As it turns out, the Toyota Innova Crysta is exceptional at being a people carrier! But, this doesn't mean it's flawless as a product. Here's my experience of driving it to the hills.
The summer season seems to be getting hotter & hotter with every passing year! And, if you're someone like me who resides in the NCR, any respite from soaring temperatures at the beginning of the season can only come in one form – by getting away from the city! And that's exactly what I did a few days back. I decided to go off to the hills of Uttarakhand for some much-needed time off. But I didn't go solo. Thankfully, my stars aligned as a couple of my friends also managed to get free. Thus, a party of five was ready to run off to the breezy hills of Bhimtal (a town in Uttarakhand).
Need of the Hour
Most of you will agree that road tripping with friends is always a good idea. But with more people comes more luggage, and for this, you need a vehicle that's adept at the art of hauling a#s! To put it simply, I needed a Utility Vehicle (UV) that could easily seat five adult occupants in comfort and have enough space left over to fit a bag pack and small suitcase for each. Plus, it HAD to be a diesel car, for I was in no mood to blow an entire month's fuel budget on a single trip's petrol bills!
Now, this got me scratching my head. When I looked at the option of renting a car, I could already feel a pretty big hole burning in my pocket. So that wasn't to be. Then I remembered what I did for a living and, immediately, rang up Toyota! Why? Because I had my mind fully set on acquiring the Innova Crysta for this trip. I felt that a diesel Innova could potentially be the best weapon at my disposal, and boy was I right!
Proceed with Caution
However, I'll be honest. When I started off from my house and picked up my friends one after the other, I was sceptical if the car would be able to accommodate all the luggage. But the Innova simply swallowed up every last bit with ease, without compromising the passenger space. With all of us ensconced in the Innova's spacious seats, it was time to see how the car would perform in the 'hauling a#s' department.
The version Toyota sent me was the seven-seater diesel ZX automatic, although it was the pre-facelift BS6 version that we had tested earlier. Speaking of BS6, the Innova dropped its larger and more powerful 2.8-litre diesel mill in this conversion. So, the diesel variants are now available exclusively with the 148bhp/360Nm 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbo unit. And this was my second point of scepticism.
Time to Divulge
Even on smooth highways of the Delhi stretch of our journey, I could instantly sense the need for more power, especially when overtaking traffic. Thankfully though, the Innova Crysta offers dedicated Eco & Power modes, and the latter can be coupled with the gearbox's Sport mode to spruce up the performance a bit. And it worked. In Power mode, overtaking manoeuvres became considerably effortless (despite the car being pretty much packed to the brim) and the gearbox's Sport mode showed its efficacy on the hills when I required the car to hold its gears for longer to not lose out on the higher-end torque. I decided to stick to this configuration for the entire drive as I found it better suited to my driving style.
At this point, I'd like to point out that the lack of performance in normal mode wasn't the only niggle I discovered. In fact, there were quite a few. For example, while the ride was quite smooth and pliant for the front passengers, the same could not be said for the last-row passengers. As all my friends took turns sitting in the last row, they complained of a rather bouncy ride that became more troublesome on undulating surfaces. I guess the four-link setup at the rear could do with better pitch and bounce control.
Next, I found the Innova Crysta's steering to be exceptionally heavy. However, having experienced the same in a Fortuner, I'm thinking it's more of a Toyota SUV trait than a flaw. Plus, it could also be something specific to the car I had. Nonetheless, while the steering was not an issue on the highway, my arms and biceps were definitely in for a workout during city driving and three-point turns. Speaking of three-point turns, they could be done pretty much anywhere, thanks to the car's super small turning radius.
Another area where I felt the Innova Crysta could do with more refinement was its gear changes while being stationary – there's a nervous jerk every time you put the car in D (or S). And, lastly, the engine becomes quite shouty when the car is pushed in the Power + S mode configuration, so much so that it can wake up anyone snoozing inside the car!
At this point, you must be wondering if my senses were on leave when I wrote that the Innova could potentially be the best weapon at my disposal for this journey. You know what? I still stand by this statement. Much like us humans, no vehicle is perfect, and the Innova is far from it. But still, the car managed to get all of us to and from Bhimtal in plenty of comfort, thanks to its comfortable seating, potent air conditioning, an appreciable audio system, oodles of space and enough performance to cruise at triple-digit speeds without breaking a sweat! Frankly, I couldn't ask more of it.
So, by the time I was back home, I was pretty much in awe of the Innova Crysta (despite its flaws). I understood and appreciated the reasons behind its popularity. Plus, now that Toyota is rumoured to be readying the next-generation model of the Innova, I'm on the edge of my seat!