The Innova Crysta, it’s a case study in itself. It’s so successful that so many brands have tried to replicate its success, namely the Mahindra Marazzo and the Maruti Suzuki Ertiga. But, every time they think about increasing the prices, they fear rejection. Not the Toyota. Now this one, this particular top-of-the-line version costs close to about Rs 30 lakhs. And to imagine that when it was launched, all those years back it was under Rs 10 lakhs, today’s pricing seems a little ridiculous. But it still works, because everybody wants one. You want one. Your Uncle and Aunt want one. Even your Grandparents want one. So what is that, that makes the Innova click? So here are a list of things that work in the Innova’s favour, and a couple that don’t. This, the top of the line ZX trim, in the Innova Crysta, can be had as a seven seater. So you’ve got two captain seats in the front. You’ve got two captain seats in second row. And you’ve got two seats which act as a three-seater in a last row. Now, the four seats that you see in first and second row, you have large seat bases. you have large seat bases. You have a large seat back, you’ve got good bolstering on the side, they have nice cushioning to them, and you can spend long hours. Ditto for the second row. Now the third row is a three-seater, so even the middle passenger gets a three point seat belt. The middle passenger also gets an adjustable headrest. So, in terms of safety its really well sorted. But we’d say it is best used as a two seater because otherwise you get really cramped three a side. And for the two passengers that remain, the seats are not as comfortable as the front and second row, but you can spend time in them. And, if it’s a really long journey then it will be best that you get the second row guys to move around and take your place in the last row. Then it works. Space-wise, there’s decent enough head and knee room for the occupants in the last row. And for the rest, well, there’s space by the truck load! Headroom, knee room or shoulder room, you name it, and there’s excess of it. The Innova isn’t just great at transporting people, it’s also practical in other ways. Take the boot for instance. If you have just four people and a lot of luggage, the last row can be folded up, liberating enough and more space to throw in many bags. And, if there are just two people, not a lot of luggage and no hotels in the vicinity, well, drop the second row, roll out a mattress, and you are set. Besides luggage, the Innova Crysta is also reasonably easy to get in and out of for the first two rows. And even the last row doesn’t need gymnast credentials to get into. Moreover, there’s place to put your coffee, your water bottle, wallet, cell phone, and other knick-knacks you might have on you. And in the ZX trim there are other comfort and convenience features too. You get keyless entry and start. Reversing parking sensors with camera. Electrically adjustable driver’s seat. A cooled glove box. One touch up and down for all four windows. And automatic head lamps, among other things. Now over the years, Toyota and Innova engines in particular, have proven to be fantastic when it comes to reliability. You can find examples with lakhs and lakhs of kilometres and no engine rebuild inside. This, the 2.8 is of the same mould. Only with more power and torque. So, this one makes a little over 170bhp, and a handsome 360Nm of torque. So that means even though the Innova Crysta is a heavy car, this 2.8-litre engine, it doesn’t let it feel lethargic. So every time you get on the throttle there’s enough go to pull you along. Now this engine comes mated to a 6-speed automatic gearbox. It’s not the best torque convertor in the business. Not with it being lazy in it’s up and down shifts. But we’d still prefer this over the manual version of the Innova Crysta. And that’s because the manual comes mated to a smaller, less interesting diesel engine. Now this automatic, you can choose to shift manually, you don’t get any paddle shifters on the steering. But you can go up and down the gearbox using the stick shift. We however didn’t feel the need do it, not very often atleast. Now this engine and gearbox combo works well on the highways and for intercity travel as well. So you have, the engine has got enough grunt to pull you through to help make quick overtakes. Its got grunt throughout the rpm range. And especially between 2500 and 3500rpm it absolutely comes alive, so if you are on a two lane highway and you want make a quick overtake, all you have to do is stamp on the accelerator, it takes a little time for the gearbox to kick down. But once its on, it just shoots ahead, so you can feel that torque coming in. Now the Innova also gets to 100kmph in pretty quick time. And once you’re there, in sixth gear, the engine is barely turning over 1500rpm. So things are quiet, its unhurried and non-demanding. And you can put many kilometres without tiring yourself out. The Innova uses a body on ladder construction. Which means it is not going to win any ride and handling competitions. But on highway, whether you are tackling bumps, undulations, you’re changing lanes, even at triple digit speeds, the Innova doesn’t exactly lose its composure. So it is pretty flat and planted in that sense. Now when it comes to cornering, the Innova isn’t the sharpest tool around, so it rolls and it takes time to settle in after its into the corner. And if the corner is bumpy, you will feel the rear skip about a little. But does it feel scary? Does it make you throw up? No. It’s just not a very involving tool around a corner, but it will go about doing its business. So, a people’s carrier, does its job. Now the Innova and Toyota are one of the strongest brand names in the automotive market, and they have earned it. You take reliability, you take ownership experience, and you can’t really fault them. No wonder we don’t mind paying so much for this MPV. And the cool part is that when you go and sell this after years and years of owning the car and enjoying it, you may actually get a lot of what you’ve spent back. Well, don’t take my word for it, ask the various first generation Innova owners. They’re selling the car and walking back with a hefty lot of cash. Now I know I keep circling back to the price of the Innova, but for me that is the elephant in the room. I know it doesn’t affect too many people because people keep buying the Innova left, right and centre. But for a car that’s almost Rs 30 lakhs, you expect some things to come as standard like a serene, quiet, vibe-free, pampering drive experience or feel. The Innova doesn’t give you that. It has a loud engine, you can feel all the mechanical workings through the steering and the pedals. And even though the suspension on the Innova is tuned or setup to iron out almost everything, big bumps, ditches etc, but you can constantly hear and feel it. You’ll feel it jiggle at slow speed or high. And then as you go faster you will get wind noise, you’ll get tyre noise and the Innova just fails to give you that quiet, cocooned luxurious feel which you expect in a car costing Rs 30 lakhs. Okay, I am back with the price Rs 30 lakhs or thereabouts. That’s what this MPV costs. But the Innova’s interiors, they don’t exude the same lushness. The look and feel of plastic all round can barely a match those of premium hatchbacks. There’s no soft touch plastic, and the operability doesn’t exactly give you the feeling of engineering finesse you expect in cars that cost this high. The Innova also misses out on a few features, and the ones that it packs in, could have been better executed. Take the multimedia touchscreen for instance. It doesn’t get Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and it looks like it belongs to a generation gone by. The Innova has its negatives. But they aren’t big enough to eclipse its list of merits. Now these merits include reliability, resale, comfort, practicality, snob value even, and a decent set of features. Now they aren’t the best set of features that you can get but they are decent nonetheless. And if you want to pack six or seven people and go all around the country, well the Innova does that too. So, unless you don’t like MPVs, or like me, you can’t afford it, there’s no reason not to buy the Innova. And if you are buying one, we recommend you get yourself the automatic.