In late 1990, Renault's top-selling people mover, the Espace, was challenged by an impressive newcomer from Toyota. The egg-shaped, eight-seater Previa featured advanced styling and engineering in a premium-sized package. It set new benchmarks for build quality, reliability and handling among full-sized MPVs. Along with limited import quotas and constant demand, this led to the big Toyota enjoying excellent resale values.
The Previa aged surprisingly well. Its mid-mounted four-cylinder engine originally caused much raising of eyebrows, with claims from some quarters that such extravagant engineering should be reserved for sports cars. Toyota had the last laugh though, as the Previa needed no mechanical or chassis updates since launch, even in the face of rivals like Ford's Galaxy and Renault's second generation Espace.
Sales were never huge, yet a steady supply of Previas entered the UK every year since late 1990 and all were well-equipped, compared to rivals. Critics point to the large size, yet the driving position is remarkably car-like and the handling, though, no longer state of the art, still competitive. Those buyers who baulk at paying £20,000-plus for a new full-sized people carrier would do well to consider a used Previa.