10 June 2019

More than an old car #105: Toyota Crown Comfort taxi

Taxis are an ubiquitous part of our public transport system and we rely on them to bring us wherever we want to go. Before the advent of ride-hailing services, the taxi was the only way one could travel to more inaccessible places, although one may have to endure the exasperated glare from the driver. I believe this particular taxi is easily recognizable to all Singaporeans: pretty sure most of us have sat in one before when one could not afford to waste any time travelling on buses and the MRT. It was a part of my childhood and I had fond memories of travelling in this 2006 Toyota Crown Comfort taxi!

The Crown Comfort was based off the Toyota Crown S150 and the Mark II X80, and it was designed in an effort to return to the original purpose of the Crown, which was to serve as a taxi. To increase interior space and reduce unnecessary costs, the dashboard fitments and seats were replaced with cheaper plastic-based versions. At the same time, its sister model the Toyota Comfort was also made but it was available only in Japan: it was the shorter version at 4590 mm long.

Comfort taxis in Singapore were powered by a Toyota 5L 2986 cc i4 engine, allowing it to reach a theoretical top speed of 140 km/h. It was 4695 mm long and weighed 1310 kg. The boot space was enormous, even when compared with the current taxis today.

Production of the Crown Comfort ended in 2018 and you could still see them in Japan and Hong Kong. However, all units in Singapore were phased out in 2014 as they were unable to meet the new Euro 4 diesel emissions standards. Since taxis here have a lifespan of 8 years, the 2006 model year cabs were the last survivors. A few units ended up in hospitals like this one here, where they were used for rehabilitation purposes. Certain features were removed such as the engine and the gear-stick. It carries a brown plate, which is a special seal fixed on by our motoring authority for vehicles to be put on display. For some reason, this scheme is not listed officially on the website and it entails a rather troublesome process.
This article covered this particular unit in more detail, including interior shots which I was not able to get. I was also aware of another unit that was scrapped recently and the article is attached below:

Apparently, this was the last unit that was on public display here, a far cry from its heyday in 2006 where it made up 80% (19,000 units) of the taxi population. I understand that this one has been scrapped very recently and it has been replaced by a Hyundai Sonata. There are still a few units but under private collections.

Some of you may have fond memories travelling in one of them: for me it was the anticipation of travelling to and fro my grandfather's house loaded with many goods. I still miss the boxy shape and how spacious it was compared to the newer Hyundai Sonatas and i40s today, especially the unique smell of polyester seats combined with the air freshener. Through this article, I aim to preserve a piece of heritage that may become intangible in the near future; I hope that this is a good trip down memory lane!

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