blacked-out grille, a new front bumper, and those spoked alloy wheels. Fairly minor, but they do give the MPV enough athleticism that you forget its people-mover leanings every now and then. 


There are few things worth noting once you step inside the new Innova. The first is the dashboard: You get a no-nonsense, streamlined layout that looks neither too busy nor minimalist. In the middle, you get a seven-inch touchscreen display equipped with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, complemented by some simple knobs and buttons for the A/C underneath. On the driver’s side, there are basic steering-wheel controls and an analog instrument panel that looks just a bit too sporty to be inside an MPV. Faux-wood accents adorn the leather-lined tiller and dash, too. The whole thing is not too flashy, but not too subtle, either. It’s just right.

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The other noteworthy thing is the seats. The ones here come in ‘Noble Brown’ fabric and are arranged in a 2+2+3 layout. In the middle, the passengers get captain’s chairs with armrests and their own A/C controls. Cool. The rearmost seats are technically for three people, but they’d be a tight fit at best.

Engine performance


As weird as it sounds to say about a seven-seater MPV, the engine is perhaps the most fun aspect of the new Innova. For this update, TMP has streamlined its lineup and offers just one engine across the range: a 2.8-liter turbodiesel capable of 172hp and 360Nm of torque. That last figure is the one that makes the Innova such a fun car to drive. Tap the pedal and you spring forward with surprising vigor—and this continues as you move through rev range. Regardless of your current speed, it seems like the Innova can accelerate even quicker when you ask it to. While the move to electric-powered cars is the best thing for the planet, I’m surely going to miss turbodiesel engines like this one day.

For comparison, the Fortuner’s 2.8-liter oil-burner is more capable on paper with 201hp and 500Nm on tap. Still, I never once found myself wanting more out of the Innova’s powertrain.

Ride and handling

Complementing the new Innova’s fun engine are its capable handling, noticeable ride comfort, and agreeable NVH levels. As expected, power here is delivered to the rear wheels. While taking turns can be cumbersome at times due to the vehicle’s length, the nose stays pointed in the direction you aim it at. The steering has a healthy weight to it, too, which helps with the precision of your input.

On Metro Manila roads, the Innova’s suspension and damping perform well, keeping you mostly comfortable inside the cabin. And while you enjoy the A/C inside, you stay well-insulated from the noises happening outside.

Extra features

As mentioned, the rear passengers get their own A/C controls to play around with. Other amenities include food trays for those sitting in the captain’s chairs, push-button start, and a variant-exclusive automatic one-touch up-down functionality for the power windows. In terms of safety, the top-of-the-line Innova gets speed-sensing door locks, a reversing camera with sensors, and the full gamut of airbags.



So, is the Innova still the king of its own domain? The answer, naturally, is a resounding yes. But even without any direct competitors to oppose it, the Toyota remains a solid choice for families and for anyone who needs to move bodies in the city and on long road trips. Just don’t expect more than six of those people to be comfortable inside, despite what the brochure claims.

In fact, I’d put the Innova ahead of some midsize SUVs as a family car. Sure, it might not look as badass as those bruisers, but this MPV is just as fun to drive and just as enjoyable inside the cabin. 

SPECS: 2021 Toyota Innova 2.8 V Diesel AT

Price: P1,764,000
Engine: 2.8-liter turbodiesel I4
Power: 172hp @ 3,400rpm
Torque: 360Nm @ 1,300-3,400rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive layout: RWD
Seating: 7
Score: 20/20




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PHOTO: Jason Tulio
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