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Underutilized Big car: Why I sold my Toyota Innova and got a Glanza

The Crysta had become a chore to drive in the city and we really wanted some peace of mind with a smaller car. After some research, we went around and test drove hatchbacks and sedans and came to the conclusion that the Glanza is very good for our use case.

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To understand the reason for this decision, I have to provide a brief car purchasing history of my family. Our first car was a Maruti 800 from which we moved to a Hyundai i20 petrol. That car was used a lot and we liked Korean cars, so my dad went ahead and got the Creta 1.6 SX manual diesel variant. Even though the car has been sold for more than 2 years now, it holds a special place in my heart, because it is the car in which I learned to drive.

Towards the last few years of the Creta's ownership, personal circumstances became such that we were managing two households and the lack of an extra car was really starting to be felt. And so began the search for a second car to the Creta. While me and my dad initially started looking for compact sedans and hatchbacks, we thought why not go for a higher price point, so we get the feeling of an upgrade from the Creta?

Up until that point, our family had only owned manual cars, so this next big car would also be an automatic top-end variant. We began looking at various options in the 7-seater category. My father did a test drive of the Tata Safari and liked the car, so he made a booking for it. Somehow, fate intervened and our car delivery began to get severely delayed. This was around the time Sanju Techy (the now-famous Kerala YouTuber who made a pool in his Tata Safari) started making videos about his horrible experiences with the car and dealership.

My dad began to watch his videos and started to get worried about spending a hefty 32 lakhs on what now seemed to be a machine with highly questionable reliability. I told him to wait and see if they would eventually deliver the car. However, I too began to research the car and become more concerned with each video I watched. So, one day me and my dad decided to pay a visit to the Nippon Toyota showroom in Kalamassery, Kochi, to check out the Innova Crysta.

We had initially not considered the Innova because we were turned off by how common the car was on the roads. It also had a supposed negative image of being a taxi car, which did not sit well with us when we were initially looking at big cars. How our mind plays tricks on us! The showroom experience was radically different from all of the Tata dealerships we had visited (we had made bookings at multiple dealerships because of the delay with the first one). Test drove the Innova and we were absolutely floored with how comfortable the car was. Immediately after the test drive, we cancelled all of our business with any and all Tata dealerships and decided to go ahead with the Crysta.

The car was delivered to us within some time and we were quite happy for 2 years. This was all the way back in 2022. Now I will share my experiences regarding the car itself based off of two years of owning the car. Since then, we have also bought a Kia Seltos DCT, which influenced our decision to give off the Crysta.

What I liked:

  • The car absolutely excels at long-distance travel and highway cruising. The suspension eats up small or even slightly big undulations on the roads and it just flies through the road.
  • Despite being a supposed taxi vehicle, people still check out the car quite often (maybe because it was the top-end variant). So no complaints about it being viewed as a 'taxi vehicle.' Even if there are, the car is so reliable that it hardly matters to me anymore.
  • The 2.4L diesel engine is a gem. Loves to rev and the gearbox works decently well with it. Overtaking and accelerating is a breeze on this machine.
  • It has little to no gimmicks or unnecessary features. Many people found this a big turn off in the car, but I loved how simple it was.
  • I found the brakes to be quite sharp to the point where you kind of have to be a bit careful about how pressure you are applying.
  • Loved the fact that Toyota gave bright Halogen beams for the headlight and LED projectors for the low-beam. Makes for a best of both worlds kind of situation.
  • As an individual who likes cars, thoroughly enjoyed the sound that engine makes upon cold starts and when revving it out.
  • Despite being such a premium offering, the car has little maintenance and our family found most service bills to be reasonable considering the size of the car.
  • Interiors are done extremely well and you will feel your money's worth in the cabin.

What I didn't like:

  • The car is BIG. I know I said my family was looking for a big car, but I think we all collectively underestimated just how big this cars feels on the road. Adding to how horrible roads are in Kerala, I often found myself feeling claustrophobic on most roads. This size also means that parking is a chore. You constantly have to make sure that the tail-end of the vehicle is clear of obstacles and after extended commutes in the city, it becomes cumbersome. Overtakes also require a bit of extra attention as you have to make sure that the tail-end has crossed the car you are trying to overtake.
  • Building on the previous point of a big car, the steering wheel also has some heft to it. Three point turns are not something that I looked forward to. Moreover, the vehicle is just not at all agile. It prefers to be driven a certain way and any deviation from that will have you working your entire arm to turn the car the way you want to.
  • Mileage is abysmal. I do know that we could not expect great mileage considering just how big the engine and car is. But I was quite dismayed to find out how quickly the engine guzzles fuel after our inaugural Kochi-Trivandrum trip. Our Creta gave us excellent mileage (15-19 kmpl) and the fuel guzzling of the Innova was not something that I was too happy to see. Since the engine is also very eager to rev, I found myself wrestling with the engine to get decent fuel economy.
  • Body roll is far too evident and affects driving confidence when ascending hills or taking curvy roads with spirited driving. This is perhaps, a direct consequence of the ladder-frame chassis. A driver's attempt to keep a steady line through a turn will most likely scare passengers as the car tilts to one side like a bus.
  • Even though we upgraded to component speakers, the sound system just lacks that punch you want. I shudder to think how bad the stock system on a 32-lakh car is.

The Seltos GT arrives

So almost a year into getting the Crysta, my dad decided to sell the Creta as our trusty machine had crossed 1,20,000 km. And we wanted an automatic variant of a similar size. We both always wanted to check out the Seltos because of how value-for-money it was and it had become an instant hit in India. After a test ride and a few other considerations we decided to go ahead and book the car.

The arrival of the Seltos showcased just how unnecessary the Crysta was for us. Here is a brief review of the Seltos:

What I liked:

  • It is just the right size for all of the drivers in the family. Compact enough to drive in the city and squeeze into parking spots, while also not compromising highway stability.
  • The 1.6L diesel engine is ample, fun and most importantly quite refined.
  • The steering wheel complements the car's zippy nature, with it being light and very responsive.
  • Coupled with the above point, the suspension being on the tighter side and you have a car that can hold a good line all day long. The Seltos is really fun to drive around twisties and puts a smile on my face everytime.
  • The DCT gearbox is accurate and I didn't think that it was too laggy or unresponsive.
  • Paddle-shifters are rarely used, but are a nice feature to have for the occasional burst of speed. Not that you NEED to use the paddle shifters to get the downshift that you need.
  • The cabin is spacious and the front seats are ventilated, love that.
  • The sound system is probably one of the best stock systems I have ever seen in a car. I will most likely never feel the need for an upgrade with it.

What I don't like:

  • Too many features, which don't really end up being used by most family members. Most of the time, they forget about the ventilated seats and connectivity features. Kia could have cut costs by not including so many useless things.
  • I am okay with LED for low-beams but feel that could have opted for halong bulbs for the high-beam.
  • Suspension can be rough at times and really give quite a jerk if you don't anticipate a pothole in the road. But I am okay with this because it improves handling.
  • Certain parts within the interior are where cost-cutting is evident. Not that there are any rattles or anything, it just doesn't feel very premium for having a price of 22L on-road price.
  • Kia somehow thought the car needed disco lights around the door's at night and did not provide lights for any of the door controls. Why do they do such things?

What followed after regular usage of the Seltos:

The Seltos very evidently began to become the workhorse in the family. It had ample boot space, handling and performance that was more than enough for what we required. My mother never drove the Crysta, which effectively meant that the Crysta was a joyride for just 2 out of 3 drivers in the family. It was also much superior to the Crysta in terms of mileage, which is how we ironically began to use the Seltos instead of the Crysta for long drives.

I will be moving away soon, which meant that it did not make practical sense to keep maintaining the Crysta for the decreasing amount of rides it was being used for by just one driver.

The decision to book the Glanza

Wanting to put less of a strain on our finances, we realized that what we needed to accompany the Seltos as the primary car was a reliable Japanese hatchback, with good mileage and most importantly, small-form factor. The Crysta had become a chore to drive in the city and we really wanted some peace of mind with a smaller car. After some research, we went around and test drove hatchbacks and sedans and came to the conclusion that the Glanza is very good for our use case. I will post a short review of the vehicle once it finished its first service. We did look at other options from Suzuki, but their service has a reputation of being very poor. And since we had an excellent experience with Nippon Toyota, we went ahead with the Glanza from there.

Lesson learned:

I feel that most of the time, big cars are severely underutilized by most buyers. The Crysta is meant to be a tourer and not for commuting within the city. Furthermore, even if one were to have regular long drives, big cars just don't make sense on Indian roads. Sure we do have expressways and decent highways, but most of the time you do eventually have to go through smaller city or village roads. In addition to that, if you are not a driver who clocks a lot of kilometers with highway driving, most big cars are just a big waste of material and money. Over the entire course of ownership, we hardly had 4 trips for the Crysta where we were able to really unleash its full potential.

For us, we were willing to compromise on that 'Big car' feeling for more relaxed driving. And personally, the whole big car sentiment I think is highly overrated. How long will one keep satiating oneself with that feeling, throwing away money on fuel and glamour? Car driving continues to become more difficult in many Indian cities. I say go for the smallest car possible car that you are happy with and save yourself a lot of cash and headache.

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