Used 1997 Toyota Previa Review
Edmunds expert review
What's new for 1997
What runs on supercharged power, has available all-wheel drive, met 1997 passenger car side-impact standards six years early, is as reliable as a Retriever, and boasts one of the most uniquely attractive shapes on the road? A high-profile sports car? A concept vehicle from the early '90s? Give up? It's the Toyota Previa minivan. That's right. A minivan. And in addition to all of these fine attributes, the Previa adds dual airbags, comfortable seating for seven, optional antilock brakes, and up to 152.3 cubic feet of cargo capacity.
Toyota minivans come only with a supercharged engine this year; a wise move by product planners since the old base four-cylinder engine was a wheezemeister when it came to traversing anything with an incline. Previas are sold in DX or step-up LE trim, either rear-drive or with permanent All-Trac four-wheel drive.
Acceleration with the 161-horsepower, 2.4-liter supercharged engine is strong. However, it tends to be noisy, and gas mileage isn't the greatest. Worse yet, premium fuel is recommended. A four-speed automatic is the only transmission choice. The engine is mounted amidships, below the floor, but major service points are accessible from under the front hood. Although this is the Previa's last year, Toyota has tried to quiet down some of the engine racket with the addition of more sound deadening material.
Seven people sit in reasonable comfort, with a fair amount of cargo space out back. Either or both sides of the split rear seat folds outward against the bodysides for extra cargo-hauling capacity, while the two-passenger center seat can be removed completely. Swivel-recline captain's chairs can be installed instead, and two-wheel-drive LE Previas can have dual power moonroofs--that's right, a pair of openings to the sky. Standard LE fittings include power door locks and windows, as well as dual air conditioners.
Unlike some competitors, Previas exhibit a distinctively rounded profile--one of the first minivans to go with curvaceous lines rather than a boxy shape. Previas aren't exactly cheap, and lack a V6 engine option, but like other Toyotas, they provoke relatively few complaints from owners. Unfortunately, people haven't been buying the Previa fast enough to suit Toyota, so this will be its last year.
Edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.