Yes! The annual Shitefest has happened again, and I can bring you a whole ream of fresh crap car road tests. I’ll start with the one that has the longest name. The Toyota Estima Lucida Charme Pleasure Wagon – equipped with the Joyful Canopy no less.
In the UK, you’ll recognise this as a Previa people carrier, though this Japanese import is slightly narrower and shorter, with different front and rear styling treatments. You still get an engine mounted beneath the front seats, a sliding door on the nearside only and seating for seven – or eight depending on spec.
Mechanically, the main differences from a Previa are that instead of a 2.4-litre petrol, there’s a 2.2-litre turbo diesel, allied to an automatic transmission in this case, with four-wheel drive. It’s not an engine with a great reputation – have a quick hunt on Ebay or Gumtree and you’ll find plenty for sale with blown head gaskets or even cracked cylinder heads. But is it any good to drive?
The answer is, surprisingly, yes! The high driving position and column gearchange immediately put me in mind of the Mitsubishi Delica. But, this is no off-roader. It’s ultimately too low. It’s bloody quick off the mark though, feeling far more sprightly than the Delica. That’s quite impressive given that it only has 101bhp and sure, the 0-60mph time of 14.5 seconds is not actually that brisk. It feels quick enough though, even if you leave the overdrive engaged – unusual for an auto but much fancied by Japanese manufacturers at this time.
The ride is comfortable, but the steering is a little vague, and it all feels a bit wobbly if you try pushing on a bit. Take things easier and smooth your steering inputs, and you can drive briskly enough. Turn sharply though, and there’s a threat of sea-sickness from your rear passengers. I feel the Delica behaves more neatly, which is odd given how tall they look!
The ‘joyful canopy’ means a lot of glazing up top, with a huge sunroof to the rear. It all helps make it feel very airy inside and the driving position is very comfortable. It feels like a car you could drive for many hours. Overall, I clambered out of this car feeling much warmer towards it than when I had clambered in.
Whether they make a decent long-term motor, I can’t really say, though I will point out that while the Rover K-Series also has a reputation for head gasket failure, circumstances are certainly not improved by complete neglect. Just because it’s a Toyota doesn’t mean that you can get away with neglecting coolant changes and/or levels. I certainly wouldn’t rule one out.