The Tarago is dead, may its name live forever in the hearts of Australia’s families. However while we’ll miss that car’s unnecessarily powerful V6 and futuristic egg-like styling, after having driven its replacement, we reckon the Tarago’s retirement is no bad thing.
After all, the all-new Toyota Granvia takes the brand’s people mover product in a new direction. A more luxurious direction. No longer positioned to compete with the likes of Honda’s Odyssey or the Kia Carnival, with a price range extending from $62,990 to $74,990, the Granvia is instead a rival to the Volkswagen Multivan and Mercedes-Benz V-Class.
Does it succeed as a premium people mover?
What is it?
The Granvia is a very large people mover based on the Toyota Hiace commercial van. Don’t let those origins make you think that it offers an agricultural experience though, as the only hints of Hiace in the interior are the general shape of the dashboard, with everything else from the trim materials, the seats, steering wheel and basically every piece of cabin furniture from the B-pillar back being entirely unique to the Granvia.
Read next: 2020 Toyota Granvia pricing and features
There’s a significant lift in safety equipment too, with radar cruise control, lane keep assist, autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, parking sensors, a top-down camera view and a full suite of front, side and curtain airbags stretching all the way back to the tailgate.
What's it like to drive?
Unlike the Hiace it’s based upon, the Granvia is available with just one choice of powertrain – a turbo-diesel 2.8-litre with 130kW and 450Nm, connected to a six-speed auto driving the rear wheels. The Hiace’s 3.5-litre petrol V6 is nowhere to be found.
But while that may make you think the Granvia is gruff, noisy and agricultural, the reality is different. Many kilos of sound deadening, plush carpets and interior panels help muffle the engine’s gravelly note, and at a cruise it’s quite muted. That engine is also a strong performer, easily moving the Granvia’s monstrous 2.6-tonne bulk with little need for revs.
And for such a big bus, it’s easy to wield. Its turning circle is almost car-like at 12 metres from kerb to kerb, and the bevy of driver aid tech like blind spot monitoring and a top-down parking camera view means it’s easy to keep it scratch-free in both highway and parking garage environments.
Plus, if you think that driving an SUV gives you a great view over other cars, maybe try the Granvia on for size. Its forward vision is outstanding thanks to the elevated seating position, big windscreen and tall side glass.
Ride quality is important for a people mover that’s pitched at the premium end of the market, and the Granvia mostly hits the mark. Its coil-spring rear axle is its main mechanical point of difference to the Hiace (which uses leaf springs to help carry heavy payloads), and on long wavy highways it proves comfortable for all.
It is, however, a touch sensitive to finer road imperfections like corrugations and the like, especially when carrying a light load of passengers.
What's it like to live with?
The Granvia comes in two grades - base and the range-topping Granvia VX we have here – and either can be optioned as a three-row six-seater, or a four-row eight-seater. While the eight-seat config costs an extra $2000 for the base $62,990 Granvia, it’s a no-cost option for the $74,990 Granvia VX. But don’t be tempted unless absolutely necessary: the eight-seat layout compromises the Granvia horribly.
Optioning the fourth row would be a grave mistake. If you really must have eight seats, select a different van.
Here's where you'll need to put the seats if all four rows are to have a workable amount of legroom
Why? Because jamming that fourth row of seats, which is a simple two-person bench rather than the captain’s chairs used in the second and third rows of the six-seater, means that everyone aft of the front seats won’t have enough legroom to actually enjoy the Granvia’s otherwise plush accommodations.
Nor will they have any space for their luggage. With all seats set to a somewhat-tolerable position, the fourth row ends up at the rearmost extreme of its travel, backrests hard up against the tailgate. Not great for an airport run, unless you’re towing a trailer for your passenger’s suitcases.
This press photo is misleading - the eight-seater's fourth row has been pushed all the way forward, making it unusable by passengers. Carrying bags is best accomplished by the six-seater.
And that’s a bit of a shame, because the rest of the Granvia passenger experience is quite good. You get leather in the VX grade, along with somewhat convincing (but kind of old-fashioned) faux wood trim along the dashboard, steering wheel and side plastics.
A power-adjustable driver’s seat also comes with the VX, as do power sliding rear doors and a Pioneer 12-speaker premium audio system, but the real highlight is the second row (and third row, if you stick with the six-seater) power-reclining, power-ottoman captain’s chairs.
These seats help justify the Granvia VX's sizeable price tag.
With deep wings on the headrests to keep your noggin from flopping off during a nap and LOADs of legroom, they offer business jet levels of long-distance comfort.
Tri-zone climate control with rear ventilation controls are standard on the Granvia, plus aircraft-style overhead vents and gimbal reading lights for every passenger. There are six high-amp USB charging points for your rear passengers too (plus another up front), so keeping devices going on long journeys will be easy.
Storage bins built into the rear doors and above the rear wheel arches give plenty of options for stashing food, books and other odds n’ ends, and there’s a flip-up tray between the second row seats for extra cupholders, should the ones built into the seats themselves not be sufficient.
In fact, the only majorly shortcoming is a lack of built-in entertainment screens. For something pitched as being akin to a business-class experience, the absence of screens for backseaters is notable.
Is it worth the money?
There are definitely cheaper ways of carting around a big family, but those options don’t quite equal the semi-luxurious experience of the Granvia. Is it worth the spend? Not as an eight-seater, but the six-seater makes a stronger case for itself as a roomy people-carrier for those who don’t appreciate being crammed cheek-by-jowl into the back of a van.
The VX is worth the extra spend considering the nicer upholstery and gains in standard equipment, but will people warm to it when the Toyota Prado VX has the same engine, costs a grand less and can carry seven people (though in a much squeezier cabin)? We’ll have to wait and see.
Pros: Huge cabin space, plenty of features for backseaters to enjoy, easy to drive for a big bus
Cons: Eight-seat config is poorly packaged, pricey for a people-mover