Toyota's new front-wheel drive Previa has enough size and power to haul up to eight people around in comfort, with bulges in all the right places, too
As curvy as Dolly Parton Toyota Previa

THE Toyota Previa MPV is back with better packaging, and this time it is even curvier than Dolly Parton.

As one of the MPV pioneers, it is not just another people carrier designed with excellent practicality and the versatility to make life easier, but is also a great looker that makes others of its kind mundane in comparison.

More than half a decade since it was introduced, the Previa remains charming.

But Toyota has decided to move on and not just sit and be content with its MPV success. Its engineers have come up with an all-new Previa, which was unveiled officially at the Geneva Motorshow in March this year.

Like its predecessor, the latest Previa has remained radical if you park it among the other Japanese MPVs. It still has a single-box layout, but the swooping roof is now more low-slung than before.

What differentiates it clearly from the previous model is its Peugeot 206-style headlights and the crescent-shaped grille.

Together, they make the car more aggressive-looking than before.

The wheelbase has been increased by 40 mm for more interior space, and the overall width is reduced slightly to make parking easier.

Its fenders now bulge more prominently, too, although this makes the 15-inch steel wheels with the 205/65 tyres look undersized.

The new engine feels anything but undersized, however.

Although displacement has gone down to 2,362 cc from 2,438 cc, maximum power rises from 135 bhp to 156 bhp, while torque increases from 206 Nm to 225 Nm, thanks to Toyota's Variable Valve Timing-intelligent (VVT-i) technology.

The new power-plant is distinguished easily from the old one, as it revs with remarkable willingness and never pants, even when the rev limiter cuts in at 6,250 rpm.

Noise, vibration and harshness have been improved tremendously, too.

The Previa is now driven by the front wheels and has a front-engine configuration, where it once was mid-engined and rear-wheel drive.

As a result, it does not turn in quite as sharply and the steering provides less feedback than before.

It holds the road far better, though. Body roll is more subdued, grip is stronger and the car does not float as much at high-speed cruising.

What is more important is probably the extra cabin space that results from moving the engine to the front.

By doing that, front passengers now enjoy more leg-room and there is no longer the protruding platform under the front seats, which used to limit foot space for the second-row passengers.

The test-car had room for a family of five plus three more adults in the third row. Since every seat can be reclined and moved on rails, headroom and legroom are no problem for any of the passengers.

The centre bench has 60/40 split capability, while the last bench can be tipped over and slid forward for more boot space.

Three full-sized Samsonites can be accommodated in that configuration, but only one can be swallowed when the car is occupied fully.

The Previa's interior has been revamped totally. It has a classier-looking dashboard and more user-friendly air-con buttons - no more sliding levers. The centre-positioned instrument cluster, however, takes a while to get used to.

The Previa featured here costs $188,988 (including COE), while the seven-seater is $1,000 more. Expect no less than six cupholders, a plethora of storage points and safety features, such as dual airbags, ABS, six three-point belts and head-impact protection lining in the pillars. For $8,000 extra, you can have a moonroof, too.

Toyota has not been napping all this while in the vastly-growing and competitive MPV market.

The new Previa has enough size and power to haul up to eight people around in comfort, and the new styling is a definite plus in a realm so far littered with cars that look as if they were made of Lego bricks.

FAST FACTS

Toyota Previa

Price: $188,988 (including COE)

Engine: 2,362 cc four-cylinder 16V DOHC

Power: 156 bhp at 5,600 rpm

Torque: 225 Nm at 4,000 rpm

Gearbox: Four-speed automatic

0 - 100 kmh: 11.2 seconds

Top speed: 180 kmh

For test drive and enquries: Contact Borneo Motors on 475-1288