To describe the all-new 2020 Toyota Granvia as the successor to the outgoing Tarago is, perhaps, a little misguided.
Yes, both are primarily devised as multi-person transport, but whereas the last few generations of Tarago were passenger cars through and through, the Granvia is spun from the new Toyota HiAce.
There’s no real harm in that. The first Tarago was commercial in origin, and many of the Granvia’s rivals are work-van-based, too, like the Volkswagen Multivan, and at the upper end the Mercedes-Benz V-Class.
For Toyota, it creates an evolutionary misstep – but more on that in a minute.
The Granvia arrives as an upmarket move for Toyota’s people-mover range. Pricing starts from $62,990 plus on-road costs for the entry-level six-seat Granvia and adds $2000 for an eight-seat version. The top-shelf Granvia VX seen here steps up to $74,990 with either six or eight seats.
That starts the new model off at over $17,000 above the list price of the cheapest Tarago, although in this instance you get a much larger car with a more torquey diesel engine in place of the Tarago’s timid petrol four-cylinder or thirsty, but rather charming, V6.
The engine itself is the same as you’ll find powering the HiLux and HiAce – a 2.8-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder with 130kW at 3400rpm and a grunty 450Nm from 1600 to 2400rpm. It’s mated to a six-speed automatic and delivers power to the rear wheels, rather than the more compact and space-efficient layout of the Tarago before it.
Fuel use lists at 8.0 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, but after almost a week of shuttling passengers, start-stop city driving and highway cruising, the Granvia settled on a less-impressive 11.3L/100km – even with its fuel-saving idle-stop system in use.
Although a variety of technical reasons mean the Granvia shouldn’t be directly compared to the Tarago, it’s hard not to draw parallels between the two people movers. Notably, for previous Tarago owners, the Granvia stops the tape at a substantial 50.5cm longer, 24cm taller, 17cm wider and rides on a wheelbase 26cm longer, making the new entrant a noticeably larger vehicle in all dimensions.
Although the Granvia will no doubt be called in on family duties in some situations, its positioning now moves it away from the family and fleet focus of the Tarago.
Instead, the new model better fills the needs of corporate customers: hotels, golf clubs, chauffeur drivers and the like are set to benefit from the repositioning the most.
Inside, whereas the Tarago fitted occupants across three rows, the Granvia opts for four rows of seats, with rows one, two and three in individual ‘captain's chairs’ with a full-width two-place bench at the rear. Opt for a six-seat model and the rear bench is left out, or the base can be flipped up and the seat slid forward in eight-seat versions for more cargo space.
The Granvia VX eight-seat models get leather seat trim and power-reclining second-row seats with a power-folding ottoman, while the third-row seats stick with manual operation. In the six-seat versions, the third row is upgraded to include the same power operation as row two, along with seat heating for those four seats.
The entry-level Granvia adapts a simpler approach, with cloth seat trims and manual seating without ottomans, but including folding armrests in the second and third rows.
As you’d imagine with the seat layout as it is and the Granvia’s upsized dimensions, there’s no shortage of head room or width, though oddly leg room is rather tight in eight-seat models. Without the need to use row four, seats can be individually slid to free up more space.
Think of it as an ideal long-range tourer for six, or a short-distance shuttle with all seats occupied.
Problematically, whereas the second row can be flipped and slid forward for easier access to the aft seats, the third row doesn’t move out of the way, leaving only the narrow aisle down the centre of the car for fourth-row access.
That fourth row has problems of its own. It’s not designed to be removable, so there’s no unclipping and stowing it on a whim to boost luggage space. That's perhaps not an issue for corporate operators, but worth considering for private buyers.
Up front, the huge centre console provides a ridiculously large amount of space with an open tray hiding a lidded cover, more floor level storage and restraints to hold a bottle up to 1.5 litres, but front to rear walk-through access is no longer possible.
The cabin itself is thoughtfully prepared. If you’re up front there’s a big step up into the cabin, where the front seats are soft and comfy, but despite being an all-new design, the Granvia’s dash is hardly cutting edge in the way the sweeping interior of the Tarago was.
You’ll find no shortage of shiny fake wood trim in the Granvia VX, a fetching black-on-black colour scheme (with optional beige leather available), and more refined surfaces including padded door sections and soft-touch dash pieces.
The driver faces traditional dials with a colour multifunction display in between, and there’s plenty of adjustment to the seat (power-operated in VX) and steering wheel – but oddly a lack of front-seat heating or lumbar support. The dash-mounted gear shifter falls easily to hand, but there’s not as much dash storage as professional drivers or tour operators might like.
Climate control for the cabin is divided into two zones, front and rear, while outlets stretch to all four rows of seats. However, map lights are only provided to rows two and three, although the aimable lenses can be swivelled as required.
Manual sun shades are provided on rear side glass aft of the B-pillar. The Granvia VX gets power-operated sliding doors, and six-seat versions pick up seat heating for the second- and third-row seats, too.
Throughout the rear cabin there are six 2.1-amp USB outlets to keep everyone’s devices charged, and up front Toyota has upped its infotainment game by adding Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to the 7.0-inch touchscreen system alongside AM/FM/DAB+ radio, CD player, Bluetooth, inbuilt satellite navigation, and either six-speaker audio in the Granvia or a 12-speaker Pioneer sound system in the Granvia VX.
Overall, the Granvia isn’t without its faults. Yes, it’s big, but that doesn’t really cut it when the interior leg room between rows is still rather tight, and equipment levels aren’t particularly high. In the Granvia VX, second-row occupants get treated like royalty, but head further back and you end up in some cheap seats – particularly the flat and firm fourth row.
There’s really no luggage space with all four rows up, but plenty with the fourth row folded away. Though if it were easily removable entirely, that would be better again.
It surely wouldn’t be out of place to expect a powered tailgate either, given how high the Granvia’s tailgate rests when open, and how much effort it takes to swing closed. At least a soft-close function pulls the door shut once it rests against the striker.
Otherwise, the super-cushy VX captain's chairs are a lovely place to be, there’s ambient lighting for the feeling of after-dark luxe, and Toyota – as always – has a climate-control system that’s easy to use and incredibly effective at keeping the cabin chilly on even the hottest days.
Out on the road, the diesel engine doesn’t live up to the refinement benchmarks set by its petrol predecessors, but more than makes up for it with effortless torque available right from the get-go. The Granvia is by no means quick, but it is assuredly muscular in the way it builds speed.
Long runs up to freeway entry ramps and extended overtaking opportunities are preferred, but there’s no real need to rush it. Thankfully, the pace doesn’t drop off dramatically when loaded up.
Sheer size may count against the Granvia within the confines of the city, but a surprisingly tight turning circle makes it far more nimble than its size suggests. On the open road, the hydraulic steering is dulled down to make it stable and free from twitchiness.
Without adding passengers, the huge rear area can echo road and tyre noise, but add in bodies and luggage and the on-road noise doesn’t seem out of place. Given the diesel engine up front and the more bluff shape overall, the Granvia’s refinement isn’t quite a match for the Tarago.
Trim quality of the eight-seat VX we spent our time with didn’t quite live up to expectations, either. Rattles from around the sliding doors and shuffling seats took some shine off the drive, while from an appearance standpoint, multi-piece rear floor mats detach too easily from their mounts under the seat rails as passengers enter and exit.
Aside from those relatively minor gripes, though, the Granvia functions quite well in its intended role.
That role isn’t as a family car. Toyota appears to have conceded that market, along with rental fleets, to the Kia Carnival. Instead, the Granvia arrives as the perfect companion for the corporate hospitality market. It can, of course, still fill in for families as required, though.
The specification focussed on rear occupants, but offering relatively little for the driver, screams ‘thank you for travelling’ rather than ‘if you kids don’t pipe down we’ll go home’. Along those lines, the safety kit is decent but perhaps not stellar for families. Although officially unrated by ANCAP at the time of writing, the similar HiAce wears a five-star rating (UPDATE: since publishing Toyota has announced a five star ANCAP score for the Granvia.)
The Granvia’s equipment list covers features including lane-departure warning, front and rear park sensors, 360-degree camera, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, high-speed adaptive cruise control and nine airbags.
Seats in the second and third rows include top tether and ISOFIX child seat mounts, but the fourth row (where fitted) lacks provision, capping the capsule count to four.
Toyota covers the Granvia with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty for private buyers, or five years/160,000km for commercial operators (including part-time and rideshare usage). Service pricing is capped at $240 for each of the first six scheduled services; however, intervals are slightly shorter than the industry norm at six months or 10,000km.
Ultimately, the Granvia hits the nail on the head.
It doesn’t seek to fill the gap left by the departing Tarago, but instead carves a new niche as a corporate shuttle. It's designed to flatter and impress passengers on the kinds of short runs that see them moved from point A to point B while keeping drivers happy, albeit not pampered in quite the same way.