Even though large MPVs seem to have lost some steam to the large SUV trend we think that the Toyota Previa still has a lot to offer
The headlines, today: SUV, SUVs, SUV-ed, the SUV. Or at least it seems that way – but under the surface, multi-purpose vehicles (MPVs) still pack the ultimate in usefulness for Singaporean families, and the Toyota Previa proves that.
Large MPVs are polarising cars. Some call them the end of driving enjoyment. Some call them uselessly unfashionable. And some call them boring appliance cars of domesticated family men and women, with the aim of never ever wanting to own one in a lifetime.
On the flip side though, there are people who swear by their awesome load and people-carrying capacity, in varying degrees of comfort depending on the vehicle’s size. So, don’t knock one until you’ve driven one. The proof? Last year, MPVs were still more popular than SUVs in Singapore.
The Previa has been sold in many forms over the past few years, and is sometimes found badged as the Estima. Australian versions carry the Tarago badge.
It also featured a wide array of trim and specification levels, but as of now Singapore’s Toyota dealer Borneo Motors sells only one variant, fully decked out to include two individual reclining seats in the middle row and a power operated third row.
This isn’t actually a new car – it’s the update of the current third-gen which actually debuted first in 2006 and was last facelifted in a couple of years ago
That’s getting on in car years, but does the Previa look or feel aged?
Ironically, it’s one of the sleeker looking, seven-seater large MPVs you can buy now, though there’s no hiding its big, minibus-like profile.
Automatic sliding doors for the rear compartment and rear luggage area make for easy access into the car, where a very tidy layout makes for an impressive amount of interior space.
The unique thing about the Singaporean version of the Previa is that the second row features two individual seats, complete with foldable armrests, full reclining backrest, and foldable ottoman leg rests.
The second row seats are also slidable in four directions, including sideways. In fact, there’s enough room in the car that you can move the seats out towards the sides of the cabin and an adult can comfortably walk into the third row between the seats.
The third row, which is usually a cramped affair in smaller MPVs, is incredibly spacious with room for three adults. Legroom here depends entirely on how far forward the second row seats are, and there’s plenty of that in the car to share.
The Previa also does away with a major annoyance: the manual folding and deployment of the third row seats. Here, they are fully motorised and deploy by pressing a button in the boot. They’re also split 60:40, so there’s room for a lot of luggage too if the car is not packed to maximum occupancy.
When stowed, the third row folds completely flat into the floor, giving the Previa a van-like cargo cabin. Air-conditioning controls are accessible from the second row, as is the powered moonroof. What’s also useful is that there are cabin lights all along the length of the interior, and at night gives the car a warm, inviting look when stepping in.
The car is powered by a 2.4-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine. It’s pretty conservative by today’s standards, but it’s quiet and connected to the front wheels via a well-judged continuously variable transmission. The lack of individual gears actually works in the car’s favour, bestowing it a silky smooth ride quality.
Nobody buys a Previa and expects a sporty drive, and from the driver’s point of view it’s really a passenger’s car rather than a driver’s one. It’s got great all-round visibility thanks to the large windows, and is generally smooth and easy to drive despite its immense size.
You also get Bluetooth connectivity and GPS, though the screen is a little on the small side considering the size of the dashboard. What’s lacking though, are USB charging ports and that’s more down to the overall age of the platform than any lack of planning on Toyota’s part.
On the whole though, it’s a very comfortable car and impressively quiet on the road. Driving it is not all that exciting, but the passengers will have absolutely nothing to complain about.
Owning a car of this size does come with some other considerations, such as your vehicle cleaning schedule will never be the same again. There’s so much floor space in the Previa that without regular cleaning it has the potential to become a very mucky car – so best get a on-board dust-buster or a Dyson.
Higher up the Toyota lineup, you can get a Vellfire ($218,888 with COE) or Alphard ($236,888 with COE). They pretty much look like boxes on wheels, but feature even more luxury features in the cabin and even more space.
On the continental side of the auto divide, the Previa’s biggest competitor is the Volkswagen Sharan. It’s cheaper, has a more powerful engine, but a smaller interior.
There are German seven-seat luxo-SUVs, but they cost a whole lot more – one alternative is Mazda’s luxurious seven-seat SUV, the CX-9, which can actually fit seven people.
There may be nothing more that screams ‘family man’ or ‘soccer mum’ than driving a large MPV, but then there are some people among us that actually take pride in being soccer mums and family men. And the Previa’s quiet, continued success is a great reflection of that.
|Engine||2,362cc, inline 4|
|Power||169hp at 6,000rpm|
|Torque||224Nm at 4,000rpm|
|VES Band / CO2||C2 / 207g/km|
|Price||S$180,888 with COE|
|Verdict||Spacious and very passenger-friendly, if you can overlook the high price and slightly dated electronics|