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Published on April 27th, 2010 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez


Used 1994 Toyota Estima review

I remember a time when owning a van was something the average family frowned upon. Vans were then used only by traders and small businesses. Strange thing, this was the time that family planning was not an issue and the average family consisted of 4-5 persons. What is even stranger is that these families managed to take driving holidays, trips to the shopping center and weekend excursions without any problems in the average sedan from the era. Take note that sedans then were smaller and more compact, like the Ford Escort, Toyota Corolla KE20, Nissan 120Y, Mazda 808 and the Mitsubishi Colt Lancer as compared to sedans today. Even the larger more expensive Mercedes Benz 200 and the Volvo 240GL had slightly more interior room and boot space and could only manage a extra child at the most!

Today, families have started looking at 1 maybe 2 kids at the most and the much needed domestic help. This actually means that the household stands at 4-5 persons just like it was before, however a new situation has cropped up. The Mini van, SUV, SAV, MPV revolution. Families now insist that without a large monster of a vehicle in their driveway there are unable to make trips and holidays. I disagree and seem to be a minority in my stand. Recently a friend with a 3 head count in his family looked to me for advise to buy a minivan and I somewhat tried to change his mind however it did not work. Armed with his information I advised him to look at a used Toyota Estima.

Estimaminivans started coming to Malaysia in 1992. Estimas had either rear-wheel drive or permanently engaged 4-wheel drive (All-Tracs). The only engine offered was a 2.5-liter twin-cam 4-cylinder with a 4-speed
automatic. The Estima’s engine was mounted below the front seats, but tilted to one side in order to provide a flat floor. It’s accessible through a panel in the floor or from underneath the vehicle. Fluid reservoirs and other vehicle service points can be reached by opening the hood. Four-wheel disc brakes were standard and an antilock system was optional. A sliding right-side door and a one-piece liftgate augmented the front doors.
From 1994 the Estimas were available supercharged engine. This boosted power to 161 horsepower at 5000 rpm and 201 pound-feet of torque at 3600 rpm. Among the other changes were a new steering wheel, a pull-down strap on the inside of the rear liftgate, new front buckets seats with adjustable headrests, and a new front bumper and spoiler. On the road the Estimas acceleration is decent, but when worked hard the engine gets noisy and sends an annoying vibration through the floor. It’s responsive in everyday driving, however, thanks to an automatic transmission that shifts smoothly and promptly, and seldom hunts between third and fourth gears. Consumption is not the best as the Estima is a heavyweight. Though the 161-horsepower supercharged version doesn’t move the Estima into the fast lane, it does make this minivan more responsive, particularly in passing situations.

While the Estima holds the road well and seems composed going around corners, neither its ride nor overall handling match that of modern minivans. Passenger space is ample, though the split third seat is too tight to accommodate three adults, and head room beneath the sliding sunroof is only adequate for those under 6-footers. The center seat is removable and rear seat is split so that both halves can fold outward against the sides of the vehicle.

With its roomy, versatile nature and Toyota’s reputation for reliability and durability, a used Estima qualifies as a good family vehicle. Like all Toyota’s, the Estima is reliable and well built. There are plenty of used examples to look at and the best would be a 1994-1995 model which can be yours for RM25,000 to about RM35,000. Interior wears well under abuse and many ‘chop-shops’ carry parts and extras for the Estima. Compred to newer models the Estima still looks rather modern and stylish. A fresh coat of paint, a stylish new bodykit from Sunway, some 17inch alloys and a touched up interior will put the 1994 Estima on par with 2002 models!

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