| Toyota Innova
According to the marketing and advertising people at Toyota, the new Innova is many things ' a first-of-its-kind car with pulse-racing power, loads of space and heaps of style. Look at it and what one sees is an MPV (multi-purpose vehicle). And that's a first for India.
The Innova is born out of Toyota's IMV (Innovative Multi-Purpose Vehicle) project, which though Thailand-based, is actually for a global market. In fact, the name itself comes from Thailand ' there it's the Kijang Innova.
For those wondering, the Innova has replaced the Qualis, and is a darn sight better looking. It's biggest competition will be the Chevrolet Tavera (Isuzu Panther) amongst others. The Qualis was an ugly duckling but it did the job. So did the Tavera but it was so much better looking in comparison. Now the tables seemed to have turned...or have they'
Let's take a look at the two vehicles. There's no doubt the Innova is certainly more stylish than the Tavera. The former is 4,555mm x 1,770mm x 1,755mm while the Tavera is 4,435mm x 1,680mm x 1,765mm.
So, the Innova is longer, wider and lower than the Tavera, which has a more upright stance. The Tavera's front end is minus any fuss while the Innova's front end is in-your-face, dominated by the headlight enclosures and the large grille. The profile of the Innova is similar to any other MPV ' the Renault Espace and the Chrysler Voyager spring to mind. The A, B and C-pillars are slim and painted black while the D pillar is quite broad. The Tavera's pillars are body-coloured. The rear end has a hatch that goes down into the bumper. The overall look is completed by the overhangs, short at front but long at the rear. The Tavera has a tailgate that swings open sideways.
The Tavera is available with only one engine option ' the 4JA-1L direct injection, turbo-charged, diesel unit with a 2,499cc capacity. This 8-valve engine develops about 80bhp of power at 3,900rpm and 19 kgm of torque at a low 1,800rpm which makes for good lugging capabilities, especially when loaded.
The Innova comes with two hi-tech engine options. The petrol is a 16-valve DOHC 1998cc VVT-i unit (Variable Valve Timing-Intelligence) that develops about 135bhp at 5,600rpm and 18.6kg-m of torque while the diesel is a 2,494cc 16-valve DOHC unit with common rail injection and develops 102bhp of power, 3,600rpm and 20.4kg-m of torque at 1,400 rpm.
The Tavera gets its power down to the wheels via a manual 5-speed gearbox as does the Innova although there is an electronically-controlled automatic option available internationally.
The Innova has independent suspension at front with double wishbones and an anti-roll bar (stabiliser) as well as a 4-link, coil-sprung rear suspension with a lateral rod. The Tavera keeps its wheels planted firmly on the road in a simpler manner ' double wishbones with independent torsion bar at the front but semi-elliptical leaf springs at the rear.
The interiors of the Innova are striking, with the fascia playing an important part in raising buyer expectations. The central console is part of the fascia and includes the music system and air-conditioner controls. The 8-seater version is ideal for carrying luggage as the two seats fold away. In the Tavera, though, you can take the last row of seats out, thus leaving a space for carrying things. The fascia looks slightly dated, though it is still functional and the air-conditioning is quite effective thanks to the third row of vents.
Eventually, it comes down to price. The basic Tavera is about Rs 5,67,084 while the Innova diesel costs Rs 7,42,000. Both are ex-showroom prices. The top-of-the-line models cost Rs 10,03,000 (ABS brakes and airbags included) for the Innova in V spec and Rs 8,70,520 for the Tavera SS-D1 eight-seater model.
The launch of a new body style begs the question ' is Toyota getting out of the MUV segment with the new, more expensive and very stylish Innova' The other question that comes to mind is regarding safety. An MPV is not a saloon car and anybody trying to treat it like that could well come to grief. Maruti Gypsy drivers learnt that the hard way. Yes, Toyota has done a lot in terms of both active and passive safety but one wonders what might happen to Innovas in the hands of reckless call-centre drivers.
Photograph of Chevrolet Tavera by Rashbehari Das
Courtesy India Automobiles Ltd., 12 Government Place East
I am passionate about old Hindi songs and therefore I hear a lot of this genre of music whenever I am travelling in my car. I enjoy driving, especially at night, when I simply turn on the FM radio in my car and soak in the music on air. One of my favourite FM stations is 93.5 as they play some amazing old songs from 9 pm onwards. And since I am a die-hard fan of Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Kishore Kumar, Mohammad Rafi and Hemant Kumar, I love listening to their songs from the golden era of the 1940s to the 1980s.
My friends often complain that I don't keep CDs beyond the regular Hindi ones. But I always tell them that if you love melody, then this is by far the best way to kick back and enjoy. However, there is one place where I do draw the line. I don't usually like to keep CDs of the latest Hindi songs because barring a few exceptions, I feel that they are, by far, too loud for my tastes.