Toyota Zenix Car of the Week

Toyota is making waves with launch after launch of all-new cars with all-new powertrains. The Toyota Innova has long been a perennial favorite among Filipino families, and with the old model getting quite long in the tooth, but still as loved as ever, how do you follow up that smash hit? 

Ever since the Toyota Innova was launched back in the early 2000s and introduced into the brand’s lineup, it became an instant hit, and it pioneered an all-new segment, and we all know how MPVs are loved in the Philippines. The question of a follow-up was finally answered this year, 2023, with the introduction of the Toyota Zenix

What did this update bring to the table? Is it a worthy update? Unless you’re a die-hard fan of the traditional Toyota Innova formula, there is a case for the 2024 Zenix in the Philippines, albeit, veering off a little bit from the price point of the original. Even so, after knowing more about it, it seems to be a worthwhile investment even with the original still being sold alongside it. 

There are facelifts and there are generational updates, however, this seems to be a quantum leap for the Innova in terms of the technology found in the platform chassis and powertrain among a bunch of other things. 

Those other things start from the bones of the vehicle. The Innova Zenix, or Zenix as it is solely known in the Philippines, now has a unibody chassis. If you didn’t know, the original Innova features a ladder frame construction, wherein multiple pieces are joined together with rivets in order to form a frame. While strong, this construction method is not the most comfortable and accommodating of more advanced suspension systems, at least going off the patterns of most big-name manufacturers here. The Innova comes with a double-wishbone front suspension and a four-link with a lateral rod that is connected to a live axle. Because of that, the Innova is similar in architecture to an SUV, which is strong, but the ride quality tends to suffer. 

Unibody chassis is more “controlled” in many ways. From its development, the strategic stress members and design hardpoints can be more precisely engineered, resulting in a frame that is stiff where it needs to be, and flexible where its engineers want it to be. Because of the additional “resolution” in terms of engineering in key strong points, the result is a chassis that can be a lot more comfortable than a traditional ladder frame. 

Side-by-side, you can tell the difference. You can definitely tell once you ride and set off in the Zenix. Going over bumps and potholes is less harsh compared to the ladder-frame Innova. Ride smoothness has definitely received a decent bump, and it’s now comparable to similarly-sized crossovers in the market today. We will admit it’s not the pinnacle of refinement in the class, we’d pin it as good enough and leagues ahead of the old Innova. 

Toyota Zenix Hybrid

Toyota has been pushing hybrid-electric cars for quite some time now.  It appears that the Innova Zenix is the model that finally crossed the hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) barrier joining the likes of the Toyota Corolla Cross and Toyota Corolla Altis. Everything seems to be converging on hybrids for Toyota, and the Zenix’s powertrain is definitely something to look out for, and something worthwhile. 

With the chassis smoothened out and refined, you can also expect the engine to be one of the smoothest out there. Being a hybrid, the electric motor refines the experience of driving this car further, allowing it to also crawl and even start-up without the need for the engine to turn on which is absolutely fantastic for someone who doesn’t want to wake up the neighbors, or who wants to just keep a low profile. EV mode is also available, and it saves a lot of fuel while on a drive. The motor itself is quite strong, all while it is helping along a gasoline engine that is detuned (in the HEV variants) achieve similar performance with the gasoline-only counterparts. However, don’t be fooled by the similar figure as the electric motor contributes a lot to the engine’s performance whether fast or slow. The get-up-and-go action of the Toyota hybrid powertrain is quite meaty, delivering torque early on for a seamless and smooth takeoff. 

In essence, the hybrid powertrain actually makes perfect sense as a traffic-crawling machine, and paired with the class-leading fuel economy that Toyota’s hybrids can deliver, you have yourself a more-or-less perfect everyday car. 

The Zenix still has seven seats, and it even takes the captains’ chairs from the top-spec Innova and brings it into the new generation. Paired with the chassis, and you have yourself a recipe for smoothness and relaxation. All variants of the Zenix in the Philippines will come with captains’ chairs, which is a byproduct of its higher price tag and its apparent appeal to buyers who are looking for a little bit more in the way of comfort when it comes to an MPV. As such, the premium experience of the Zenix is unique in the lineup, and it’s understandable as to why we’re still seeing the old Toyota Innova being sold alongside it. 

In some respects, you may say that, but it’s really a beyond they box approach when it comes to a model upgrade. Does it fill the same role as an Innova? Perhaps not. The Zenix may actually coexist with the Innova, and Toyota has gone to a few lengths to really differentiate it from the standard MPV. 

In fact, Toyota has moved away from calling it an Innova. It’s quite different from the pioneer MPV, so we’re inclined to agree with this decision. In fact, if it weren’t for foreign markets, we probably wouldn’t have mentioned the Innova in the first place. However, seeing as it surpasses its successor in terms of all the powertrain tech and chassis technology, it’s quite a fine driver. 

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