The Toyota Previa, also known as the Toyota Estima (エスティマ) in Japan and the Toyota Tarago in Australia, is an MPV or multi-purpose vehicle (known as a minivan in North America) produced by Toyota Motor Corporation since 1990.
The first generation, introduced in 1990, had only one sliding side door for the rear passengers. It featured a unique mid-engined platform, where the in-line 4-cylinder gasoline-powered engine was installed almost flat (at a 75-degree angle), beneath the front seats. Installing the engine in this configuration allowed easy access to the spark plugs, which were located underneath a panel on the upper right-side of the vehicle, after tilting the front seat backward. All engine-driven accessories, such as the alternator, power steering pump, air conditioning compressor, and radiator fan, are accessible from the front hood, driven off the front of the engine by an accessory driveshaft, and is known as the Supplemental Accessory Drive System, or "SADS." This allows for even front/rear weight distribution, which benefits ride quality and handling. However, it also prevents the installation of a larger engine, while the cost could not be relayed by sharing the platform with other vehicles.
The first generation Previa was 4750mm (187in) long and 1803mm (71in) wide. In Japan, two smaller versions, the Toyota Estima Lucida and Toyota Estima Emina, were produced, which were approximately 110mm (4.3in) narrower and 70mm (2.8in) shorter than the standard model. The reason for the difference between the smaller Emina and Lucida models is the vehicle tax system in Japan, which is based on the product of length and width of the car. The smaller variants fall in to a lower tax band. The Estima Emina and Estima Lucida were also available with a 2.2 litre diesel engine (3C-T and 3C-TE).
The first generation Previa was available in both rear- and all-wheel drive versions (called All-Trac) and powered by a 135 hp JIS (99 kW) 4-cylinder 2.4-litre fuel injection engine. Available with a 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual gearbox, this Previa also seated seven or eight people, with three seating configurations offered (North America only received the seven passenger configurations, however). All configurations have a driver and front passenger seat forward, and a three-seat bench seat at the rear that splits and folds flat against the sides of the cabin. The 8-seat configuration contains a 2/1 split swiveling bench seat in the middle row, while the 7-seat configurations contain either two independently swiveling captain's chairs (referred to as "Quad Seating"), in the middle row or a two seat bench offset towards the driver's side. The third row is also better upholstered in the 7-seat version. It was available with either 4-wheel disc brakes or traditional front disc/rear drum brake setup, with Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) as an option.
In the United States, the Previa was sold from 1991 through 1997. It was imported from Japan to compete with Chrysler Corporation's successful Dodge Caravan minivan, and its twins Chrysler Town and Country and Plymouth Voyager. The Previa quickly became a common vehicle in the US, despite its relatively high price, poor fuel economy, and single sliding door (the Chrysler minivans offered dual sliding doors, beginning with their 1996 redesign). The mid-engine design proved to have a special weakness - the inability to increase engine size, which proved a significant problem as American drivers were used to having more power; the Dodge/Plymouth/Chrysler models were sold with available V6 engines. Starting in 1994, Toyota solved this problem by offering a twin-screw Roots-type supercharger with air-to-air intercooler, providing 6psi of boost (these models were called the "S/C"), bringing the engine power up to a competitive 160 hp (119 kW). Initially, the S/C engine was only available as an option on the LE in 1994. For 1995, the normally-aspirated engine was discontinued, and the S/C became the standard engine on all trim levels. The United States version of the Previa was discontinued after the 1997 model year, replaced by the more traditionally-designed, front-wheel-drive, U.S.-designed and -built, Camry-based Sienna. A few Americans have obtained the newer Previa model (and first generation Japan-spec Estimas), but the U.S. DOT and EPA restrictions against "grey-market" import vehicles are very strong.
In The Netherlands, the Previa the first generation was marketed there between 1991 and 1998. The only engine available was a 2.4-litre 4-cylinder engine. Trim levels were base (later renamed to i denoting an injection engine), GL, GLi and GXi. The 2.2-litre diesel version was a popular grey import.
Australia and New Zealand
The range available in Australia were the GLi, GLX and GLS: these had the 2.4-litre 4-cylinder engine only. The Taragos sold in Australia were available in either a 2WD or 4WD drivetrain. New Zealand got the GLi, GLX and GLS, as per Australia: however a 2.2-litre turbodiesel version of the GLS sold in Eurasia, was a popular grey import.
- The 5-speed manual Previas (North American models) were made from 1991 through 1993; none of these have superchargers.
- Starting in 1992, Previas (North American models) came with a driver's side air bag and third brakelight with dual airbags became standard on 1994-97 models.
- 1992-1997 North American Previa models also came with a swivel feature on the optional middle-row captain's chairs; the 1991 had fixed optional captain's chairs.
- Available on Previas outside the U.S., was an icemaker/refrigerator that doubled as a beverage heater called the Hot/Cool Box.
- The supercharged engine is different from the normally-aspirated engine, due to a slight decrease in compression ratio. The supercharger is engaged on-demand by an electromagnetic clutch, based on input from the engine management system computer (the Engine Control Unit, or ECU).
- Previas have optional dual moonroofs: A power horizontal-sliding only glass moonroof above the middle row of passengers, and a pop-up glass moonroof above the front seats.
- Previas were also the first van to pass all US safety standards as pertaining to front impact, driver air bag, center-mounted brake light, ABS, daylights, etc.
- Gas mileage is below average (11-13L/100 km city, 10-11L/100 km hwy); the small 4-cyl engine needs to work a bit harder due to the power:weight ratio of the vehicle, compared to today's 6-cyl engines. The addition of the supercharger slightly improves power at the expense of slightly higher fuel consumption.
- The Previa gives a practically omniscient view, excluding the pillars behind the front doors. This also turns the van into a greenhouse, accumulating extreme heat in a short period of time, although solar control glass later became an option, to help alleviate the problem.
- In the United States, Previas are humorously called "eggvans", or "beans", because of their shape.
- In the United States, first generation Previa model variations, in order of lowest to highest price/option features, are: DX, DX All-Trac, DX S/C, LE, LE All-Trac, LE S/C, LE S/C All-Trac (where S/C = Supercharged and AllTrac = 4WD)
- The front passenger seat must be removed to check to perform a tune up because there is not enough room to remove plug wires.
- In the 2007 film Juno, the main character, played by Ellen Page, drives a Previa.
The first generation Previa was sold outside the United States until 2000, when a new dynamically designed Previa replaced it which was never sold in North America. The second generation Previa had a slightly longer wheelbase (2900 mm) and was both narrower (1790 mm) and shorter (1770 mm) than the first one; it switched to FF layout and was based on the Camry platform. It was produced with passenger doors on both sides and offered space for up to six, seven or eight passengers and, as with the first generation, was sold as the Estima in Japan and as the Tarago in Australia. The range available in Australia was the GLi, GLX and Ultima. The Ultima version was targeted as a competitor of the Chrysler's Plymouth Voyager.
Models sold on the European markets were available with both gasoline and diesel-powered 4-cylinder engines. The diesel engine was a 2.0 L 1CD-FTV with 116 hp (85 kW) and the gasoline-powered one a 2.4 L 2AZ-FE with 156 hp (115 kW). Both models featured a 5-speed manual transmission as the part of standard equipment, while a 4-speed automatic was available as an option on gasoline-powered model. A 3.0L V6 and a Hybrid Synergy Drive version of the Estima were available in Japan. This first generation Estima Hybrid used a single electric motor and a mechanical CVT in its transmission.
Australian models were only available with the 2.4 L petrol engine and a 4-speed automatic.
The third generation was introduced in 2006 in the Japanese and Australian markets as Estima and Tarago, respectively, and as the Previa elsewhere. Features include an available second-generation Hybrid Synergy Drive drivetrain, automatic parallel and back-in parking, track-mounted second row reclining seats with footrests, and power-folding split third row seats.
The second generation Estima Hybrid, currently only sold in Japan and Hong Kong, uses a drivetrain very similar to the Lexus RX400h with 3 electric motors - 2 for front-wheel drive (HSD) plus one for rear wheel drive.
As with the previous generation, the Australian version of the automobile continued to use a 2.4LI4 engine. In February 2007, a 3.5L V6 engine ( 202kW (271hp), 340N·m (250ft·lbf) torque) became available in order for the automobile to remain competitive against its main rivals in Australia, the Honda Odyssey and the Kia Carnival. The 2.4L engine was widely criticized for lacking torque.
Some of the markets such as Hong Kong and Taiwan announced the V6 Previa 3.5L in January 2007.
The Previa continues to be excluded from North America as the locally-produced Sienna occupies that market.
In many parts of Europe the price setter in this segment has, since the late 1990s, been a joint venture vehicle produced in Portugal by Ford and Volkswagen. By 2004 this vehicle was coming to the end of its model life and run-out versions were heavily discounted. Competitors found themselves responding to the discounts or losing market share. In European markets Toyota branded vehicles often achieve a price premium, but scope for this is not unlimited. Ford’s replacement Galaxy, launched in 2006, was also aggressively priced, which offers one clue as to why Toyota have yet to launch the third generation Previa in Europe, where healthier margins are available on smaller slightly nimbler minivans and in the still hugely lucrative luxury four wheel drive segment.
The fourth generation Toyota Estima will be introduced in 2012 in the Japanese and Korean markets as Estima-X. It presents an entirely new body platform and material, using aluminium for its chasis and terrain, and carbon fiber for its framework. Features include an available third-generation Hybrid Synergy Drive drivetrain and an i-AUTO [Intelligent-Automatic Driving] technology breakthrough. Powered by multiple sensors and a reliable processor beneath the dashboard, the memory recognizes the driver's pattern and imitates his/her driving style on the same route. To mitigate unforeseen risks on the road, Toyota engineers had also included a panic button to allow drivers to quickly resume control of the vehicle manually.
The fourth generation Estima-X Hybrid, uses a 4-electric motors drivetrain - 2 for front-wheel drive (HSD) and 2 for rear wheel drive. Different from the previous version (2.4L and 3.5L V6), the Estima-X Hybrid has a smaller capacity engine of 2.0L and 2.2L V6 engines respectively. However, the introduction of i-DQVT (Intelligent-Quad-Valve-Terrain) manages to purge over 150 horsepower for the 2.0L and 210 horsepower for the 2.2L V6 variant.