For the last couple of years I have been driving a Hybrid Excel. On the whole it is very good although a few things are frustrating. It is renewal time as it is a company car. While I can have many models from most brands, the Toyota Hybrids are very well priced for what you get, good dealer support and I like hybrids at least until we are allowed to go fully EV.
So the first thing I find annoying about the new range is the leather. I don't want to go top of the line as it is a little more but in my opinion you get less. For instance, the top model looses the seat memory function, the heated steering wheel and with more sprayed areas such as wheel arches I would guess would be more prone to supermarket scuffs. The top model does however come with synthetic leather rather than real leather. I prefer the synthetic TBH. Given the rise in the number of vegan and veggies in the UK and the fact it spears to cost less I would have thought Toyota would have given it as an option in the Excel grade. However in that grade you have to go full cow skin, unlike previous years and unlike the Prius + I also owned.
A few days ago a demo vehicle arrived in the Excel grade. First impressions are good. The boot is certainly bigger thanks to the improved battery layout. The car feels like it was designed to be a hybrid rather than a bit of an after thought. The build quality also feels much better. It is certainly more refined and has less little creaks and rattles. While it does feel more powerful I did feel that the throttle response is slightly more hesitant than the older model. The new one has more of the feel of a turbo spinning up than the instant EV response I have become used to. More very little then shed loads of oompf. Handling wise the new model also feels better.
Inside it is nice to finally have electric folding mirrors that fold when the car is locked, not just when a button is pressed. I always thought Toyota were daft to not have that in the past. A tiny upgrade that probably costs pennies, but one that makes folding mirrors more useful. Next is the inclusion of all four windows being one touch. Again, sounds minor but I got used to having that on my previous Toyotas, all 4 of therm.
The cup holders on the new model are IMO not as good. The centre console is very high now, so the two cup holders are not only less versatile, if you put bottles in them they wobble about and hinder access to the gear stick. I also find the shape of that high centre console rubs on the side of my knee, just along the seam of my trousers. I am sure I will get used to that though.
Next is the glove box, the old model had a nice large one, the new much smaller. The shelf above is however more useful. In the arm rest on the old rav4 there was a two compartment system, a small one at the top and a larger space below. The now model has replaced that with a single large cavity with a small tray that slots in place at the top. I prefer the old style but not too fussed. What I would like to see however, and is something many brands consciously design for, is either the glove box or preferably the arm rest space actually fit an iPad or similar table. I often carry one and it would be useful to have it on hand rather than in the boot.
Behind the front seats Toyota have decided to fit just the one pocket instead of two as per the previous model and all those before. Bit tight of Toyota if you ask me, especially on a £38k car.
Rear legroom is excellent. The seat belt for the centre occupant is a big improvement no longer being ceiling mounted and crossing over one of the passenger anchor points. The angle adjustment is not an improvement. I found it a bit more fiddly than the old leaver by the side of the seat system on the old model. The new one only has teenager slouch or full upright positions and these are set using the same handle at the top used to fold the seats. On the plus side gone is the need to fiddle with those silly flaps from the tonneau cover. I also wish Toyota would use a system similar to the CX5 where the cover stays attached to the tailgate when you open it, much easier. That is a minor niggle.
Onto the safety stuff, all is improved. The cross traffic monitoring is excellent as is the blind spot monitoring. The radar cruise is excellent and improved over the old model. I am not a fan of lane keep assist, just doesn't feel quite right. The only area that could use improvement is the auto high beam, especially its detection of cars coming from side turnings and its detection of pedestrians. Mazda have a far better system in this area, not just with detection but with the way it works. On those the adjustment on high bean is more active, using shutters to direct light. This is handy on unlit dual carriageways where the high beam stays on but directs its light away from oncoming traffic while still illuminating the nearside nicely.
Ergonomics I feel has taken a little step backward in both the infotainment and the steering wheel controls. Toyota have removed the little stalk that was used to control the cruise control. This has meant cramming more buttons on the steering wheel. As a result they are smaller and less well configured, definitely less intuitive. I find myself having to glance down to find certain buttons.
The infotainment is a bit of a disappointment. Buggy is my first thought. Take the home screen for example, why? It is just cack and not configurable. For some reason the map on that page will sometimes pop up in 2d, occasionally in 3d no matter what settings are used for the map. Go to the actual map page and those settings are applies, but not on the home page. Now that would not be too much of a problem if Toyota had left an option for the car to not default to that page every time it is switched on. If I turned the car off in the map screen or the media screen then I want it to stay there, not default to the useless home screen. Hopefully Toyota will fix that in a future update. Hopefully they will add Apple car play here in the UK too like the rest of the world seem to have. The POI search is also terrible finding nothing I asked it to. Up until earlier this year we had Google POI search but Toyota decided to remove that feature not just from new models, but existing users too. So now I have to pull over and look up places in my phone to find a postcode or full address. A once excellent feature removed. Also on the map page you can no longer zoom into a level of your choosing, auto always takes over. The system is faster however, so hopefully those bugs and UI issues will be ironed out in the future. Of note though the buttons and controls have all been moved around. Especially annoying is the volume control moving to the far side meaning quite a stretch to turn it down in a hurry. I wish all manufacturers would put more effort into ergonomics of the cockpit. Comparing to the camera world, Canon get ergonomics right, make small changes to design so the feel and button positions to make transition easy. Sony on the other hand slap in loads of features but have a terrible habit of re-writing everything for each model so you cannot find those features. Toyota seem to lean towards the Sony camera design ethic.
Overall though, the new Excel is excellent. MPG is noticeable better, the new dash is excellent and comfort is top notch. Inside is generally a nice place to be with plenty of space for all. I will order one with the JBL/Panoramic camera pack. I wonder if that comes with wireless phone charging, the demo car didn't but I know it exists in other regions. I will also not order the skyview roof as that deletes the spare tyre. I feel uncomfortable about not having one, at least Toyota still give you the option.