The Volkswagen Microbus, Mazda MPV and GMC Safari. These are the now-departed vans that were driven by their rear wheels, but ultimately fell victim to market forces, technological progress or the insurmountable drive to make cars greener and safer. With the Microbus just recently going out of production, Toyota is the sole torch bearer for the rear-drive van. But you’ll have to go to Indonesia to find it.
The Toyota Innova is sold in Vietnam, Thailand, India, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Phillipines and the UAE. But its main market is Indonesia, which is quickly becoming the apple of many automakers eyes. Indonesia is one market where the compact van is thriving, with Mahindra, Tata, Chevrolet, Suzuki and Nissan all fielding their own entrants. The Innova drives the rear wheels, just like Toyota’s own Avanza, an even smaller van that is Indonesia’s best-selling car.
The Innova comes with three 4-cylinder engines, with a 2.0L and 2.7L gasoline engine and a 2.5L diesel. A live-axle outback betrays the Innova’s Hilux-based underpinings, but the realities of third world roads likely have a lot to do with this kind of packaging. The cheapest Innova starts at around $21,000 in Indonesia, which prices it out of the “low-cost” car range. But equipment is sparse on the base models, with a two-speaker sound system, steel wheels, no rear wiper and no power accessories. The top-trim model retails for about $26,000 and features luxuries like an airbag and ABS brakes.
Toyota currently occupies 60 percent of the Indonesian market, which is good for 750,000 units annually. With 234 million people, Indonesia is on the radar of auto makers all over the world, and their local tastes will be an important consideration for future products. If compact minivans are the vehicle of choice, then we’ll probably see more of these cars cropping up in developing markets beyond Indonesia. We won’t get them, but you can already buy the smaller, cheaper Avanza in Mexico.