Review: 2023 Toyota Innova Zenix Hybrid - Worth the RM 202k price tag?
Shaun · Nov 2, 2023 11:12 AM
There’s a post on social media that made rounds within this writer’s circle discussing the interview with Tetsuya Tada, the Chief Engineer responsible for the Toyota 86/BRZ and GR Supra projects, in which he spoke to Japanese car magazine WebCG.
Tada said that there’s no such thing as a perfect car, and that the primary factor to consider is whether you regard a car as an object of passion or a practical tool. No car can serve both roles without compromises as the qualities required for each purpose conflict with one another.
I wholeheartedly share his perspective. In an ideal scenario, I would opt for one car dedicated to providing sheer joy and another specifically for the daily grind.
The "fun" car doesn't need to conform to rational standards; it can be wildly impractical, unreliable, and come with a ridiculous price tag. However, the everyday "tool" must be chosen with great care, taking factors like fuel efficiency, resale value, space, and practicality into account.
Overview: 2023 Toyota Innova Zenix Hybrid
186 PS (combined)
Engine: 187 Nm, Motor: 206 Nm
When the 2023 Toyota Innova Zenix was introduced, it seemed to meet all the criteria for a practical "tool" especially for someone with a larger family. However, the version we're discussing here is the Innova Zenix Hybrid, priced at RM 202,000. Does it truly meet all the necessary criteria? Let's delve into it and find out.
Exterior – Imposing front, but what’s with the small wheels?
It's important to note that the Zenix does not replace the Innova that we’re familiar with; it's a brand-new model designed to stand atop the Innova lineup, offering a more upmarket experience.
The most significant transformation lies in its platform. The older Innova uses a ladder frame chassis with rear-wheel drive, while the Zenix is underpinned by the venerable TNGA platform, specifically the GA-C version. This transition from a body-on-frame to a unibody construction also brings a substantial change in exterior design.
The one-box MPV van shape has been transformed into a SUV-looking MPV. The front grille is imposing, the hood sits high, and does look rather menacing from the front.
LED lighting elements are abundant, but in my opinion, the reflector-type headlights seem a little cheap. Even the less expensive Corolla Cross with its projector LED headlights look more sophisticated.
The wheels, although sporting 18-inch rims, does appear undersized due to the somewhat low profile 50 series tyres and the large body. This creates a sort of "trolley wheel syndrome."
Chunkier tyres will likely enhance the overall look, not to mention boost comfort levels.
The rear end features the typical Toyota design, possibly combining elements from the Toyota Rush and the RAV4. It’s unlikely to offend anyone but it won’t win hearts either.
Interior – Not the most inspiring design, but legroom is unbeatable
The middle section of the cabin features leather coverings and contrasting silver accents, which lifts the otherwise lacklustre interior.
Nonetheless, the majority of the cabin is comprised of hard plastics, with certain elements, like the areas surrounding the window switches and steering wheel buttons, that feels almost unacceptably cheap for a RM 200k car. Build quality, however, is for the most part decent.
The integration of the 10.1-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay support is seamless, though Android Auto is wired only, annoyingly. The infotainment system itself is as straightforward as it gets to use without unnecessary layers to navigate.
Ergonomics are faultless, with well-positioned physical controls and excellent driving position, though if I were to nitpick, the steering wheel is slightly offset to the left (a trait that’s also in the Harrier).
In terms of storage, it’s typical modern Toyota, which means there aren't many small compartments to stow your loose items. Most of the time, you'll probably end up using the central cupholders instead.
Strangely, the centre storage armrest opens in a single direction, with the hinge on the passenger side that makes it convenient for the driver only.
The door bins are large enough to accommodate 1.5-litre bottles, and there's a cleverly designed cupholder that pops up beneath the air vents, providing a cooling feature for your beverages.
Over to the rear, the captain seats are comfortable and space is abundant. Perhaps the most impressive aspect is the range of adjustment it allows. Pushed all the way back and the legroom beats even the long-wheelbase full-sized German execs.
However, being the hybrid version, the placement of additional batteries under the front seats restricts the ability for those in the second row to slide their feet beneath the front seats. But considering the overall space, there’s rarely a need to.
The third-row seating in the Zenix is also comfortable by third-row standards, with sufficient legroom from the impressive adjustment range of second row to balance legroom between rows. Headroom is also sufficient, even for taller passengers, thanks to the reclinable backrests.
There's individual rear air conditioning, and the doors open wide for easy entry. The flat floor makes it simple to slide to the centre seats to access the third row. The panoramic sunroof is a nice touch and further enhances the feeling of spaciousness.
The theme of spaciousness extends to the boot area. It offers 239 litres of cargo capacity with the third-row seats in their upright position, and an expansive 690 litres when the seats are folded down, and they fold flat for convenience.
On the downside, there is no tonneau cover to conceal your belongings. One solution could be applying a dark tint for added privacy.
Driving Experience – Brisk powertrain, but no TNGA magic
If you’re familiar with how TNGA-underpinned models drive, then you probably noticed the organic, fluid experience they tend to have. With the Innova Zenix, the experience is somewhat subdued. While it’s not completely wooden, it’s just not quite as interactive, partly due to the longer wheelbase, which is longer than that of the Camry.
Of course, being a people carrier, this is not a negative point, merely an observation. Compared the ladder frame Innova, it’s a night and day difference in terms of road manners. The steering exhibits a pleasing balance - it's light at parking speeds and gains a reassuring weight as your speed increases.
It goes around corners in a tidy fashion, seemingly unfazed by road irregularities. There is some noticeable body lean, but it stabilises at a certain point and and goes about its business competently.
As for the meat of the driving experience, the hybrid powertrain is a pleasant performer. General refinement is impressive and the transitions from the electric motor propelling the front wheels to the combined power from both the engine and motor, or when recharging the battery, are typically seamless.
Of course, you can notice it if you were to pay attention, particularly when the engine kicks in, but it’s never intrusive.
There’s more than enough shove to get up to speed and catch up with the traffic even with six passengers onboard, and it’s brisk enough to exploit gaps in traffic that simply wasn’t possible in the older Innova. It’s not EV levels of propulsion, but you’re never left feeling that power is insufficient.
Taking step back from driving, the adaptive cruise control in the latest Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 suite operates smoothly and can exhibit human-like behaviour in terms of acceleration and braking. Object detection has supposedly seen enhancements in terms of distance and angles, but it still can miss those abrupt, obtuse-angle cut-ins by inconsiderate drivers.
The new Road Sign Assist function is a bit inconsistent, as it doesn't always provide accurate information, so you might find navigation apps like Waze to be a more reliable source for precise speed limit information.
Ride Comfort - Not the most supple ride, great seats though
In terms of ride quality, the Innova Zenix Hybrid has a slight firm edge. It doesn't isolate sudden impacts, sharp bumps, and ruts as effectively as I would expect for a vehicle of this type.
Part of the responsibility lies with the relatively narrow-profile tyres. Thicker tyres would undoubtedly offer a more cushioned feel. And being a tall-riding car, it amplifies the lateral swaying motions when going over uneven pavements or going through bumps at an angle.
But as a whole, it’s still quite resolved and doesn’t get uncomfortable. It gets better with speed as larger undulations are dealt with finesse.
The front seats provide exceptional comfort. Unlike the snug, body-hugging type, these seats are more akin to comfortable armchairs.
They offer excellent back support, evenly distributing support across the back without causing any discomfort or pressure points. While some individuals might prefer extra lumbar support, my sensitive back found it to be perfectly satisfactory.
The same holds true for the second-row captain seats, while the third row understandably comes with some compromises, particularly the slightly crouched seating posture. However, the reclining capability and the available space make it one of the most comfortable third-row experiences you can find.
In terms of cabin insulation, noise levels are generally low be it from the powertrain or tyres. Some wind buffeting can be heard at triple digit speeds, but this is a common occurrence for cars of this nature.
2023 Toyota Innova Zenix - Cabin noise level
The 2023 Toyota Innova Zenix Hybrid returned a fuel consumption figure of 6.6-litre/100 km with an equal split of city and highway driving. The trip computer displayed an average of 6.5-litre/100 km, which is rather accurate.
As a practical tool, the Toyota Innova Zenix Hybrid does the job impeccably. It drives well for what it is, the interior space with its range of seating adjustment is second to none, and it’s packed with safety features. The hybrid powertrain has also proven to be efficient regardless of whether driven in city or highway.
But at the price point of RM 202,000, it requires some level of passion to look past the price tag as it enters the territory of Mazda CX-8 and the 11-seater Kia Carnival, both of which feel one class above the Zenix and the latter gives way more metal for the money.
The Innova Zenix Hybrid manages to hold its ground with its fuel efficiency and level of interior flexibility. And while Malaysians tend to view hybrids in a negative light in terms of reliability, Toyota hybrids are used as taxis in many parts of the world, clocking insane mileages and have proven otherwise.
Ultimately, it’s down to what you value most. If you appreciate the hybrid technology, the driving experience, and the efficiency it provides, then you’ll be able to justify the asking price. If not, there’s the cheaper 2.0V Petrol variant that might be the more appealing “tool.”
The quest for automotive knowledge began as soon as the earliest memories. Various sources information, even questionable ones, have been explored including video games, television, magazines, or even internet forums. Still stuck in that rabbit hole.