The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

New Car Review

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)



SEE ALSO:Toyota Buyer's Guide

During the past ten years the minivan has become one of the more important segments in today's automotive marketplace. Practically every major automaker now has one for sale. Toyota was among the first to add this versatile vehicle to its product line. In 1984 it brought out a 2.0 liter mid-engined compact van which was available in either two- or four-wheel drive. While its styling was innovative it did not overwhelm the American minivan buyers. Toyota likes to develop models that are best-sellers, so it turned the design of a successor over to its Calty Design Research Studio. In 1990 the completely new Previa minivan emerged from a combination of American design and Japanese engineering. Some of the noteworthy items in this model which remain today include a longer wheelbase which allowed the front wheels to be moved forward of the doors for easier access, a wider tread for a wider and more stable body, a longer body for additional cargo and passenger area, a mid-mounted engine inclined at 75 degrees to permit a lower floor level, a service bay under the front hood to check all of the fluids and engine accessories. This year, to provide additional power when required, an optional supercharger is available. Horsepower is increased by 16 percent to 161 and torque is improved by 31 percent to 201 pound feet. The advantage of the supercharger compared with a turbo are quick-response time without lag, extra-power output in all rpm ranges and less heat buildup.

To put the increased performance and full-time all-wheel drive to test we drove the latest Previa up to the Sierra Nevada mountains where we surprised a lot of larger cars and pickup trucks.

APPEARANCE: The Previa's unique design makes it easily identifiable. From bumper to bumper it's an unbroken elliptical curve, with tinted flush glass, large side mirrors, alloy wheels, a large easy-to- use full rear hatch and a 3500 pound tow hitch. To minimize lower body damage the bumpers and side body are covered with a contrasting colored plastic coating. The broad curved front is accented by a horizontal grille, wide headlamps, a lower air-intake and prominent windshield wipers.

COMFORT: The spacious interior of our top-of-the-line LE was luxuriously outfitted. Standard items include seven-passenger seating with front bucket seats and split folding rear seats, dual air conditioners, power windows, side mirrors and locks, many cup-holders and cruise control. Among the optional amenities are privacy glass, a security package, an outstanding premium 9-speaker sound system with AM, FM, CD and cassette, and a second row of captains chairs that swivel. Interior arrangements are very flexible and can range from a seven passenger configuration and 32 cubic feet of cargo area to two passengers and 152 cubic feet. The dual air conditioner worked great in hot weather, and the full seating arrangement made it easy for everyone but the driver to change positions without stopping. The swooping center console provides easy access to the sound and climate system, and all analog instruments and controls are easy to see and use.

SAFETY: The Previa LE features dynamic side-impact protection, four-wheel ventilated disc brakes and optional anti-lock brakes, All-Trac full-time all-wheel drive, dual front airbags, three-point seat belts with front seat height adjustment, roof-crush resistance and child protector rear door locks.

ROADABILITY: For a large minivan the Previa has excellent road manners and handles much like a passenger car. The All-Trac system assures excellent traction on most kinds of road surfaces and weather conditions, while four-wheel ventilated disc anti-lock brakes insure safe stopping. Other factors include a well-engineered suspension system, good weight balance, a wide tire footprint, and power steering. It maneuvers very well, is quiet on the highway, and has excellent all-around vision.

PERFORMANCE: Toyota learned that some minivan buyers wanted more horsepower and performance than the original Previa offered. Because of engine space limitations it was not possible to install a V-6 powerplant. For reasons described above it was determined that a supercharger was the most effective way to go. When paired with the four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission the Previa transformed into a performance powerhouse. Merging and passing are quickly and safely accomplished, and a lot of drivers took second looks as we passed them on steeper grades.

CONCLUSION: By adding a supercharger to the Previa LE a well-balance combination of comfort, spaciousness, flexibility and performance is obtained. It is not inexpensive, but it is good!


	   Base Price              $ 31,298
	   Price As Tested         $ 36,203   
	   Engine Type             I-4, dohc, 16-v, efi, supercharged
	   Engine Size             2.4 liter/149 cid   
	   Horsepower              161 @ 5000
	   Torque (ft/lbs)         201 @ 3600
	   Wheelbase/Length        113"/187"  
	   Transmission            4-speed auto w/od
	   Curb Weight             3880
	   Pounds per Horsepower   24
	   Fuel Capacity           20
	   Fuel Requirement        Unleaded premium (91 octane)
	   Tire                    Toyo A05  P215/65R 15  M+S 
	   Brake                   anti-lock optional  - vented disc/vented disc
	   Drive Train             mid-engine, all-wheel drive
	   EPA Economy - miles per gallon,        
	     city/highway/observed      17/20/17.3     
	   0 to 60 mph                  10.2 sec
	   1/4 mi (E.T.)                17.7 sec           
	   Coefficient of drag (cd)     .35