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What Car? says

3 out of 5 stars

For It seats six and is good to drive; plus, Toyota’s reliability record is excellent

Against Rivals offer more space and versatility, and the driving position isn’t great

Verdict Slightly smaller alternative to MPV rivals that drives well, but could be more practical

Go for… 2.0 GL/GLS

Avoid… GS cars

Toyota Picnic MPV
  • 1. Check the upholstery for stains or rips that might be expensive to repair
  • 2. The middle row of seats can't be taken out, limiting the car's versatility
  • 3. The two rearmost seats are removable
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Toyota Picnic MPV full review with expert trade views

The Picnic looks to be part-estate car and part-MPV because it’s only marginally shorter and narrower than Toyota’s big Previa people-carrier, but significantly lower.

Inside, it’s very much an MPV, with three rows of two seats (a seven-seat variant was offered as an option) and each individual chair has a three-point seatbelt.

Head- and legroom are good in the first two rows, but six-footers will be short of headroom in the third. These two rearmost seats are removable, but the Picnic's ultimate versatility could be better because the middle row of seats doesn’t come out. All they do is to fold forward to make (picnic) tables instead.

Another problem is the driving position, which is compromised because the steering wheel is fixed. Base models also miss out on seat height adjustment, and all Picnics have a shallow rear screen that makes reversing tricky.

On the positive side, though, the car's lower centre of gravity helps it handle better than many MPVs. The ride is firm without being uncomfortable, and there’s minimal body roll through corners. There's plenty of grip, too, although it doesn’t have the agility of the best estates and the steering is rather numb.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Quite expensive new so numbers are low. Most are or have seen taxi use

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

Toyota offered the Picnic with two engines - a 126bhp 2.0-litre petrol and a 86bhp 2.2-litre turbodiesel. The diesel is more fuel efficient, but the difference isn’t huge, so the petrol is the pick of the range, providing surprisingly lively performance and greater refinement.

There are three trims to choose from, with entry GS cars equipped with front and rear electric windows, heated and electrically adjustable door mirrors, remote central locking and twin front airbags.

We’d recommend spending a bit more to get a mid-spec GL car, because it also comes with anti-lock brakes - a key safety feature. In addition, GL trim (which was rebadged GLS in 1998) has a CD stereo, driver’s seat height adjustment and air-con, while range-topping GX models have twin sunroofs and steering wheel-mounted stereo controls.

Trade view

James Ruppert

A rare sight, but sells on its badge; 2.0 GX or 2.2TD GLS retail well

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The Picnic always looked a little expensive when new because it was priced against more practical full-sized people-carriers, but it doesn’t hold its value especially well, so buying a used example won’t hit you too hard in the pocket.

Maintenance is a bigger concern if you plan to use Toyota dealers because they charge more per hour than most of their mainstream rivals. They also take longer than average to carry out repairs.

Don’t despair, though. You can cut labour rates by more than 40% if you have the car maintained at an independent Toyota specialist rather than a franchised dealer.

Picnic owners will also be happy that insurance bills will be comparatively low. Most models sit in group 10, with the one exception being the group 11-rated GX.

However, fuel economy isn't so hot. The diesel returns just 36.2mpg on average, while the petrol averages 31.4mpg.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Quite expensive new so numbers are low. Most are or have seen taxi use

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

The Picnic wasn’t a big seller, so there's only a limited number of used examples. Don’t just buy the first example you see in the classifieds, however.

The vast majority will have been used to ferry kids around, so it’s worth checking the upholstery for stains or rips that might be expensive to repair. Condition and a full service history are more important than low mileage.

If you get a good one, it should run and run. This is because Toyota’s reputation for building cars that you can rely on is fully deserved. The annual JD Power Customer Satisfaction survey shows that Toyota customers are among the most satisfied with their cars, and it has consistently been among the top five marques in our reliability surveys.

The only other thing to be wary of are grey imports. These are Picnics that were originally sold in Japan under the name Ipsum, but have since been brought over to the UK. Parts can be expensive, so only buy a genuine UK car.

Trade view

James Ruppert

A rare sight, but sells on its badge; 2.0 GX or 2.2TD GLS retail well

James Ruppert
Used car guru
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