Warren Caves finds the new Granvia is rather more than a Mum Bus

As Toyota drops the long serving Tarago to make way for the Granvia, does it have what it takes to fill the rather large, family-friendly Tarago boots?

The Toyota Tarago hit the Australian market in 1983, largely unopposed in the people-mover market.

Prior to that time, families with greater than three or four kids were forced to use two cars or be somewhat crudely catered for by station wagons fitted with aftermarket “dickie seats”. At least they had seatbelts.

In my day (that really makes me sound old), we as kids were thrown in the back of my grandfather’s Valiant Safari, without so much as a cursory concern for restraint. The success of the Tarago was assured. The timing was perfect.

Sharing its underpinnings with the recently released all new Hiace, the Granvia VX brings to the table class-leading internal dimensions, seating for eight and a level of lavishness lying somewhere between a European passenger car and a small eight-seater bus. What it brings to the family table is the latest suite of top-level, Toyota “Safety Sense” driver-assistance features.

There’s no denying it, the look of the Granvia VX is best described as bold. The square-cut chiselled lines of the front end with its large cascading grille give a somewhat futuristic appearance. While the front aspect is pleasing enough to the eye, the view from the rear in my opinion is best described as “boxy”.

No doubt the boxy rear appearance is born out of using existing Toyota design platform found in the Hiace. However, there is an upshot to the lack of stylish rear lines, that is the increased internal space and in particular, headroom.

Offered for test to Delivery by Toyota Australia was the, top spec’ Granvia VX, eight-seat model. So, let’s go for a spin.

Not long into my drive back home with the Granvia VX I was quickly introduced to some of the Safety Sense driver assistance features.

A small diversion from my chosen lane without the application of the indicator resulted in the lane-departure light illuminating in the multi-information display within the instrument cluster. Nothing new in that but what was new was the way the vehicle reacted to this situation.

Rather than an audible warning, which the Granvia VX either doesn’t have or was turned off (I’m not really sure which), the vehicle instead applied the brakes. It did so proportionately in a way that imparted a steering response to the opposite direction of lane drift. This both slowed the vehicle down and offered a marginal correction to lane wander, both of which would grab your attention should you find yourself a bit tired or inattentive.

The lane-departure alert can be switched off (as I did on some narrower rural roads), however the function automatically re-engages each time the engine is re-started, which is a great safety feature.

Vision from the pilot’s seat is particularly good, with a wide and tall windscreen and sloping bonnet offering an unimpeded forward view. Around the A-pillar and doors’ blind spots are greatly minimised with the addition of what would historically be called a quarter window. This, in addition to the blind-spot monitoring feature, (BSM) caters well to aid manoeuvring and lane changing on what is a sizeable vehicle.

Advanced safety features form an integral part of the Granvia VX. The people protection comes with nine air bags and the active and passive systems include autonomous emergency braking (AEB) active-cruise control (ACC) with three distance settings, pre-collision safety system (PCS), pedestrian and cyclist detection, reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors, all of which culminate to score a five-star ANCAP rating.

Admittedly I hadn’t read up on the Granvia prior to picking it up, so what surprised me a little was the speed shown in the multi-information display (MID). It was displaying the current speed zone I was travelling within, fair enough, but I was in the M5 tunnel, an 80 km/h zone, which had been reduced to 60 km/h for roadworks.

The MID was suggesting the lower 60km/h limit and this is now where drivers will have to be open to new levels of information as the vehicle they are driving is now capable of reading speed signs. Toyota’s road sign assist system also picked up a 20 km/h zone in a private industrial premise I was driving within. The only time the system got things wrong was when I was driving in a school zone during school holidays. While the vehicle may now be capable of reading speed signs, it seems it can’t yet tell the time and doesn’t have a school term calendar downloaded in its dashboard.

The driver’s seat was supportive and easily adjustable via the electronic controls, with good rearward travel for long legs. The dash is well laid out with accents of woodgrain to promote sophistication. A large storage console resides between the seats; however, there are no armrests for the driver or passenger. Pairing my phone to the MID system with its seven-inch screen was easy and the system was sensible in its menus which allowed me to get out on the road in no time.

Rear seat passengers are where the comfort moves to next-level opulence, particularly in the second row. The captain’s chairs – as they have been labelled – would truly be well at home at the pointy end of an Airbus A380. Leather appointed with high, all-enclosed armrest, electronic adjustment and an ottoman leg rest. Throw in ambient mood lighting and dual-zoned climate-control air conditioning and all this combines to create a seating oasis sure to enhance meditation and induce spontaneous bouts of narcolepsy.

The third and fourth row seating provide a slightly less comfortable experience. Access to the fourth row, 60/40 split seat arrangement is clumsy and narrow via the corridor between the third row of fixed seats.

The Granvia VX is available in either six or eight-seat configurations. As an eight-seat specification there is little to no room for luggage when at full occupant capacity, although the fourth row can slide away somewhat when not being used to free up some space. However, it is not easily removed.

For those that believe in keeping in touch with our ever-increasingly connected world, Toyota has included multiple USB charging ports in the front and rear of the Granvia VX to keep devices charged up for kids and executives alike. A 12-speaker Pioneer sound system delivers acoustic ambience throughout the interior. Retractable shade screens are fitted to the large rear side windows to keep the harsh sun at bay and increase privacy.

Access to the rear-passenger seating is via double sliding doors (remote and electronically operated on the VX), which also feature a soft close. The rear tailgate door is large and heavy, rising to a reasonable height which could prove problematic for the vertically challenged.

The sole power plant for the Granvia is the 2.8-litre D4D intercooled turbo-diesel found in the all new Hiace van, the Hilux and Prado.

In a sensible move by Toyota, to keep the emissions system working at its optimal level they have fitted a diesel particulate filter (DPF), with a manual re-generation button located on the dash panel in front of the driver’s right knee.

Delivering 130 kW of power at 3400 rpm and a substantial 450 Nm of torque between 1600-2400 rpm, the Granvia is competitive in the city traffic stakes and holds its own on the freeway. It’s not fast but it’s more than adequate in performance for the application.

The six-speed automatic transmission provided confident ratio swapping with smooth and crisp transitions of power to drive the rear axle.

At highway speeds the NVH levels were good with minimal echoing from the passenger compartment. However, there was a degree of tyre hum noticeable on some surfaces.

Ride and handling are on par with any people mover derived from a commercial platform and steering was predictable for a van of this size, although some wind buffeting was apparent at highway speeds.

At my test conclusion the fuel economy figure showed 10.4 L/100km which is up on the claimed 8 L/100km combined cycle. For a high statured, 2000 kg-plus van, 10.4 L/100km is not overly excessive, however it’s a long way off the claimed fuel economy figure.

So, what’s the verdict?

The well-appointed Granvia has a lot to offer, abundant internal space, eight seats, an executive atmosphere and Toyota’s quality of build cannot be overlooked, but will the Granvia suit buyers of the Tarago ilk?

Looking from a family buyers’ perspective, an eight-seat capacity could have been achieved with three rows of seats, instead of four, thereby adding luggage space without sacrificing seating capacity. The large rear tailgate could prove to be difficult to operate for busy Mums and Dads with armfuls of groceries and would certainly not be able to be operated by little kids.

While ISOFIX harness points are available, some homework with the tape measure would be advisable to check if capsules and booster seats would actually fit within the second-row seating with the fixed side armrests (VX), otherwise the little ones would have to be placed in the third-row seating.

Ideally suited to the corporate transfer sector and airport shuttles (with a trailer for luggage), the Granvia loses little in comparison to the outgoing Tarago.  As a six -seat family people mover the Granvia VX excels for space and sophistication.

Pricing for the Granvia VX starts at $74,990 plus on-road costs. Toyota offers a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty for private buyers, and five-year, 160,000 km for commercial purchasers.

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