Skip to main content

The Toyota Previa has become somewhat of a cult classic in recent years. This Toyota-built minivan had all the soul of a mid-engine supercar with the body of a family hauler. No, really, Toyota produced a rear-wheel drive, mid-engine vehicle in the 1990s with a near-perfect 50/50 weight distribution, a supercharged four-cylinder engine, and a manual transmission. However, it wasn’t a roadster; this vehicle could seat seven.

Sadly, the Previa mostly went unnoticed during its production due to the massive success of the Dodge, Plymouth, and Chrysler families of minivans. With the cancellation of the Previa in America, it makes you wonder if the Previa fared better overseas in Toyota’s home country of Japan. Here is everything you need to know about the Toyota Previa minivan in America and how its Japanese counterpart, the Estima, fared.

The Previa was a mid-engine Toyota minivan

The Toyota Previa’s development started in the late 1980s, with Toyota looking to enter the minivan market after seeing the success of the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager. These Dodge and Plymouth minivans changed America’s automotive landscape in a few short years, with minivans filling the roads just like crossover SUVs do today. Toyota employed its California-based development team at Calty to handle the Previa’s design, and what the team ended up producing was a mid-engine platform minivan.

The team at Calty decided that mid-engine was the way to go for the Previa. Due to this layout, the Previa’s engine would be placed under the front seats, making maintenance a breeze with the removal of the seats. This also meant the Previa could be built with a short hood, leading to easy maneuverability around city streets. Incidentally, the Previa would be offered with a manual transmission, and upon testing, the Previa had a near-perfect 50/50 weight distribution.

The Previa failed to catch the eyes of American buyers

While Toyota loyalists rejoiced as the Previa launched, not many Americans made the jump to Toyota because of the Previa’s strange design. The Dodge Caravan, Plymouth Voyager, and Chrysler Town and Country also offered a powerful V6 engine at this point, leading the Previa’s four-cylinder to be obsolete. While Toyota did update the Previa’s four-cylinder with a supercharger, the Previa was just a little too complicated and odd for traditional American minivan drivers.

The Toyota Previa continued production overseas. However, the Japanese version of the Previa, the Toyota Estima, had a great amount of success until its discontinuation in 2019.

Were there any differences between the Previa and Estima?

Related The Toyota Previa Minivan is Now a Desirable Classic

The Toyota Previa Minivan is Now a Desirable Classic

Typically when a Japanese company releases a car in America for the first time, Americans miss out on some very cool features. From different dashboard layouts to engine options cut from exported vehicles, it is always interesting to see just how vehicles change as they make their way across the ocean.

For the Toyota Previa, only one feature was cut from the Japanese version for the American market. The American market Previa was only available with a seven-passenger configuration in the interior. For the Toyota Estima in Japan, an eight-passenger interior layout was offered, with one configuration that featured a 2/1 split swiveling bench seat in the middle row, according to Cars-Directory. If you find yourself behind the wheel of a Toyota Previa, you can rest assured that you are experiencing a full-JDM minivan with the exception of an eight-passenger interior.