Used Toyota Picnic MPV 1997 - 2001 review

Category: MPV

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

Toyota Picnic MPV (97 - 01)
  • Toyota Picnic MPV (97 - 01)
  • Toyota Picnic MPV (97 - 01)
Used Toyota Picnic MPV 1997 - 2001 review
Star rating

What's the used Toyota Picnic MPV like?

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.


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

  • It seats six and is good to drive
  • plus, Toyota's reliability record is excellent
  • Rivals offer more space and versatility, and the driving position isn't great

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.

Ownership cost

What used Toyota Picnic MPV will I get for my budget?

How much does it cost to run a Toyota Picnic MPV?

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.

Our recommendations

Which used Toyota Picnic MPV should I buy?

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.


What alternatives should I consider to a used Toyota Picnic MPV?