Well, we've had our Estima on the road now for around three months and time has flown by. I thought it would be a good idea to put down some of my thoughts that I've had about the vehicle, in writing to share with you all - if you like my very own "Owner's Experiences".Getting it Back Together When we first got the vehicle home, we started to test everything to make sure it worked OK. All major systems were fine, the only problem we encountered was the front fog lights not working. Also, I had to refit the stereo system as this was removed as part of the SVA preparation, due to one of the knobs protruding too far. Well I eventually managed to get the stereo refitted (see FAQ for how to do this). I also had something called a "Turbo Timer" removed for SVA purposes, and as I didn't fully understand it's use, didn't think too much about it. We decided to live without the front fogs for the time being, and had no plans to refit the Turbo Timer.
I later investigated the purpose of Turbo Timers, and soon found out about their usefulness. To explain, the shafts on most turbochargers spin in excess of 50,000 RPM and generate lots of heat. To keep the turbocharger's heat under control, most are cooled by circulating oil or water (coolant) around the shaft. The turbocharger's shaft is free to rotate at will and there is no way to stop the shaft from spinning after shutting the engine off. To dissipate and stabilise the heat in the turbocharger, Toyota recommend that an Estima be idled for a period of time after moderate to hard driving to allow the oil/water to take heat out of the turbocharger.
Failure to reduce the temperature of the turbo could result in the oil around the shaft "coking". Coking is basically the baking of oil, turning it into a hard substance that could block your oil lines and cause oil "starvation". Thus preventing proper cooling of your turbocharger and reducing it's operating lifespan. I thought I could remember to do this idling myself, but I nearly always forgot, the Turbo Timer had to be refitted. It was also nice to know that the Turbo had been looked after in Japan, they seem to be an excellent piece of equipment and on investigation my model cost around £50 in Japan..
I arranged to get the Estima undersealed by Euro-Spec200 in February, and this was done when we eventually had a couple of dry days. Whilst there, I got chatting to Mark the owner, and told him about the above items and he agreed to fix the problems there and then, excellent service. On inspection, it turned out that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the fog lights. They had had their bulbs removed, and the wiring looms disconnected and taped up. Mark refitted the bulbs and looms and hey presto, Yellow fog lights, no doubt removed for SVA purposes because of their yellow colour. He also refitted the Turbo Timer, again in a couple of minutes. So when we switch the engine off now and remove the key, the engine continues to idle for around 50 seconds (although there are 4 other settings, for longer idling periods if I so wished), the vehicle can also be locked quite safely whilst the Timer is in operation. Euro-Spec2000 did, in my opinion, an excellent job, and I thoroughly recommend them, they also kindly agreed to provide discounts on various items to visitors to this site.
So our Estima is now, as it was when it left Japan.Stowage & Seating Well I knew the dimensions of the Estima before I bought one (obviously!), and I've been very pleased that my views on what it could carry turned out to be spot on. We went to my parents for Christmas, 4-year-old son 15-month-old daughter my mother-in-law, my wife and I. We also had to take a whole host of luggage etc. including presents for everyone, pram and other necessary items for the baby. We were well and truly loaded, but it took it all, with one rear seat folded up.
We have also purchased a ground sheet , at a cost of around £4, to place on the floor and protect the carpets, when one or both of the rear seats are folded up. This is especially handy as my daughters pram is sometimes dripping wet when we have to stow it in the boot.
I've also found it very easy to put my daughter into her car seat. We have this positioned right by the sliding door, and it is so easy lifting her in and out of it, as it is higher and the door space so much wider than our trusty Cavalier. I especially appreciate this, as I do suffer from a bad back (don't we all?).
On occasions when I've had to get into the passenger compartment, I would like the extra headroom that would be afforded by the Joyful Canopy, as I'm 6'2", but we had to compromise on our specification somewhere!
I'm very happy with driving position, I would like a little more legroom but I can't say that I need it. I would like a longer seat belt however, it goes around me no problem, but if I need to reach forward for anything it restrains me. Also the front passenger position is a little narrow. Now remember I am reasonably tall and I am also quite wide. My wife has absolutely no problems with it at all, and disagrees with me about it being narrow, it's just my point of view. However, this is where I think Toyota made their size compromise when they designed the Lucida and Emina, as it is around 11cms narrower than the standard Estima.
There is good legroom in all rear seats, although one has to remember that the middle seats do not have any footroom underneath them, as they have all their rotation equipment below them. We haven't actually used the vehicle with the middle seats reversed, but I'm sure we will try it some time, this should give extra legroom I think.Driving Conditions Like everyone in the UK, we've had a variety of driving conditions to contend with this winter. Firstly we had torrential downfalls to contend with, at times it was as black as night in the middle of the day, quite eerie, not something we're that used to here in Hampshire. The Estima had no problems, with no sign of aquaplaning, the only problem highlighted was that we needed a new rear wiper which was easily replaced.
When we returned from our Christmas break, we had snow to contend with. Driving back from Dorset was not difficult at all, even when we had to overtake a tractor on a dual carriage way that had only one lane cleared of snow, sailed straight though without any slipping or sliding. The snow was similar to that I've experienced in New England and Canada, dry and crisp, blowing around as if it was a sandstorm.
We later had some more snow, which was our normal wetter type, which froze the next day. We live quite high up and are fairly exposed and our driveway is on a slope, so we had quite a layer of frozen snow and ice around on our local roads. I was taking my son out and had planned to use our Cavalier, on seeing the conditions however, I decided the safest way was to use the Estima instead. We had no problems getting out onto the main roads, which had been treated with grit so they were no problem. The 4WD certainly worked well. My wife told me that several of our neighbours had slipped and skidded attempting the same journey, including a Mercedes and Lexus!
We have also recently had some fog to contend with, and to be honest, I would like some more powerful head/fog lights. I think I will investigate the options and fit some more powerful bulbs.
I've not suffered the demisting problem a few others have compained about, although I have switched the air conditioning on a couple of times to help clear the screen.Fuel Consumption This is another area where I'm a little disappointed. I would have liked, indeed expected a couple more miles per gallon. However, since I've started collecting Questionnaire results, this seems to be the norm, and it doesn't appear to make much difference whether you have a 4WD or not. Here are the fuel consumption figures I have achieved to date:
Whilst I'm not getting the figures for fuel consumption that I had hoped for (30 mpg+) I not alarmed. I would also have liked a larger fuel tank than the 60 litres available on the Lucida/Emina, although I guess Toyota made it as large as they could, at least I hope so.Driveability All I can really say is that it is a pleasure to drive, it is so easy to manoeuvre at low speeds, and the parking sensors have taken away the dread I'm sure we would have had, of bumping into things. My wife is particularly pleased at how easy it is to drive. She felt a little daunted at driving a vehicle of this size, as she has done the majority of her driving in a VW Polo and Fiat Uno. However, she drives and parks the Estima as if she has never driven anything else (although I do wish she would give me some more room on our driveway!). The Estima's steering is so light, that after driving it for a while when we were getting our Cavalier repaired, it made me think that there was something wrong with the Cavalier's steering when I returned to that vehicle.
I have decided not to refit the rear parking mirror, as I do not feel the need to have that and the parking sensors. Also I think leaving it off gives the vehicle cleaner lines.
It is very stable to drive, although the fastest we have taken it up to is around 85mph, I normally cruise at much lower speeds on a motorway. It holds the road nicely, although it did take a little to get used to the cornering effect. I guess sitting higher up gives a totally different feel when cornering, giving more of a feeling of roll.Summary Quite simply, we are very pleased with our Estima, it is everything we were hoping it would be, given that it is not perfect. We're glad we took the decisions we did and imported an Estima.