RM 40k buys you a plush and stylish used Toyota Estima (ACR50). Maintenance and repair costs?
Jason · Sep 12, 2021 10:00 AM
The Toyota Estima. It was the quintessential family mover even back in the 1990s. Many families owned one, captivated by its blend of space, comfort and Toyota image. Even in the face of the emerging SUV movement in the noughties up till now, the Estima remained a popular choice for many.
The third-generation Toyota Estima (ACR50) continued to refine that luxo family-carrier formula. It's perfect for those that don't quite like the 'box on wheels' that is the Toyota Alphard/Vellfire, and prefer not to be part of the SUV bandwagon.
The best part is, prices of used ACR50 Estimas have dipped to a rather attractive price point. If ever there was a good time to buy one of these, now is the time. Here's what you need to know.
The third-generation ACR500 Toyota Estima was launched globally in 2006. At that time, UMW Toyota (UMWT) did not officially import any units to Malaysia. That meant that if you wanted one, you're off to see the grey importers. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as you have plenty of trim choices, even if you had to forego a factory-backed warranty.
ACR50 Estimas came with two powertrain options. The first is the 2AZ-FE 2.4-litre, four-cylinder engine outputting 170 PS and 224 Nm. This engine is paired to a CVT transmission. Want more grunt? Then plump for the 2GR-FE 3.5-litre V6 that serves up 275 PS and 340 Nm. A 6-speed automatic partners the larger engine.
Toyota gave the ACR50 Estima three facelifts throughout its lifetime, once in 2009, another in 2012 and a final one in 2016. Powertrain options remained the same right up to the end of production of this generation.
In 2013, UMWT decided to officially import the Estima to the Malaysian market, with a slight twist. Instead of calling it the Estima, UMWT christened it the Toyota Previa and asked for RM 258,000.
It wasn't so much the price tag that posed a problem, but the specifications. See, the UMWT Previa, while having the benefit of a factory-backed warranty, wasn't very generously equipped. For starters, while it had the same 2AZ-FE engine, it was hooked to a 4-speed automatic. A FOUR-SPEED AUTOMATIC in a car asking for two hundred grand! Also, it had a grand total of two airbags.....
If you needed more convincing, have a look at the standard features of the UMWT Previa.
UMWT Toyota Previa equipment
On that note, we'd recommend looking for a used grey import unit, just on account of getting more value for your money. Prices start from RM 40k for a pre-facelift unit (2006) with the 3.5-litre V6, all the way to RM 170k for a facelifted, 2016 unit.
The 2.4-litre units seem to hold their value better, probably because they're more sought after due to lower maintenance and ownership costs compared to the 3.5. And that is indeed our recommended sweet spot for ACR50 Estimas. A pre-facelift one can be had for RM 48k.
As usual, always be on the lookout for mileage tampering, accident history and yes, your major controls and infotainment will be in Japanese (something that the aftermarket can fix). For peace of mind, best to pay for a Japanese auction report. Never rely on the dealer to give you a copy of this auction sheet, as they might have edited the details themselves.
Well, first of all, there aren’t many 7-seater MPVs that look as stylish as a Toyota Estima. It strikes all the right proportions, looking elegant and subtly classy. Where the Alphard/Vellfire is boxy and upright, the Estima is svelte and graceful. It's one of those cars that would look as at home in a hotel lobby, as much as in a country club.
As it is the case with its Alphard/Vellfire stablemates, it's the interior of the Estima that really is the reason why people hold it in such high regard. Throughout the span of the cabin, the build quality and material selection is typically Toyota - well-executed with a deep-seated quality.
Front occupants are treated to a very futuristic-looking, space age dashboard panel. It's remeniscent of the FD-generation Honda Civic's dash design. Despite the slightly unorthodox design, the ergonomics and storage solutions of the ACR50 Estima remain excellent.
Fly in the ointment? Well, we understand that using beige as the primary interior colour is to convey a sense of airiness, but it might not be to everyone's taste. The same goes for the gaudy brown wood trim on the steering wheel and door cards. Best to stick with a darker shade inside, even if it makes the interior feel less spacious.
Sure, an Alphard/Vellfire's boxy profile gives it acres of interior space compared to the Estima, you'd hardly call it cramped inside. There's still plenty of space inside to accomodate seven comfortably.
With plush seats and proficient noise insulation, the Estima remains a wonderfully competent long-distance cruiser. Regardless of whether it's the 2.4- or 3.5-litre engine, the Estima gets the job done with minimal fuss, maximum comfort.
That is also the case with the suspension tuning, where comfort (there's that word again) is the top priority. However, it is a touch too soft on certain undulating road conditions, to the point of being wallowy, as if to remind an Estima driver that this is still a tall and slightly cumbersome car.
Furthermore, with high-riding MPVs of this ilk, ingress and egress is a really effortless affair. You would usually think nothing of it until you have to step into a regular sedan, at which point you’d wonder why is it so difficult to get into compared to an Estima.
Seeing that ACR50 Estimas sport 2.4- or 3.5-litre powertrains, you'd stop short of calling maintenance cheap, but you won't call it obscenely expensive either. Here are some ownership costs for the ACR50 Estima.
ACR50 Toyota Estima maintenance costs
Road Tax (RM)
oil change (RM)
WapCar.my once again spoke to Ray Wong from Ray Car Care to seek some insights of common issues that afflict the ACR50 Estima. Given his experience with both the 2AZ-FE and 2GR-FE engines, he says that both engines are generally trouble free.
However, Ray did mention that the 2AZ-FE has been known to suffer from a worn counter balance shaft issue. This will cause the engine to consume oil excessively. To fix this problem, set aside around RM 2,000.
On the transmission front, Ray shared that both the CVT and 6AT transmissions are generally reliable, but the CVT is in need of a bit more attention, as Malaysia's weather can take a toll on wear and tear.
Ray recommends changing the CVT transmission fluids every 20,000 km (below RM 250) as the transmission is a bit more sensitive to Malaysian driving conditions compared to the 6AT in the 3.5-litre Alphards.
Ray also pointed out that, just like its Alphard/Vellfire counterparts, the ACR50 Estima does suffer from steering rack problems. Symptoms include knocking noises when going through rough roads or when you dry-steer the car. A new steering rack replacement can cost up to RM 5,000.
The Estima's powered sliding doors can fail over time as well, said Ray. This is more prevalent with the pre-facelift models, some of which are already more than 10 years-old. A symptom of failure is the sliding doors kicking back. Per side, this could cost between RM 1,000 to RM 2,000.
ACR50 Toyota Estima common problems
If you're serious about getting one, Ray suggest that you bring the car in for a pre-purchase inspection. Obviously, Ray Car Care can carry out such inspections for you.
With no successor in sight, the ACR50 represents a last hurrah of sorts for the Estima lineage. Ask most Malaysians and they will probably have a memory of their time with an Estima to share with you, that's how ubiquitous it was in shaping our automotive landscape.
Sure, MPVs like the Estima is no longer as in vogue as it used to be at one time, but that's not because the it became a bad car over time. Blame it on ever-changing consumer behaviour, SUVs or anything you want, what remains is, the ACR50 Toyota Estima is a brilliant 7-seater MPV, fit for any family and occasion. We'll not see the likes of it again. Buy one while you can.
Jason's foremost passion is all things automotive, where he spent his formative working years as a Product Planner and Trainer. An Advanced Driving Instructor by training and an all-round enthusiast, Jason loves going into intricate details about driving dynamics. Will drive anything with 4 wheels and a steering.