Toyota Motor Corporation has begun sales of a more stylish and fuel-efficient Estima (Previa) Hybrid minivan in Japan.

The Estima Hybrid’s THS-C (Toyota Hybrid System-CVT) hybrid system has been further evolved, leading to better acceleration and improved fuel efficiency. The minivan now gets 18.6km to the litre in the 10-15 Japanese test cycle, compared to a previous 18.0km/litre, as certified by Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.

Greater efficiency in the use of drive power from the THS-C electric motor and petrol engine allows for more motor-only driving and other benefits.

The electric 4WD system E-Four (which employs a separate motor for the rear wheels) enhances recovery of braking energy from all four wheels. Efficient distribution between electric and hydraulic application of the brakes expands the operational realm of the vehicle’s regenerative brake system.

When the driver’s foot is taken off the accelerator, the Estima Hybrid’s engine now shuts down at higher speeds, allowing the motor to switch into energy-regeneration mode sooner, increasing the amount of energy recovered.

The internal resistance of the hybrid battery has been decreased and power consumption by the oil pump motor has been reduced to cut energy losses.

The improved Estima Hybrid also features the claimed world’s first car air conditioner compressor with a built-in electric motor. The compressor is powered by the engine when the engine is running and by its internal motor when the engine is turned off. This realises a 15-20% improvement (as measured by TMC) in fuel efficiency during air conditioner use and helps to maintain a comfortable environment even when the engine is off.

Acceleration performance is improved by a high-output hybrid battery that allows for greater motor-assist performance in the form of enhanced rear motor torque when accelerating from a standing start and an expanded scope and frequency of rear-motor-assist during acceleration.

In addition to VVT-i (Variable Valve Timing-intelligent), engine torque is controlled even at low acceleration speeds compared to the previous model, further improving acceleration performance.

Styling changes have been made to the minivan’s front bumper, grille, rear combination lamps and exterior trim and there are four new exterior colours, new seat fabrics and new interior colours.

The Estima Hybrid now has a pedestrian injury-lessening body designed to minimise pedestrian head and leg injury in the event of a collision. It also incorporates a dedicated ISO-FIX1 compliant anchor point that can accommodate child seats equipped with a top-end tether tie-down.

Other new features include an audio-video system with a DVD voice navigation system compatible with G-book information network services and a theatre system including a DVD player, nine speakers and a nine-inch rear seat LCD monitor.

The improved Estima Hybrid also boasts a range of advanced features, including a blind-corner monitor that displays views to the front left and right of the vehicle as well as of the ground immediately in front of the vehicle.

Welcab vehicles (specially equipped vehicles with factory-installed features for the disabled) also incorporate all of the improvements to the base model and feature-enhanced functions such as automatic reclining seats.