MPV players: Toyota Innova 2.5 Z vs Tata Aria 4x4 Pride
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Toyota has updated its best-selling Innova, but the price has shot up too. It looks like a good match for the super-capable but often overlooked Tata Aria:
The Toyota Innova has been in the Indian market for quite some time. It was first launched here in 2005 and this is its third facelift. Customers, however, are still lapping it up and Toyota sells an average of 4,800 Innovas a month. But with fresher competition having hit our market over the past few years, the Innova's sales have seen a slight decline, which explains why Toyota has tried to keep things fresh and introduced this facelift. The most noticeable change is the massive three-slat chrome grille and the fog lamp surrounds, also layered with chrome. There's a big chrome strip that runs along the sides, but the rear is pretty much unchanged, save for some chrome garnish on the boot.
The very capable Aria is a car we really like, and it's a real shame that Tata's MPV got off to such a poor start. It is one of the most comfortable cars in its class (more so on long drives), it's bigger than the Innova and this translates to acres of room inside, it's got a powerful yet frugal 2.2-litre diesel engine, and it's built to be tough. With the Innova's prices headed skyward, the top-of-the-line Z trim that we're driving is only R3,000 cheaper than the fully-loaded Tata Aria 4x4 Pride, which is priced at R15.10 lakh. The question is, does the Tata Aria deserve a second look at this price, or is the Innova still good enough?
What are they like to drive?
The Innova is the nicer to drive of the two, especially in the city. The clutch and steering are light and easy to use. In fact, it feels almost like a mid-size saloon to drive, despite its size. The Toyota's larger engine coupled with its lighter body means that it's quicker to respond to your right foot, which is useful, especially in traffic; it's easy to slot the car into gaps between cars. At high speeds, it's stable and quite comfortable too and the suspension does a good job of absorbing the rough stuff. However, with a full load, the Innova does tend to bob a bit on the highway. The Innova's engine is also the more vocal of the two, and the noise and lack of power are something you'll definitely notice when you're driving fast. Another grouse we had is with the long-throw gear lever; though nice to slot, it looks and feels a bit tacky in a car like this.