Highly Esteemed - Toyota Estima Aeras Premium Moonroof 2.4
The MPV is the family time car, and perhaps also spells the end of the dream performance car aspirations for the family man. Fortunately, there is a consolation in all this. Current day MPVs do have quite a number of creature spoils to satisfy the need for something special on the road.
The Toyota Estima Areas we tested is one of the more popular large people carriers on our roads. Sure, it is large, and its blocky shape does little to hide its people moving capabilities. But Toyota designers have done well in breaking the aerodynamic block of butter shape, by some nifty front and rear sculpting. Newly styled front headlamps add some wow factor by flowing fluidly downward to the bumper to create the stacked daytime running lights. The glossy black front grille nestles in a carved-out opening.
Rear nips and tucks include a sill-like tail lamp cluster, which adds a subtle visual girth from the rear. While side styling is largely the same, the 18 inch 5x2 spoke design rims get a more matt treatment for the darker bits, compared to the pre-facelifted car.
We tested two variants of the car, a seven and eight seater version. We simply loved the middle row of the seven-seater. The coach styled seats (which Toyota calls Ottoman seats) caught our eye right away, once the automated door opened. While they do roll forward and backward, the leg rests made them very comfortable to recline on. Additionally, you could also slide them laterally to bring the seats closer to each other. Great for grandparents who want to be closer maybe?
The eight-seater variant replaces the Ottoman seats in the middle row for a more conventional 60:40 style bench. The seat bases can fold upwards to offer room for smaller bulk items to be loaded just behind the front seats, and also allow them to be pushed further forward, to make more space at the rear.
The back row is a bench that folds 60:40. Fret not here, it is an Estima, this means that the rear seats are comfortable, and legroom is adult-accommodating. Luggage space with the rear seats up is actually good enough for a few standing golf bags, and when the seats are folded, they collapse into the boot recess, creating a near flat loading area. As a plus, the rear door is automated, making it less of a chore to load any sort of bulk you might need into the rear.
Up in front, you will find a large instrument display providing fuel economy readings, and other bits of important information. The rev counter comes in the form of a lit bar at the base of the display, while the speedometer remains standard.
If you do a little bit of a hunt, you will find cubby holes big and small to store essentials, ranging from all important tissue boxes to passports. All switches on the Estima are within easy reach, and mostly come in the form of large, fat buttons. The learning curve needed to get acquainted with the car is not at all steep.
The multifunction steering wheel condenses the essential car controls to your thumbs, while taking things a step further, air conditioning controls are now touch function.
To spoil occupants, there is a full-sized panoramic moonroof that opens up for the passengers, the front too gets its own smaller sunroof, but as a compromise, not to have it contact the rear one, a pop-up unit is instead provided.
The proven 2.4 litre engine is a carryover from the previous car, and so is the CVT transmission. The 168bhp is sufficient to move the large car around, given that maximum torque is at 224Nm. Gear change bumps are non-existent, thanks to the CVT-I transmission. Fuel consumption is rated at 11.4km/l, which is decent, given the amount of car you need to lug around.
Not just a simple cosmetic facelift, the new Estima has more refinement added, by way of newly developed frontal dampers which further reduce vibrations when in motion.
For added safety, the new car now features Lane Departure Alert, which senses if you are leaving the lane, and provides you with an audible warning. There is also a Pre Collision Warning system, which is distance adjustable, and alerts you if you happen to come too close to the vehicle in-front of you.
Steering feel is light, making the Estima feel a little smaller than it actually is. The plus, is that this actually gives you more confidence at carpark speeds, especially when parking the car. While driving dynamics are not a focus for these large people carriers, Toyota still made it a point to include discs on all four wheels, and like most good cars today, there are the more common standard features like ABS and Traction Control already available.
Not just more versatility and added passenger space that comes with the size, the Estima Aeras Premium, does provide more, in terms of safety and passenger comfort. The automated sliding rear doors make entering and exiting less hazardous, as you do not have to contend with doors that swing outward, and the low floor makes the car friendly for younger kids and seniors alike.