The refreshed Toyota Innova is sheer consistency personified

The trusted MPV is still here, and it won’t be going away anytime soon
by Leandre Grecia | Feb 20, 2021

“It’s the true epitome of the consistency that defines the Toyota badge”

If you were to ask me what I think the most important Toyota of this generation is, I’d tell you it’s the Innova. Not the Fortuner, not the Hilux. Not even the king of subcompact sedans itself and one of Toyota Motor Philippines’ (TMP) biggest sales drivers, the Vios. It would have to be the Innova.

The Innova, of course, is part of Toyota’s IMV triumvirate, arriving in 2005 one year after its Hilux contemporary. Once the Fortuner landed, the three vehicles went on to help TMP establish an insurmountable stronghold in the local market.

It was also the Innova that signaled TMP’s transition from the Asian utility vehicle era. In a way, it was—for lack of a better term—the nail in the coffin for AUVs past. Frankly, however, Toyota couldn’t have bid goodbye to the Revo and the Tamaraw FX any better than with the introduction of a worthy successor like this one.

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But more than anything else, the Innova’s importance in TMP’s lineup lies in its consistency. It’s the true epitome of the consistency that has defined the Toyota badge over the decades.

Consistency. PHOTO: Charles Banaag

The first-generation Innova was built on a very simple formula that enabled it to become one of the top-selling Toyotas throughout its existence. It had above-average looks, a roomy cabin, and a more-than-capable diesel engine. Nothing too spectacular, but with just the right amount of everything you need. It was a ‘multipurpose’ vehicle in every sense of the word.

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Enter the second-generation model, and we still got the same no-frills people hauler, made better. Toyota turned the Innova into a more stylish MPV, boasting a more macho exterior paired with a more refined interior than before. It also went ahead and gave the follow-up model an even more potent engine, replacing the trusted 2.5-liter 2KD-FTV diesel mill with a punchier 2.8-liter 1GD-FTV turbodiesel. It was a total upgrade, but at the same time, it was also built with the exact same formula as its predecessor.

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The facelifted version of this current Innova generation, however, didn’t seem as significant to me at first. We were invited to a preview of the new-look Innova just a few days before the launch, and I wasn’t too stoked with it when I first saw it in the metal.

Blink, and you’ll miss the changes. PHOTO: Charles Banaag

This Innova gets the bare minimum of changes. Relative to the facelifts that the Hilux and the Fortuner have gotten, the Innova receives the subtlest one. There’s a slightly sportier grille up front thanks to the addition of some black plastic trim, but that’s about it for its face.

Out back, the only new addition is the gloss-black finish on the tailgate that’s exclusive to the range-topping variant. It adds some contrast to the rear, but it’s not exactly a necessary tweak. There are new two-tone alloy wheels, but for some reason, they’re only available on the G and E spec, not on the top-of-the-line V.

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The MPV doesn’t get any mechanical upgrades, either. The previous 2.8-liter turbodiesel has been retained—the one that generates 171hp and 360Nm of torque when mated to a six-speed automatic, or 167hp and 343Nm when paired with a five-speed manual. Sad to say, the new 2.8-liter turbodiesel that churns out 201hp and 500Nm isn’t available here, folks.

No complaints about this interior. PHOTO: Charles Banaag

Inside, it’s the same story, too. Still no leather seats even on the top-spec variant, and no addition of any soft-touch materials around the interior whatsoever. For the most part, the cabin has been left untouched. If you’ve sat inside the current-gen Innova before, then you’ll get basically the same experience here.

There is a new Apple CarPlay/Android Auto-compatible head unit on all except the base variant, and it’s something I like in particular. Sadly, the Toyota Safety Sense package isn’t available here just yet. 

The grille just gives the MPV a sportier look. PHOTO: Charles Banaag

Now, after laying all these down, you might find the refresh to be a bit...underwhelming. To be fair, my first impressions were the same, too. But as I pondered on the car longer, I was eventually able to put things into perspective.

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“Does the Innova really need a new engine?” No. Its mill has more oomph than the average driver can handle. “Is the design going out of style?” Not really. In my opinion, it’s actually aging quite well. “But what about the interior—doesn’t it feel a bit dated at this point?” It does lack a few premium touches when you compare it with what’s currently available on the market, but the cabin doesn’t necessarily look old-fashioned.

After asking myself these questions, I came to the realization that there’s really nothing to whine about in the new Innova. If anything, the amount of changes in this one—or a lack thereof—is actually a testament to the vehicle’s sheer consistency.

Toyota has built such a capable MPV in the Innova that six years into this current-gen model’s lifespan, it barely needs any updates. And that speaks volumes, especially considering how stacked the market has become due to the influx of all bang-for-the-buck seven-seaters, not to mention the aggressive Chinese newcomers.

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We wish those wheels came standard across the range. PHOTO: Charles Banaag

As a matter of fact, I even see this refresh as Toyota’s not-so-gentle reminder to the industry that the Innova is still here and that it’s here to stay.

The Innova doesn’t care if its sticker price keeps getting bigger—the price of this refreshed model now ranges from P1.186 million to P1.739 million, excluding the additional cost of spec’ing the White Pearl exterior. It doesn’t care if even a dozen more budget crossovers land on our shores. 

Never mind getting new toys or updated engines or what have you. What’s important is that the Innova stays true to its roots and remains the reliable MPV that Filipinos have grown to love. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” right? As cliche as it sounds, if that adage is what enables the Innova to continue to sell in droves more than a decade and a half down the line, then, by all means, TMP—stick to that one.

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PHOTO: Charles Banaag
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