Cars Innova Zenix Hybrid from the front

Published on June 12th, 2024 | by Subhash Nair


Toyota Innova Zenix Hybrid Review: Old World, New Values

The Toyota Innova Zenix Hybrid bridges the gap between old and new, but does it earn its RM200K price tag?

When it comes to mass-market MPVs, Malaysians really don’t have a lot of options anymore. Volkswagen used to offer the Touran (and Cross Touran) and the Sharan. Ford used to offer the S-Max. Mazda used to offer the 5 and Biante, Proton used to offer the Exora, Chery used to offer the Maxime, Honda used to offer the Odyssey.

All of those are gone now and all we have are the Perodua Alza, Toyota Veloz, Mitsubishi Xpander for sub-RM100,000 buyers, the Hyundai Staria and Kia Carnival variants for the RM180K-RM260K.

The space in between is occupied by the outgoing Toyota Innova and the Nissan Serena, which is due an update. Now enters the NEW Innova Zenix Hybrid model – an attempt to bring a modernised, electrified Japanese MPV option to battle the Korean entries at the top-end of the mass-market MPV segment. There’s also a more affordable petrol model that we compared against the Chery Tiggo 8 Pro and Proton X90 here.

Alphard Ambitions

The Toyota Innova Zenix was engineered by the same man who worked on Toyota’s JDM Noah/Voxy, as well as their Sienna and Estima MPVs. Unlike the IMV-based Innova, the Innova Zenix has some proper Toyota DNA thanks to its chassis – a version of the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) with torsion beam rear suspension.

While it is still an MPV made for developing countries, the new Innova Zenix definitely drives more like a car than a truck. In fact, the chassis is pretty well sorted and gives one a taste of dynamism and feels almost as rigid as the current Kia Carnival while being a whole lot lighter.

As for the hybrid system, I think it suits the character of the Innova Zenix well combining a high thermal efficiency Atkinson cycle engine, a torquey e-motor and a reliable Nickel Metal Hydride battery for a good blend of Toyota reliability and future-ready electrification. The powertrain can move a fully-loaded vehicle with ease and it helps keep emissions and consumption much lower than on the petrol model. The perfect combination for a modern MPV.

You can put this vehicle in EV only mode, but it won’t last very long. It’s a system that’s best left alone – no need to charge or worry. Just start and drive and let it sort itself out. Toyota’s 5th generation hybrid electric system is covered by an 8-year warranty that covers the hybrid battery, inverted, and power management control ECU. For even more peace of mind, you can pay to extend the warranty for another 2 years.

In terms of looks, the Innova Zenix adopts more of an SUV look with its broader top hat, taller bonnet and more angular wheel arches.

A very light ‘dusting’ unpainted body cladding helps to create this crossover impression but in the metal the Innova Zenix still can’t run away from its MPV roots.

This is a car engineered for maximum interior space utilization – the large doors and its massive height break the SUV illusion when viewed from the side.

Interior Hits & Misses

The Innova Zenix Hybrid is quite a large MPV with room for seven 6-foot tall individuals to sit in comfort. Unfortunately, Toyota missed the mark when it comes to cabin flexibility. The middle row captain seats are nice to sit on but don’t fold flat, reducing the Innova’s capabilities are a utility vehicle.

That being said, there’s a generous amount of room with the third row of seats down and with all three rows in use, there’s still enough space to load 4-6 duffel bags up for a holiday.

While there are plenty of touches that make the Innova Zenix feel like a much newer and modern car than its predecessor, a lack of attention to detail holds it back. Notice the pull straps on the back of the rearmost seats? They just dangle there without any velcro hold-downs. Not even a pocket to tuck them away way provided. Small issue, but hard to ignore.

While the panoramic sunroof and ambient lighting with customizable colours is a nice touch, the cabin lights are all halogen bulb type instead of LEDs. Again, a small detail but hard to ignore. My final issue with the interior – the 2nd row armrest. I found the armrests to be too narrow, just like they are on the Nissan Serena S-Hybrid. The centre table is pretty solid with 2 cupholders, 2 hooks and a shallow tray – simple and utilitarian.

Besides those niggles, the interior is quite decently executed by Toyota’s standards. There’s a fairly large infotainment unit with wireless Apple Carplay and wired Android Auto.

Air conditioner controls for front and rear passengers have displays but have nice dependable physical buttons which we love to see.

The gear shifter is chunky with a tiptronic function if you feel the need to shift this hybrid MPV manually through virtual gear ratios. An Electronic Parking Brake is found next to the shifter above a brake hold button and buttons to cycle through Drive Modes and a pure EV mode. Below all of this you’ll find one USB-C and one USB-A port – a very rare and considerate combo.

Two more USB-C ports are available to the middle row passengers.

The front occupants have access to the panoramic sunroof and its sunshade controls, there are deployable cupholders in front of the side air vents, a 12V socket up on the dash is available on top of the decent sized glovebox and centre storage box comes with a clip-type wireless charger.

Typical Toyota switchgear for the powered windows and door locks can be found on the driver side door card. A central colour display on the instrument cluster provides all the information one might need to understand what’s going on with the Hybrid system. Analogue dials are still present for oil temperature, fuel level and the drive status meter. Two more fixed cup holders can be found between the front occupants.

Rearmost passengers only get a single 12V socket and some cupholders to play with but there are ceiling-mounted air vents as well. The important part is that access to the rear seats is good. That being said, an additional handle to hold on to would go a long way.

Quietly Practical

The Innova Zenix Hybrid comes with a powered tailgate with memory function. The tailgate doesn’t extend quite that high though – it barely clears my head. We really like that UMW Toyota packages their cars with an Emergency Kit AND a tyre inflator kit AND a spare tyre without taking up any luggage space. You also get an integrated front and rear-facing dashcam.

Final Thoughts

The Toyota Innova Zenix Hybrid is a nice blend of modern and conventional. It marries the most modern features, powertrain and chassis that Toyota can muster while still featuring many parts bin items and materials. It’s clear a lot of effort has been put in to elevate the Innova badge to new heights. I don’t think it’ll be enough to convince your typical recond Alphard or Vellfire buyer that this is an adequate substitute.

Innova Zenix Hybrid from the front

Plus, at RM200,000+, you’ve got the Kia Carnival and Hyundai Staria with much better overall presentation on offer. I think there’s still a place for the Innova Zenix Hybrid in our market and its appeal will only grow as more customers realise that a Toyota hybrid is probably the best way forward in the age of electrified vehicles.

2023 Toyota Innova Zenix Hybrid Specifications

Engine: 4-cylinder 16-valve DOHC
Capacity: 1,987cc
Transmission: E-CVT
Max Power: 152PS @ 6,000rpm + 113PS electric
Max Torque: 188Nm @ 4,400-5,200rpm + 206Nm electric
Price: RM202,000

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Written work on @subhashtag on instagram. Autophiles Malaysia on Youtube.

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