Curbside Outtake: 2000 – 2005 2nd Generation Toyota Estima (Previa) Van: The One North America Didn’t Get

(first posted 6/30/2018)       Several weeks ago we were treated to a great post by Brendan on the Gen 1 Toyota Previa (JDM Estima) Van – today we’ll take a look at the second generation model built from 2000-05 – the one North America didn’t get…

1997 Toyota Sienna

Brendan highlighted the many reasons the first generation Previa failed to sell in significant numbers during its tenure in the US; high price, lack of a V6 engine, and its somewhat quirky looks. Toyota executives, probably most vocally the ones in the US, wanted a more conventional minivan. They certainly got that in 1997 with the Sienna – styling that could at best be described as nondescript, at worst as drab; an option of an 3.0 liter V6; and a lower price as the Sienna would be assembled in Princeton Indiana instead of Aichi Japan. It was a hit.

But the Gen 1 Estima/Previa sold in respectful numbers in its home market and in those other than the US, so Toyota decided to stay somewhat with the previous gameplan for the second generation in 2000. The oval-like exterior styling gave way to one a little more upright – yet still distinctly Previa-like, with a dominant character line going from the front quarter panel, along the side, then arching over the back wheel well.

The chassis under that bodywork however was much more conventional – no more unique and costly mid-engined, lay-down motor with rear wheel drive. Similar to the Sienna, the chassis/engine was now front drive, transverse mounted and based on the Camry (JDM version).

1MZ-FE 3.0 Liter V6

2AZ-FE 2.4 Liter 4 Cylinder

The FWD chassis allowed a V6 engine option the previous one couldn’t, that V6 being the smooth MZ series 3.0 liter spinning out 200 hp. Base models had the 2.4-liter 2AZ-FE four cylinder with 156 hp – a 2.0-liter 1CD-FTV diesel with 116 hp was also an option in some markets.

Inside, things stayed oval. I have to admit while a big Estima fan, I’m not taken with this dash. Similar to the third gen Taurus, in my view it took the oval theme a little too far. Seating was standard seven or eight, based on whether you wanted a three row second bench or captain’s chairs. Toyota was still working on its magic stow-away back seats, so the rears folded up flush against the second row for max storage. Not the best solution but workable.

In 2001, a gas-electric hybrid was released, with two electric motors – a 17 hp in the front and a 35 hp in the rear. This was a version of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, where the 2.4 liter four generated electricity to batteries that powered the wheels for short trips. The gas engine would kick in after that. Toyota marketing claimed this was the first AWD hybrid van.

The second gen Estima sold well – I still see quite a few here on the streets of Tokyo. My sense from talking to folks who’ve owned them, is that they are typical Toyota – good for 150 to 200K miles without any trouble. Though they’re easier to live with, they aren’t quite as unbreakable as the first gen, which Toyota overbuilt and could go as long as the doors shut and the wheels kept turning.

2006 Gen 3 Estima

2018 Gen 3+ Estima

Toyota hit a major home run with the third gen Estima – it was introduced in 2006 and with a slight facelift in 2016, is still being produced – we’ll take a look at it in a future post.

Jun 2024 Update:  The Estima ceased production in Oct 2019.  There is a rumor Toyota may return it to production in 2025 as an EV.

More Previa/Estima Posts:

1991/97 Toyota Estima/Tarango

COAL:  1994 Previa AllTrack

Toyota Estima – Not Quite a Previa

Taxis of Eugene – The Last Previa?

Taxis of Eugene – Toyota Previa