We’ve had a lot of CC posts about the Previa. Could we just squeeze in one more? I’m inclined to say yes, provided it’s a little one. A little post, but also a little Previa, i.e. the narrower and shorter JDM variant.
In Japan, the Previa was called Estima. But this odd beast, with its centrally-mounted 2.4 litre 4-cyl. and ovoid demeanour, had a slight problem: it was a little too big for Japan. It was designed by CALTY, Toyota’s Californian styling outfit, without consideration for the rigid car width and length regulations imposed by Japanese authorities, putting it at a disadvantage against its main domestic rival, the Nissan Serena.
So Toyota devised a JDM-only slimmed down variant dubbed the Lucida, sold by Corolla dealerships, and the Toyota store’s Emina. Width was cut to just below 170cm and length shortened to a whisker less than 470cm. But the engine stayed the same, i.e. above the 2-litre mark, so the Lucida/Emina was still in the higher tax band. But size was a key component nonetheless: some Japanese garages and streets are calculated to only accept vehicles under these limits, so Toyota obviously thought the game was worth the expense. Whether they were correct in this assessment is a matter of debate. Sales started in January 1992 and were off to a good start, but this was not to last.
The redesign included a completely different dash, obviously. Not quite as space-age as the full-fat Estima/Previa, but still pretty cool. This is the high-trim Eluceo, as well – only available for MY 1998 and 1999.
The Lucida got this quirky four-eyed face when it was facelifted in 1996 – it’s hands down the most interesting of the lot, visually speaking. The engine was downsized to a 2.2 litre back in 1994, but that did not change the fact that these were over the 2000cc limit. A 2.4 litre Diesel was also available, as was a floor-mounted (and thus space-wasting) 5-speed manual.
Apparently, the domestic market did not find the Lucida/Emina all that compelling, in the end, once the Honda Odyssey was launched in 1994. Toyota further muddied their mid-engined minivan’s prospects by tarting up their Lite Ace, which was available in a lower tax band. Sales lasted until January 2000 and a few of these are still about, but the whole engine-in-the-middle concept was obviously a dead end. Just goes to show that even Toyota can lay the occasional egg.
Curbside Classic: 1995 Toyota Previa DX – How Do You Take Your Eggs?, by Brendan Saur
CC Outtake: The Last Extraterrestrial Embassy Previa, by William Stopford
Curbside Outtake: Toyota Estima: Not Quite A Previa, by David Saunders
My First Car Of A Lifetime: 1994 Toyota Previa All-Trac – The G-Bubble, by Mike Lakusiak