Toyota Innova Hycross First Drive Review: Faster and more efficient but lacks one thing

The Toyota Innova was first launched in India in 2005 and since then Innova has built a strong name by proving its reliability and practicality. Over the years the Innova has dominated all its competition to maintain its title as the unchallenged king of the MPV segment, making it one of Toyota’s most successful passenger vehicles in India. Over the years, we have seen Innova in different forms and with different types of technologies over the years, but this time the new InnovaHycross it’s a completely different vehicle than the Innova Crysta.

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While the previous generation models were based on a ladder-frame chassis with rear-wheel drive and had petrol and diesel engines, the new Toyota Innova Hycross it is based on a monocoque chassis with front-wheel drive and, more importantly, does not have a diesel engine in the range as it uses a strong hybrid configuration.
So what is the new Innova Hycross and what features does it get, what are the powertrain options, what are its pros and cons, how does it ride and most importantly is the new Innova still an Innova despite the switching to a monocoque construction, FWD and a hybrid powertrain? Read the full review for all the answers.
Exterior design and appearance of the Toyota Innova Hycross: trying to be an SUV
Talking about the design of the new Innova Hycross, the MPV has a more SUV-like look with a wide grille, raised hood line with a good amount of chrome and sharp creases all around. It has a hexagonal front grille with a gunmetal finish and the headlights are now sleeker with all LED technology (higher variants). The car also gets dual function LED daytime running lights (DRL + indicator) with LED fog lights positioned underneath. All these elements give the Hycross a more SUV look.

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Moving on to the side, the Hycross, despite its attempt to look like an SUV, reflects the silhouette of a people carrier, but now features a strong shoulder line and flared wheel arches to add visual muscle. The greenhouse near the D-pillar has been revised, giving it a more elegant rear quarter appearance.

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The Hycross sits on five-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels, which look a bit out of proportion and underpowered relative to its body and stance, especially given the bulky styling. At the rear, the Hycross has a roof-mounted spoiler carrying the high-mounted brake light and the MPV also has stylish LED taillights with a hollowed-out number plate that look great.

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Innova Hycross interior: comfort, space and interior features
The cabin of the Innova Hycross follows a brown and black theme with dull silver highlights. It has a multi-layered dashboard and all four AC vents have been elegantly nestled within the chrome. Clearly, the new Hycross scores high marks in the cabin quality department. The choice of materials used gives a feeling of superior quality. The richly textured dashboard top, leather-wrapped steering wheel and well-crafted buttons, along with the overall tactile feel of all gauges, provide a luxurious cabin experience.

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The star of the cabin is the 10.1-inch floating touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. It’s sharp, easy to use, and has good touch response. The MPV also gets a 360-degree camera that provides a decent view, but pixel sharpness could have been better considering the vehicle’s premium positioning. The Hycross also features a 7-inch digital instrument cluster for the speedometer and MID, flanked by analog dials for the tachometer, fuel and temperature gauge.

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The gear selector was moved from the center console to the dash, and lever operation was smooth and solid. The driver and passenger seats are ventilated, although only the driver’s seat can be adjusted electronically.

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Other notable features include automatic climate control, a panoramic sunroof, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and memory seats. There’s also a good sound system, ambient lighting, a power liftgate, paddle shifters, USB Type-C charging ports among other features.

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The second row is available as a bench seat or in the captain’s seat configuration, which we had in our test vehicle. The seats are very similar to those up front with the same impressive contours, under-thigh support and padding. In the captain’s seat configuration, the seat back can be reclined electronically and you also get electronically controlled ottoman extensions. It’s quite close to the experience of a business class seat and that’s quite an achievement for a people carrier in this segment.

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For the comfort and convenience of second row passengers, window shades and a dedicated climate control unit are available. The second and third rows have roof-mounted vents, and second-row occupants also have fold-down tables with cup holders between the captain’s chairs.

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Getting into the third row isn’t that difficult. The middle row flows up front giving you enough room. Once in place, you will appreciate the space on offer. Average-sized adults will be able to find decent legroom even if they lack the under-thigh support you’d expect in most third-rows. The seatback reclines in a 50:50 ratio, and Toyota even offered three individual headrests. That said, we believe Toyota was right to provide a usable third row.
Innova Hycross: Safety
The Innova Hycross features autonomous driver assistance systems (ADAS) such as blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, rear cross traffic alert, high beam assist and lane keeping assist. Other safety features include six airbags, ABS with EBD, Traction Control and ESP. Also, considering the lightweight construction, which Toyota claims offers improved rigidity, overall safety should be good in this MPV.
Innova Hycross: Engine and Electric motor
The new Innova Hycross is available in two powertrain options: naturally aspirated 2.0-litre petrol and powerful 2.0-litre hybrid. Both are front-wheel drive and manual transmission is not available. Hybrid is what we rode: It’s a 1,987cc four-cylinder petrol engine that runs on the Atkinson cycle. Based on Toyota’s fifth generation hybrid architecture, this engine produces a combined power output of 183PS and 206Nm of torque.

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The motor is coupled to an electric motor that draws energy from a 1.6 kWh nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery. The car starts in Pure EV mode in complete silence, just like electric vehicles if the battery is sufficiently charged. When you speed up beyond 50km/h or require rapid acceleration, the motor kicks in to recharge the battery and provide propulsion power. It is worth mentioning that the transition from electric to motorized is very smooth. When the engine kicks in, you’ll be able to notice it, but not to the extent that it disrupts the levels of refinement within the cabin.
Innova Hycross: how does it perform and handle?
The acceleration of the Hycross is very linear and when you accelerate hard it is the petrol engine that takes over. Toyota claims the Hycross can do 0-100 in 9.5 seconds, which is impressive for a car this size, and it feels quick right away. It has three driving modes: Power, Normal and Eco. In power mode, throttle response gets crisper and feels more aggressive, but there isn’t quite as much grunt as on a diesel. The good news is that the Crysta diesel will be sold together.

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Speaking of the shifting system, the Hycross gets an e-CVT gearbox. As long as you ride the Hycross in a relaxed manner, you feel completely in sync with this hybrid system even at highway speeds. However, with an aggressive driving style, particularly at highway speeds, the e-CVT exhibits the rubber band effect where the engine makes a lot of noise but the vehicle doesn’t seem to be moving as fast.
Now let’s talk about efficiency, which is one of the main reasons for buying a hybrid vehicle. During our short trip, which involved generous use of the throttle, the Innova Hycross’s fuel consumption averaged around 15 kmpl! For a vehicle of this size and weight, these figures are truly impressive. in regular driving cycles, we expect this number to easily rise to 17 kmpl or beyond.

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Moving on to the ride and handling, with a monocoque construction, the Hycross feels planted and offers more confidence than the Crysta. Body movements are much better controlled and give confidence at high speeds which makes it a good long distance cruiser. Overall cornering grip is good, but body roll is noticeable once you push it. Disc brakes on all wheels, however, give it more confidence. What has really improved is the ride quality and comfort in the cab as vertical movement is now much less thanks to the monocoque construction.

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Another big change in the Innova Hycross is the new electric power steering. The steering is noticeably lighter than that of the Crysta. This, coupled with the great all-round visibility, makes the Hycross a very easy vehicle to drive despite its size. All in all, the Hycross is faster than the Crysta and also feels more planted, but it lacks engagement and offers no fun throughout the entire driving exercise. This is the flaw we also referred to in the title. While this is an observation, it is not particularly an inconvenience as the vehicle is intended to transport people in comfort and luxury and not to drive children to school in a state of fear with the driver wearing a big grin in face.
Conclusion: Is the Toyota Innova Hycross worth buying?
The last thing missing from this puzzle is the price because it hasn’t been announced yet but should happen in a few days. Honestly, price will play a key factor in the Innova Hycross’ eventual success, but after what we’ve seen and driven, there’s no question that Toyota has gone ahead and made a big improvement on an already great vehicle. The Innova Hycross offers good clearance, great ride quality, decent handling and good performance and is a step up from the Crysta in every single objective way.

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If Toyota can price this from Rs 22-28 lakh (ex-showroom), it will be a big move by the company. Most people still don’t find the electric vehicles that suit their needs, but they want to experience electric vehicles. For such buyers, the Innova Hycross can be the best bridge in the current market scenario, as long as Toyota doesn’t outdo itself.


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