Toyota Estima 2006-2016 used car review

The Toyota Estima is a safe and reliable people mover. There are few better vehicle choices for a large family.

Richard Edwards
Richard Edwards
Expert Reviewer | Auto Media Group

The Toyota Estima is a safe and reliable people mover. There are few better vehicle choices for a large family.

Exterior , 3.5 out of 5 Drive , 3 out of 5 Safety , 4 out of 5 Value , 3 out of 5 Interior , 4 out of 5

Overall score , 3.5 out of 5

The good
  • Spacious and comfortable for large families
  • Good luggage space even with all seats in place
  • Reasonable fuel use
The not-so-good
  • Reversing cameras a must - though not standard
  • Engine struggles with a load on board

People movers like the Estima offer more space, more comfortable seating and additional luggage space than SUVs. Toyota's Estima model is known as the Previa when sold new in New Zealand. It's available with seven or eight seats and in specifications ranging from basic to luxurious.

Inside and out

Despite being launched over a decade ago in 2006, the current generation Estima looks extremely modern. It has a curved egg-like shape. At the front are angular projector-style headlamps and an arrow-like grille. The side doors are the sliding type for easier access in tight car parks. The taillights cross the full width of the rear door. A small spoiler and a mirror help when reversing.

The interior’s light tan-and-grey trim makes the Estima feel very spacious. The rounded shape of the exterior continues inside with a large arch to the dash. It covers the instruments which are placed closer to the centre of the vehicle than in front of the driver. 

The steering wheel features controls for the audio system - though in our review vehicle they do not work because the standard system has been replaced with a local frequency CD player. Controls for the climate control air-conditioning, a cup holder and a storage cubby sit below the CD player. The floor is flat to allow access to the rear of the vehicle.

The Estima has several features that are great to find in a people mover. There are separate climate controls for the rear, the kerbside rear passenger door can be opened and closed electrically from the driver's seat, and the rear side windows can be automatically raised.

The key to the Estima’s seating is the comfort. Both front seats are soft and plush. They don't offer a lot of support to keep you in place around corners but fold-down armrests allow you to stabilise yourself. The second row slides forward and back to provide more or less legroom to the third row.

The second-row seats three in reasonable space but the third row is a little narrower – despite having three seatbelts, it is more likely to be comfortable for two. Seven-seat versions feature two single “captain chair'” seats instead of the bench.

The third row can be folded flat into the floor; when it is up, the space where it goes can be used for storage, which means the boot can hold four to five medium suitcases. Once the seats are folded into the floor, the area available is enormous - the layout means you could carry five people and fit bikes or large sports equipment in the back. The spare tyre is found under the car forward of the second-row seats because of the low boot floor.

On the road

You can choose from three different engine options in the Estima. The most common is the 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol found in our review vehicle. A four-cylinder petrol hybrid with all-wheel drive is also available and, if you want more power, there is a 3.5-litre six-cylinder version. The 2.4-litre produces 125kW and 224Nm, which is enough for reasonable performance around town, although it will have to work hard with a full load on board and on the open road.

The standard transmission with this engine is a CVT automatic, which is smooth and seamless. It is shifted with a dashboard-mounted lever that selects from seven preset ratios manually. All-wheel drive is a common option.

The Estima’s ride is very comfortable and quite soft. There is body roll around corners - push it hard and it will lean a little, although not enough to feel uncomfortable. The steering is light and with a tight turning circle of 11.4m, the Estima is good for driving around town.

We think a reversing camera is a must in a family vehicle the size of the Estima, and the X model does not have one or parking sensors. Instead, there is a mirror on the rear door which allows you to see where the bumper is. However, it does not show you where kids are. 

So look for a vehicle with a camera or buy one to fit yourself from $50, or have it done by a professional from $200. An option on the G model is a self-parking system which can control the car's steering when parking - great for parallel spots.

We could not find an official tow rating for the Estima, although we expect it to be similar to the Previa sold in New Zealand which uses the same engine and transmission. It can pull 600kg unbraked (a small garden trailer) or up to 1,600kg braked (a small-to-medium trailer boat).


The Estima (2006-2015) carries a good four-star Used Car Safety Rating, based on real-world vehicle data. If you are looking for a people mover with a higher rating, the Honda Odyssey of the same period offers five-star safety. 

Our review vehicle carried a low level of safety equipment - driver and passenger airbags and antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution. Electronic stability control and side airbags were optional extras when the cars were new in Japan and we think these are worth looking for.

The middle positions in both rear rows have lap-only seat belts, which will not offer as much protection as shoulder-type belts. ISOFIX child seat mounts can be found in the second-row window seats.


This generation Estima is considered very reliable, especially later model versions - with its long life cycle Toyota has managed to perfect the vehicle. The engine uses a timing chain which will not require regular replacement.

The engine in our review vehicle is known for occasionally using more oil than it should. It’s not a common issue though it is important to check engine oil on a reasonably regular basis. If you do need to top up regularly, get the vehicle checked out as soon as possible to avoid further damage.

A knock can develop in the steering rack, which can only be fixed by a rack replacement or a full rebuild at a cost of up to $1,000. When checking out a vehicle, wind the wheel lock to lock and listen for odd sounds. Also, listen carefully when the car rides on slightly rough surfaces.

Do not be concerned by the CVT automatic transmissions.

Although these were an issue in earlier vehicles, in later model versions like our review vehicle they are close to the reliability of a traditional automatic.

The electric doors are known to have issues and are tricky to repair. When buying, check the doors open all the way to the end of their track and close correctly. Ensure the tracks are lubricated and clear of any blockages.

Cost of ownership

The 2.4-litre version of the Estima requires servicing every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. A Toyota dealer quoted us $260 for the standard service.

RightCar estimates that over 14,000km of driving a year, an Estima will cost $2,600 to fuel. The 65-litre petrol tank costs $130 to fill at $2 a litre and can take you up to 650km before the fuel light comes on.

The Estima is in the cheapest band for ACC levies and will cost $76.92 a year to licence.

Trade Me Insurance estimates insurance for an Estima valued at $21,340 will cost $53.77* per month. That’s $1 more than a Honda Odyssey.

Buyers' guide

Estimas are available on Trade Me for as little as $5,500. Late-model, low-mileage cars can fetch as much as $45,000.

The next generation model launched in 2016 is essentially a heavily revised version of the car reviewed here, but with a new front and rear design and interior. These have begun arriving in the country from $60,000.


  • X – Seats eight people. Features electric windows, climate control air-conditioning, steel wheels, fog lights and electric passenger door.
  • Aeras – Seats seven people. Adds keyless entry and start, alloy wheels, premium interior trim and leather steering wheel.
  • G – Adds front, side and reversing cameras, projector headlights, automatic headlights and a body kit. Leather seats are a common package added to this version.


  • 2006 - Production begins in Japan
  • 2010 - Given a cosmetic upgrade
  • 2016 - Replaced by heavily revised model


Review vehicle

2012 Toyota Estima X


$8,000 to $28,000 for models which have travelled 70,000 to 120,000km


2.4-litre four-cylinder, 125kW/224Nm (claimed)


CVT automatic, front-wheel drive

Safety rating

Four-star Used Car Safety Rating


15,000km or 12 months

Spare wheel

Space saver

Fuel economy

9.2-litres per 100km (claimed)

Fuel type








Towing capacity

600kg (unbraked), 1600kg (braked)

Turning circle


This review covers the Toyota Estima for model years 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Review vehicle supplied by Turners Cars.

*Our insurance estimates are based on a 35-year-old male with no accidents in the last two years, garaging the car in Mission Bay, Auckland. The car is not used for business and will cover 10,000km to 20,000km a year. We estimate with no option add-ons and $500 excess. Customise your estimate at Trade Me Insurance.