Today, we’re testing a people-mover. Please contain your excitement.
Despite a desirability factor of zero and a driving thrills quotient of — let’s be generous — minus three, the humble people-mover can, if done well, be a beautiful thing in its own way.
It’s no easy task to design a vehicle that can transport up to nine people in safety and comfort. No SUV can do that. In fact the third row back stalls in SUVs are, without exception, the worst seats in the house, difficult to access and tortuously uncomfortable for adults.
Toyota’s Tarago defined the people mover class for more than 30 years. A favourite with tribe-size families, hotel shuttle operators and touring rock bands, it has now been replaced by the Granvia.
You could get into a 2019 Tarago GLi eight-seater for $45,490 plus on road costs. As I write this, there are still a few left at Toyota dealers.
Start money for the eight-seater Granvia is $64,990. That’s a hike of $19,500 — or 43 per cent — which must be close to a record for a new model. A six seater costs $62,990.
Instead of the Tarago’s 2-3-3 layout, where rows two and three are three-seater benches, the Granvia eight-seater is a 2-2-2-2 configuration. Rows two and three each have two individual seats, with access from either side via a sliding door and a central aisle leading to the two-person, fourth row bench.
Its 2.8-litre turbo diesel (also fitted to the HiLux and Prado) turns the six-speed automatic and rear wheel drive.
The Granvia is basically a HiAce van fitted out to carry people rather than freight, so standard equipment includes front and rear airconditioning, the latter controlled from a panel in the roof above row two and roof vents on each side of every row.
USB power sockets, cup holders, aircraft-style, roof-mounted LED reading lights and coat hooks for each rear seat are also provided. So passengers are very well looked after.
The base model also gets a small (seven-inch) touchscreen, accurate, responsive voice control for most functions (including reading emails and messages), Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, navigation with live traffic updates and digital radio.
Heaps of storage up front includes the biggest centre console box I’ve ever seen, though a dedicated phone slot is notably absent and no tray or compartment is lined, so your bits and pieces slide around and/or rattle to distraction on the hard plastic surfaces.
Unladen, the ride is compliant and comfortable, though with a full load it will probably get bouncy on rough roads. Granvia is also exceptionally quiet for a van, with minimal engine and wind noise and none of that boom box resonance you often get in people movers.
Each row two and three seat has fore/aft adjustment and ample legroom; row four is a bit tighter, but still more spacious and comfortable than the back seat in an SUV.
The Granvia’s major problem, though, is that the four-row layout leaves no room for any gear behind it. The Tarago’s three-row configuration left enough space for everybody’s bag. Even if you don’t need Granvia’s back seat, it can’t be folded or stowed to liberate some cargo space.
Which is pretty dumb in an eight-seater people-mover. You’ll need to tick the towbar option and get a trailer if you want to carry a full load of people and gear.
The manual tailgate is heavy and high when open, so shorter people will find it unwieldy, especially in confined spaces.
Granvia has all the important safety tech, though 360 degree camera coverage (not available) would be reassuring in a kid carrier. Curtain airbags cover all rows.
Toyota’s languid, all grunt/no power 2.8-litre turbo diesel is the ideal engine for this family freighter application.
As in the HiLux and Prado, the Granvia has a diesel particulate filter purge button on the dash to circumvent the problem of the filter clogging up when the vehicle is repeatedly driven short distances at low speed.
Fuel consumption is comparable with a big diesel SUV: 7l-8L/100km on the highway and 11L-13L/100km in town.
On the road, the Granvia feels huge and, again, quite similar to a large SUV — understandable, given that it weighs a LandCruiser-like 2660kg. Still, it’s safe and secure at open road speeds and untroubled by rough surfaces. At 5.3 metres long and nearly two metres wide, it’s a chore to park and manoeuvre in tight spaces, though the turning circle is small for its size.
I’ve got a thing for huge pimpmobile vans. This one is the best. Isn’t that grille just a masterpiece of bad taste?
Times are tough and I’ve got five (or is it six?) kids to feed, so I’m going to have to make some extra bucks as an Uber XL driver.
Kia Carnival from $45,490
Hard to see the value in Granvia when you can have this and pocket nearly $20,000 change. 2.2-litre turbo diesel/eight-speed auto. Useful boot space even with all eight seats occupied. Basic safety tech.
Volkswagen Caravelle TDi340 from $52,590
Genius interior features a 2-2-2-3 layout that you can customise to your requirements by easily removing seats, including the three-person rear bench. 2.0-litre turbo diesel/seven-speed dual-clutch auto returns great fuel economy.
As a people-mover, the Granvia eight-seater does indeed move people efficiently, safely and comfortably. But it’s seriously overpriced and it’s ridiculous that you can’t carry people and their gear.
Toyota Granvia vitals
Warranty/servicing: 5 years, $2400 for 5 years
Engine: 2.8-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 130kW/450Nm
Safety: 5 stars, 9 airbags, AEB, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise
Boot: Too small to use
Originally published as Toyota Tarago replacement tested