A luxury people mover based on the Toyota HiAce would have the potential to become the stuff of transportation dreams for high end hotels and resorts and it’s that very market Toyota is attempting to tap with the 2020 Toyota Granvia VX.
Vehicles like the Granvia (known as the Grand Ace in Japan) have been a part of the Japanese tourist landscape for a number of years, and they’re much loved in the car maker’s homeland.
Some imports have even made their way here, and people seem to like them. It’s a niche market though, so the Granvia VX we’re testing may not be everyone’s cup of tea, even though it’s essentially a replacement for the Tarago.
With the aforementioned 2020 Toyota HiAce commercial van as its base, it’s been reworked inside and out, and the 8-seat Granvia VX is fitted with luxury leather seats, soft carpet and large glass windows.
In fact it comes with full leather seat trim and power reclining second row seats, complete with a power folding ottoman (which is a bit swanky), while the third and fourth row seats are stuck with manual operation.
As an aside, there’s an entry level Granvia with cloth seat trims and manual seating without ottomans. It does get folding armrests in the second and third rows, and is probably closer to the old Tarago than the VX.
The up market model, as you’d imagine, with its up-sized seat layout, offers no shortage of head room or width. Leg room though was tight with every seat in use. If you fold away row four, seats can be individually moved to free up more space.
But there are some downsides to the design. There’s no flow from the front to the back, and each row of seats is literally different. It feels like they’ve been taken from different vehicles and shoved into the Granvia VX, with no thought for aesthetics.
If you suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), the fact that even the stitching and seat styles are different between the rows will positively do your head in. Second row seats (the ottoman ones) are massive, and row four seats are kid friendly only.
On the plus side, access to the third row is relatively easy, as second row seats flip and slide forward for easier access. But, and yes there’s another but, with four rows all in use, the ottoman function is wasted, as you can’t use them. There’s just not the room.
It’s almost like an aeroplane. the second row is first class, the third row is premium economy, and the back row is cattle class. It would make an amazing 6-seat luxury van, with plenty of room in the back, but that fourth row kills the luggage space.
What’s also missing are captain’s style arm rests for the driver’s seat. Don’t laugh, other vehicles have had them, including the Kia Carnival Platinum. It needs them because the door card sits quite high, and the centre console is closer to the passenger side.
Moving on from the seating, there’s great climate control, divided into two zones but delivered to all four rows via individual vents. Cabin ‘map’ lighting can also be swivelled, aeroplane style, and has three brightness settings.
Throughout the rear there are six USB outlets to keep everyone’s devices charged, and up front Toyota has upped its infotainment game by adding Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (finally) to the 7.0-inch touchscreen system.
It comes complete with AM/FM/DAB+ radio, a CD player, Bluetooth, in-built satellite navigation, and an excellent 12-speaker Pioneer sound system in the Granvia VX. The only downside is the screen is way too small.
Toyota could have simply nicked the larger screen from the LandCruiser Sahara, which would have added integrated air conditioning controls, which are separate in the Granvia.
It’s safety roster is pretty impressive though, with lane departure warning, front and rear park sensors, 360-degree camera, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection.
There’s also high speed adaptive cruise control and nine airbags. We did struggle with the rear tailgate though. It’s massive, and when fully open, is higher than 6-foot to reach the handle to shut it.
Under the bonnet, it sports the same diesel engine you’ll find powering the HiLux and HiAce. A 2.8-litre turbo diesel four cylinder with 130kW and 450Nm, mated to a six speed automatic. It delivers power to the rear wheels.
Trying to manoeuvre the big luxury van when overtaking or pulling out at an intersection demonstrates it’s a little down on power and could use a bit more oomph. Fuel consumption is a claimed 8.0-litres/100km. We couldn’t do better than 12.0-litres/100km.
It’s got an exceptional turning circle and amazing visibility though, with the two combining to make for a nimble driving experience. If there’s a downside, it’s the fact that without passengers, the huge rear area can echo road and tyre noise.
Overall, the 2020 Toyota Granvia VX is well, a bit of a disappointment. In its 8-seat form, it would make a great passenger transfer vehicle, but it might not be suitable as a family vehicle, especially for holidaying.
Personally, we’d ditch the back row of seats completely, have it as a super luxurious six seater and take to the road in style and comfort. Now that would make it a great people mover.
The Toyota Granvia VX is priced from $82,368 drive away, and is available in Ebony (Black), Crystal Pearl, Silver Pearl and Graphite. Two interior choices, black or natural beige leather, are available.
Our 2020 Toyota Granvia VX was supplied by Toyota Australia. To find out more, contact your local Toyota dealer.