11 May 2020

More than an old car #142: Toyota Estima Emina

Recently, I got a request to write about old minivans in Singapore. This gave me some food for thought as I realised that I had not seen many of them around in the 1st place (not including the passenger versions of goods vans). However, after some sourcing from my old pictures, I managed to find this sole image of this 1998 Toyota Estima Emina!

The Estima (also known as the Previa/Tarago in overseas markets) was first introduced as a concept model at the 1989 Tokyo Motor Show. It attracted much attention, from its futuristic egg-shaped design to the front wheel located in front of the front seat which was unprecedented at that time. Owing to its shape, the engine had to be located almost flat underneath the front seats: one could access the spark plugs by removing the front passenger seat, the carpet and an access panel. As such, all engine-driven accessories such as the air-con compressor and radiator fan could be easily reached by opening the front hood, and this system was known as 'Supplemental Accessory Drive System', or 'SADS'.

At the same time, 2 smaller versions were introduced in the Japanese market, known as the Estima Emina and the Estima Lucida. They competed with the Nissan Serena as the parent Estima itself was deemed too big, and furthermore they were eligible for a lower tax band because of their smaller size. Its name is a combination and derivation of 'estimable' and 'eminent'. While it was produced for just 1 generation, it underwent 2 facelifts with notable changes to the grille design and headlights. This unit is the 2nd facelifted model, produced between 1996 to 1999. It was powered by a 2438 cc 2TZ-FE i4 engine with a fuel consumption of 8.6 km/litre. It was 4690 mm long and weighed 1660 kg.

Production of the Estima Emina ended in 2000 with around 12,000 units made. The Emina had come up short in its struggle with the Serena, and it reaped low profit margins despite the high developmental costs. With the introduction of more serious competition in the form of the Honda Odyssey, the Emina had to bow out. Eminas were sold in Singapore back in 1997, along with the parent Estima and only less than 5 still exist here! This particular unit has been off the road for quite some time, hopefully it's still kept somewhere.

There is something endearing about these quirky 'egg vans': its rounded shape provided maximum space for the occupants and it is quite rare to see an old minivan that has remained till today. Many were scrapped as owners progressed on to more comfortable and powerful options. I am not sure whether you will get to see this any time soon, but you could keep your eyes peeled for an egg on wheels the next time!

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