The Toyota Innova HyCross is the first Innova with a hybrid powertrain
The Toyota Innova HyCross is the first Innova with a hybrid powertrainShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

2022 Toyota Innova HyCross first drive review: A worthy successor to the Crysta?

The Toyota Innova HyCross shakes things up radically with a new platform, new engine, and completely revamped styling and interiors

We’ve finally driven the Toyota Innova HyCross! Less than a week after its India unveil, Toyota invited us to Bengaluru to give us two hours behind the wheel of the new generation MPV. Hardly enough to paint a vivid picture of what it would be like to live with, but plenty to give you a first impression of what is good, what isn’t and what you can expect if you choose to put down money for one. There’s plenty to address — the switch from a ladder frame to monocoque, the change to a hybrid drivetrain, going from RWD to FWD — in addition to all the styling and interior updates. Let’s get straight to it!

SUV-like styling on the Innova HyCross
SUV-like styling on the Innova HyCrossShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

2022 Toyota Innova HyCross styling

It is obvious what Toyota has tried to do here — gone full SUV on the traditional Innova shape. There’s a more upright stance, flatter nose and stronger haunches that clearly indicate the shift away from the MPV image. The bonnet is flatter now, and the face is more aggressive. The hexagonal grille remains, but is now wider and taller. The headlamps flanking it have a hint of the Fortuner in there and the bumper is suitably butch. You will notice black cladding running all around the car — another SUV-inspired touch. The top-end variant we’re testing is running 18-inch wheels — neat looking ones, with a chrome-y look to make the car look more upmarket. A big change from the side is the treatment of the D-pillar. The glass area has been tweaked to make the D-pillar look like its sloping backwards, another trait that it has picked up from SUVs. It looks rather good from the rear as well with slim tail-lamps, a roof-mounted spoiler and more chiselled bumpers. There’s no denying the presence of the HyCross. Parked up next to an Innova Crysta, the HyCross looks way more imposing. It draws your eyes to it, and no, it isn’t the lovely that is doing so. It is well proportioned and blends the SUV and MPV formula beautifully — something the Tata Hexa had attempted all those years ago, and the Innova HyCross does it very well.

Soft-touch materials and a revamped dashboard layout
Soft-touch materials and a revamped dashboard layoutShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

2022 Toyota Innova HyCross interiors and features

The new Innova HyCross has received a radical revamp from the inside that makes it more upmarket. Everything has been changed — new steering wheel, new instrument cluster and new dashboard layout. In the instrument cluster, there’s a 7-inch display for the speedo and MID, flanked by analogue dials for the tacho, fuel and temperature gauge. The dashboard gets a 10-inch infotainment screen (with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, though wired), and notably the gear selector has been moved from the centre console to the dash. Now I saw a few comments on our YouTube video criticising this, but I actually like it. The gear selector is easy to reach, not that you need to once you slot it in to D — and it frees up space below for two large cupholders and a big storage within the armrest. A win-win, in my books. The only issue is there’s no tray to store your smartphone in, and the two cupholders were transformed in to a phone storage space on our drive. Good thing there are two more cupholders under the side air-con vents, then!

Materials used on the inside are good, and there’s a generous use of soft touch leatherette on the door pads and the dash. It takes a step up in terms of equipment as well — the front seats are ventilated; they are electrically adjustable and even have a two-setting memory function.

Panoramic sunroof,  a first on an Innova
Panoramic sunroof, a first on an InnovaShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

There’s a 360-degree camera, panoramic sunroof, a JBL sound system and the rear section gets its own climate zone. This top-end variant also gets ADAS features including lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, auto high beam and a blind spot monitor. There is also a wireless phone charger and a TPMS system available as optional extras. That lack of a tray has forced Toyota to place said wireless charger on the dash in front of the co-driver. Odd position, in my opinion.

Second row seats can be electrically reclined and get powered ottomans
Second row seats can be electrically reclined and get powered ottomansShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

2022 Toyota Innova HyCross second and third row

The second row is probably the most important place to be in the HyCross, and Toyota has paid it suitable attention. Firstly, there’s the wheelbase has increased a whole 100mm (now 2850mm) to free up more knee room. And knee-room is more than generous, with the sense of space exaggerated by the flat floor. The second row slides on rails and in a mid setting, I have more than enough knee room for my 5-foot-10 frame. Slide it all the way back, and I can genuinely stretch out more than I ever could in the older car. Mind you, you cannot tuck your feet under the driver’s seat though because that’s where the batteries for the hybrid system are. The seats also have electrically controlled ottomans and can recline near horizontal to get you in a lying down position. However, the ottomans have a limited use — lift them to high and your feet ride up against the front seats. The solution to that is to use the seat on the left, while the front seat is pushed and folded all the way forward, chauffeur style. That genuinely allows you to full stretch out, make full use of the ottoman and recline. You also have a small foldable centre tray in the second row though it did feel a little flimsy, and while the air-con vents were on the roof, you have the controls in a more conventional position.

Space in the third row is commendable
Space in the third row is commendableShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

The third row was a revelation — the switch to the new TNGA-C monocoque platform (shared with the Voxy minivan) means the floor can sit lower and the lack of RWD meant there is nothing to get in the way of the engineers maximising space here. Firstly, the seating position — your feet sit much lower than the seat and this means you aren’t in the knee-up position most third rows are guilty of putting you in. Then there’s the space. With the second row in a middle setting, I had a couple of inches of free knee room in the back! That’s really commendable. Headroom was just about adequate as well. Hideki Mizuma, chief engineer of the Innova HyCross did mention that that getting the glass area right with the revised D pillar was a huge challenge, but they have done a good enough job. This is a third row that adults can genuinely sit in and travel for reasonable distances without discomfort. This third row can also seat up to three, though any more than two will be a squeeze as shoulder room is limited.

As for boot space, you do have some room with all three rows up — enough for a couple of small duffel bags. Fold the third row down and you have a total of 991 litres of space which is mighty generous. The second row obviously won’t fold down in this spec with captain seats, but that space is more than enough for most.

Hybrid powertrain produces a combined output of 183bhp
Hybrid powertrain produces a combined output of 183bhpShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

2022 Toyota Innova HyCross engine and performance

The Toyota Innova HyCross comes with two engine options — one a pure ICE car with a 2-litre petrol engine, while the other is a hybrid. All front-wheel-drive and all automatics, there’s no manual on offer.  The hybrid is what we drove — it gets a 2-litre engine based on Toyota’s fifth generation hybrid architecture. Power and torque stand at 183bhp and 206Nm. But this system is more than numbers, what matters is how it feels. And on first impressions, it was really good.

For starters, the HyCross set off for the first time in EV mode. I should have expected it, this being an EV and all that, but it still took me away. Just creeping out of the hotel lobby in absolute silence instantly made the HyCross experience feel elevated above anything that came before it. After all, silence is a luxury. The petrol engine does kick in at some point — there’s no specific speed and it depends more on the level of charge in the battery and the sort of acceleration you ask of the system. I found myself doing around 40kmph comfortably in EV mode, and the engine only firing up when I asked for more shove. However, it still remains a refined, quiet experience even with the engine running as long as you aren’t asking too many questions of the performance. Drive it in a calm, sedate manner and there’s little to complain about.

The Innova HyCross gets an EV mode too
The Innova HyCross gets an EV mode tooShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

However, when you do try to wring the most out of the engine, it does get vocal. There’s a very limited rubber band effect going on, but when the engine is spinning hard, you will hear a fair bit of it. What about performance? Well, its brisk that’s for sure. Toyota claim a sub 10 second 0-100kmph time which is commendable and it does feel quick off the line. It does weigh a whole 200kg less thanks to the new platform, remember? That said, former diesel Innova owners will miss that lug of torque which allowed the Crysta to accelerate, climb and heave its heavy loads almost effortlessly. I haven’t driven this HyCross fully loaded yet, but I do suspect replicating that character will be a challenge. The drive modes do make a difference, with Power mode giving it more poke (throttle responses get sharper and it accelerates harder) but not nearly enough to replicate the grunt of the diesel. Good thing then, that the diesel lives on in the Crysta that will be sold alongside this!

The other aspect of the hybrid motor is the efficiency but we really didn’t have the car long enough to get an accurate idea of its efficiency. With a mix of shooting and driving, I saw around 14kmpl on the display but again, this is far from representative of real world conditions and I would need a longer test to be able to confidently tell you about this hybrid system’s efficiency.

The hybrid system really suits the HyCross’ character though. With the interiors moving up a rung in terms of luxury, the drivetrain feels like it has moved up in terms of the experience it delivers. Not in terms of outright performance, but the silence, refinement and vibrations that make it in to the cabin. It feels more upmarket, taking the HyCross in the exact direction Toyota want it to go.

The Innova HyCross behaves more predictably in corners
The Innova HyCross behaves more predictably in cornersShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

2022 Toyota Innova HyCross ride and handling

Much like the interiors have taken a step up, much like the refinement has taken a step up, the ride and handling have also evolved. For the better. First let’s talk ride: the car feels more sophisticated in the way it goes down the road, that’s the overwhelming sensation you get when you drive it. There’s a sense of planted-ness to the chassis that was not there before, and it rides better over an average Indian road. Smaller bumps, undulations in the road and breakers are dealt with effectively despite the 18-inchers. The suspension itself is softly sprung and soaks up most of it comfortably and good damping keeps body movement in check. Ground clearance is good too. Toyota didn’t share an exact number with me, but it is in the region of the older Crysta. Some really massive breakers on our test route didn’t phase it. The only thing is, you can’t hammer it over broken patches like you did the older car. That overwhelming sense of indestructibility isn’t something you get from the car, and I found myself slowing down more in the HyCross for patches of road with deeper potholes and bumps.

Coming to the handling — there have been massive strides in this department as well. It feels far more composed around a set of corners than ever before, again the new platform allowing it to completely change go it behaves. The steering feels direct, more connected to the front end than ever before. It’s lighter too — making the whole car feel less cumbersome to drive. The front end reacts more naturally, and the car behaves more predictably in the corners as well. It gives you an overwhelming sense of confidence to drive the Innova HyCross through a series of bends. The Innova was never a bad handler or anything, but this just refines things and takes out those inherent disadvantages of the body-on-frame platform.

Much like the engine, the chassis delivers a superior level of sophistication in both the ride and handling department. It makes the HyCross a far nicer car to drive, like a car that you wouldn’t mind taking over the wheel of should you need to take a break from that back seat.

The Innova HyCross to likely rival the likes of the Kia Carnival
The Innova HyCross to likely rival the likes of the Kia CarnivalShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

2022 Toyota Innova price and verdict

This is the big question — what will it be priced at? We should know for sure some time later this month when Toyota makes the big announcement, but for now, all we can do is guess. I suspect the full loaded trim that we were driving will come in in the region of Rs 30-32 lakh, commanding a fair premium over the Crysta. Its only real rival in that space is the Kia Carnival, and I think it will do well to undercut it. The other question that remains unanswered is if the monocoque platform can deal with the same amount of punishment that the ladder frame did. Mizuma san seems confident that the HyCross will be able to live up to the reputation of its predecessors when it comes to reliability.

For what it is, the Toyota Innova HyCross is exceptionally competent. It looks good, the interiors are well thought out and genuinely useable for seven, there is a hybrid drivetrain and it rides and handles better than ever before. It is a step up on the Crysta in every single objective way. It has what it takes to fill in the big boots of cars that came before it, without a doubt.

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