The Zenix Hybrid is Toyota’s new personality

There are a lot of Toyota critics to this day. Boring, overpriced, under-spec’d – these are the usual complaints I hear from friends who bought a car from another brand on why they didn’t choose a Toyota. These became more prominent once the Chinese brands got into the Philippines with their cars with digital screens and panoramic sunroofs. All of a sudden, the Toyotas looked old.

Things started to change when GAZOO Racing was brought in locally. Suddenly we had the GR 86, GR Supra and the GR Yaris – all performance oriented Toyotas that are so far from being boring. They followed that up with the GR-S versions of the Vios, Hilux, and Fortuner among others that come with additional features along with the black and red badge.

And now, the Zenix is showing that Toyota can be uncompromising in other areas too. It’s expensive with the top of the line Q Hybrid at PHP 1,953,000 but they (probably) just shrugged and said ‘so be it. Let’s make a great 7-seater for the Filipino family.’

There’s a certain uniqueness in the design of the Zenix. It’s not trying to be sporty, nor does it attempt to pass off as an SUV. Toyota acknowledged its MPV shape and maximized how it can be elegant in its own way. The result is a body that’s calming to look at but has enough muscle to intimidate the root crops of EDSA.

Some will say that they should’ve brought in the panoramic sunroof which is available in other markets but to me, I can do without that. Both variants have powered tailgates anyway so I’m more than satisfied with the exterior packaging and looks of the Zenix.

Once I got into the cabin of the Hybrid variant, all I could say was “THIS IS AN INNOVA?” It’s so much more refined than before that I can’t believe it’s from the same lineage. I’ve seen the Corolla become the Altis, the FX become the Revo and the Innova, but this jump from Innova to Zenix for me is the biggest change in Toyota’s local history.

The contact points feel better than any Toyota in this price range. The leather alone is more plush and premium to the touch, especially on the steering wheel. This is accompanied by a higher center console that gives it a luxurious look and feel that also allows the driver to reach for it easier. They were also smart enough this time not to cram the ports under the aircon control and instead, tucked in neatly between the shifter and cup holders.

This upmarket jump continues to the second row of the Zenix. There’s a pair of powered captain chairs with powered ottoman for the legs. Between them is a stowable mini table that also has cup holders, while in front of them are air controls with a digital display. What I love about this second row was Toyota’s thoughtfulness for the third row. Instead of making everything electric (which is precise, but slow to adjust), they maintained the manual forward and backward capability of the captain seats so that it would be quick and easy for the third row passengers to get in and out, or to adjust their legroom.

If you’ve driven an Innova before, you’ll be mesmerized with how the Zenix feels on the road. The most captivating thing about it is it doesn’t feel hollow even when being driven alone. It’s like you’re just driving a smaller crossover. This is because the ride doesn’t tend to jump around at every small rut unlike before. Of course, it gets better once you have cargo or passengers because the weight makes the car more stable.

The steering was also a lot better this time around. It’s weighted nicely for stability but won’t be a hassle in tight maneuvers or city streets. Precision was also emphasized as there’s minimal play on the column so every small turn is immediately applied to the wheels.

I will need a longer time with the Zenix to have any comment regarding its powertrain. What I can say for now is the CVT was tuned well for smooth shifting even in stop and go traffic, and that the hybrid setup doesn’t feel underpowered like what it tends to in other cars.

Overall, I really like the new Toyota Zenix. It’s not for everybody, obviously, given the price point but there’s nothing we can really do about it. Prices have gone up not just in cars but in other products as well. To those who can’t afford this yet, we’ll have to wait and see what else Toyota has in store for us. But for the few who have the budget to spare, all I can say is you deserve such an enchanting MPV.

Most Popular


More Articles Like This