• Toyota Innova Hycross: First Drive Review

Is the Innova Hycross Toyota's next game-changer?

The Innova was a game-changer for Toyota India. A replacement for the popular Qualis, the Innova was a more premium but also a more expensive family mover. A strategy that paid off with the Innova going on to become Toyota India's bestseller. The Innova Hycross too promises what the Innova did - to take the game forward. 

The all-new premium MPV sits on a new platform and claims to be better than the Innova Crysta in all aspects, especially with its strong hybrid powertrain. Does it match the diesel Innova Crysta's frugality and ruggedness though? More importantly, with the changing times, can it cater to a newer section of the audience the way the OG Innova did? We spent quality time with the Innova Hycross to see if it is capable of taking the Innova legacy forward. 

Despite being positioned as an MPV, the Innova Hycross looks more butch than some SUVs out there. Toyota has infused SUV design elements like a taller bonnet line, larger grille and body cladding to entice SUV buyers and I think that plan will work well! I love the way the side profile features creases and bulges are pronounced, unlike the Innova Crysta. Even the thick D-pillar adds to the SUV persona. I love the way the 18-inch wheels fill up the wheel wells but would have preferred better-styled alloy wheels though. Compared to the rest of the MPV, the rear section feels underwhelming. It is dominated by sharp-looking tail lamps connected via a thin chrome strip. The Innova Hycross impresses with its styling and premium fit and finish levels. 

The cabin feels premium too. Its stands apart from other MPVs and SUVs thanks to its unique high-set centre console. Despite the 10.1-inch floating touchscreen sitting higher than the dashboard, it does not intrude on your field of vision. The Innova Hycross is not only longer and wider than the Crysta but the wheelbase is 100mm longer as well. This translates to a spacious cabin, especially the second-row seating. And it's not just the space that makes the cabin feel special. The cabin uses soft-touch plastics all around while the large glass house and panoramic sunroof help offer a roomy feel. A key highlight is the second-row captain chairs with ottomans which electrically recline business-class style thus enhancing the cabin experience. While Toyota claims that the third row can seat three adults, we would recommend it for two adults. Kudos to Toyota though for offering three-point seat belts for all occupants. What is also impressive is the boot space with all three rows up. It can hold a few suitcases with ease and dropping the rear row of seats liberates enough space for a weekend trip.

It's not just the cabin that impresses, the Innova Hycross comes with a vast array of features. Chief among them are ventilated seats, multi-zone climate control for the front and middle rows, a 360-degree parking camera that offers crisp visuals, powered driver and middle row ottoman seats, powered tailgate, 10.1-inch touchscreen with Android Auto, wireless Apple CarPlay and connected car tech and a nine-speaker JBL sound system. 

The Hycross is also the first Toyota in India to feature ADAS safety technology via its Toyota Safety Sense suite of features. These include adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, forward collision prevention, blind-spot monitor besides stability control, hill-start assist and six airbags. Toyota says that the ADAS system has been optimised for India. I found it less intrusive than the ones on some of the European SUVs I've driven which given our driving conditions, is easier to get used to. 

The Innova Hycross comes in petrol-only powertrains. These include a 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated mill and a strong-hybrid powerplant. Both motors come with automatic transmission options only. We drove the strong hybrid variant which packs a 2.0-litre mill tuned for efficiency but aided by an electric motor. 

Thanks to the new TNGA-C monocoque platform, the Hycross is a front-wheel driven vehicle, a departure from the Innova Crysta's rear-wheel drive layout. The hybrid variant is a whopping 200kg lighter than the diesel Crysta which used a ladder-frame construction. That is impressive considering the hybrid carries a significantly large and heavy Nickel-metal Hydride battery pack. This allows for better acceleration and Toyota claims a 9.5-second run to 100kmph from a standstill!

At low speeds, the motor feels quite responsive and the EV to petrol transition is seamless. The performance is quite linear and you do miss the torque wave associated with a diesel motor. That said, it does build up speeds at a rapid pace. The eCVT offers seamless shifts but mash the throttle and you feel a distinct lag in the performance being delivered. The motor does get three drive modes as well as paddle shifters to liven up the driving experience though.

Like the Camry Hybrid, the Hycross too runs on electric mode and the petrol motor only kicks in when additional shove is needed or the battery pack is depleted. This makes the Hycross hybrid variant quite a fuel efficient! In fact, during our run which included a mix of highway and city traffic, the MID display showed 16.4kmpl which is quite impressive for such a large MPV.

Based on a monocoque chassis, the Hycross handles leagues ahead of the Crysta and feels planted in corners. High-speed composure is impressive as well as the ease of driving inside the city thanks to the light controls, light steering and a tight turning radius. 

The ride quality has a distinctly European feel. It is firm though handles potholes and ruts without tossing passengers around. The road imperfections can be felt though, and are exacerbated by the low-profile 225/50 R18 tyres. A higher profile setup should round things up well in the handling department. 

While prices are not yet announced, we expect the Innova Hycross to be priced at a premium above its Crysta sibling, which would put it in the ballpark of Rs 20 to Rs 30 lakh depending on the variant. 

The Toyota Innova Hycross pushes the boundaries of a family MPV enough for it to be considered over some seven-seater SUVs. The Hycross impresses with its styling, space, comfort and performance from its strong hybrid powertrain. Its premium over the Crysta is worth considering if you are looking for a family mover. As far as legacy goes, the Hycross is worthy enough to take the Innova mantle forward.

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