Toyota Estima Hybrid Minivan

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What you see here is the Toyota Estima Hybrid minivan. It has a great combination of features, and it’s probably about as practical and environmentally friendly a ride as Toyota can make (which is saying a lot right there). There’s just one problem. Toyota isn’t selling it in America. The Toyota Estima Hybrid Minivan has just gone on sale in Malaysia. I read about it on Paul Tan’s great blog about being a car guy in Malaysia (do you see how far and wide I search to get you people this info?), and I got to say I’m bewildered that Toyota hasn’t brought it here yet.

Sure, I can imagine one reason why not: A lot of Americans are stupid enough to actually believe that they actually need an SUV to drive kids to band practice and get groceries. But if Toyota was smart, they could market around that sad misconception.

The Toyota Estima Hybrid Minivan (they just call it a van in Malaysia, since it doesn’t seem they have a concept of mini versus full size vans) pictured here is actually the second generation of the Estima Hybrid. This model features Toyota’s THS-II hybrid system which is based on a 2.4 liter gasoline engine mated to electric motors that is quite similar to the same system found in the Lexus HS250h or the Camry Hybrid. The biggest difference is that in addition to the EV drive motor up front, there’s also one driving the rear wheels as well, effectively turning the Toyota Estima Hybrid Minivan into an all-wheel drive vehicle. Now the Toyota Estima Hybrid Minivan just became even more practical for those living in snow-bound areas.

And the ICE mill isn’t run of the mill either. It’s a 2.4 liter Atkinson cycle engine that produces 150 PS and 190 Nm of torque. The front electric motor puts out 105 PS and 270 Nm of torque and the rear motor puts out less power and grunt at 50 PS and 130 Nm.

No, it’s not a screamer, performance-wise. 0 to 100 km/h comes up in 10.8 seconds. The fuel economy is pretty good for a big heavy box though. In the 10-15 Japanese test cycle, the Estima Hybrid can achieve 20 km per liter.

Another nifty feature is an exhaust heat recovery system that recovers thermal energy from the exhaust that would be wasted and uses it to heat engine coolant. The engine warm-up time is substantially reduced, and also makes it even more usable in places like North Dakota.

Toyota, you’re the number one car maker in the world, and far be it for me to tell you how to run your business, but really, why aren’t you selling this ride over here?

Source: Paul Tan

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  • Jennifer says:

    If the Toyota issue for selling in the US is battery manufacturing capacity, why can’t they use Stimulus “green” manufacturing dollars to build that kind of capacity stateside? I know that’s a GROSS oversimplification, but come on, if the demand is there, sell it! I’m holding on to my 2005 Mazda MPV (Mazda, why oh why did you stop selling the small minivan??) like grim death till there’s an energy-efficient and small enough van on the market that allows me to drive carpool for my 3 boys AND sneak into city-living parallel parking spaces with 2″ on either end.

  • asdf says:

    Interesting, ecomom, you might want to consider…
    from what I read online, there are people who like the idea of hybrid vehicles except for the elevated levels of ELF EMF radiation (extremely low frequency (below a kilohertz or so) electro-magnetic radiation).

    Try googling terms like [prius hybrid emf]

    It is not yet known whether the ELF EMF levels measured in hybrid vehicles are harmful. There are of course anecdotes of hybrid car drivers getting sick etc.
    And at I saw at least one hybrid-fan who said he would pass because he has babies on the way.

    I’m still driving my ’06 Prius, did not notice anything wrong, but I do have a Trifield EMF meter model 100EX on order.

  • lollipop says:

    I own a 2004 Hybrid Pruis with 89K miles. I’m waiting for the Hybrid MiniVan and it can’t get here fast enough for me.

  • MikeOC says:

    I was in Japan on business in late 2008. While there, I visited the Toyota megaplex in Tokyo and saw the hybrid Estima firsthand. The physical form factor was just like my 2005 Sienna.

    When I asked the Toyota reps there why they weren’t selling hybrid minivans in the U.S., they said it was because of the batteries – there wasn’t enough battery manufacturing capacity to support the number of vehicles that American will demand.

    Hopefully, economic downturn notwithstanding, this supply-channel issue is getting resolved and we’ll see the Estima (or something like it) later this year or next year (2011).

  • Ecomom says:

    I’ve been calling Toyota for over 3 years now about every few months begging for a Hybrid Minivan, since I was preggers with my first child. I ended up with a Prius. Now my second child is due in April, and I’m stopping every mom I see with a minivan to ask what they think of it, and I’m calling Toyota more often, and Honda now too.

    Every mom I’ve spoken with, at least 30 to date, have said they would likely upgrade to a Hybrid minivan on their next purchase, which for many would be almost immediately. A small sample, granted, but Hey, come-on. Who’s more Ecofriendly than a minivan mom?!

    Its a no-brainer that the Hybrid minivan has a market here!
    Oh, and we want all-wheel drive, lots of airbags, seats that move easily for reconfiguration, entertainment systems, and navigation. We don’t care that much about chrome. But easy-clean seats and floor are a plus :)

    – Ecomom

  • francois says:

    This would sell well here in the states. Maybe, they’re afraid it would eat into Sienna sales.

    C’mon, a smaller hybrid minivan is really what this country needs!!!!!!


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