Room to move for Tarago

Toyota's multi-seat Tarago GLX is big on space.
Toyota's multi-seat Tarago GLX is big on space.

TARAGO is one of the oldest nameplates in the multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) segment and Toyota has produced four generations over three decades.

Since the Tarago made its debut in Australia in 1983, the Aussie automotive landscape has changed dramatically, especially in recent times, where motorists have opted for a seven-seat SUV if they want to cart around numerous people.

The current range starts with the Tarago GLi, priced from $45,490, and extends all the way to the Tarago Ultima, priced from $65,600.

The Tarago GLX specification that we sampled falls somewhere in the middle of the range, with prices starting from $47,990.

Standard equipment includes satellite navigation, reversing camera, eight seats and tri-zone climate control.

The drivetrain for GLi and GLX models is a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable transmission that drives the front wheels.

The Ultima is fitted with Toyota’s lovely 3.5-litre V6 and six-speed automatic and front-wheel drive, the drivetrain also used in the Aurion and Kluger.

Buyers who want more grunt – and if you’re carting around a lot of people and their gear, we suspect you will – the GLi and GLX versions can be optioned with the V6, but it does add a significant premium.

The Tarago GLX V6 as tested is priced from $55,990, plus options and on-road costs. It’s an $8000 premium over the four-cylinder version.

It’s worth noting that GLi models have eight seats as standard, whereas anything in GLX trim or above only have seven.

So, for your $55,990, you get seven seats – the middle row are individual captain chairs with built-in recline function – satellite navigation, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, heated front seats, electrically operated sliding doors that can be controlled from the key fob and suede/leatherette trim.

That 3.5-litre V6 churns out a potent 202kW and 340Nm, so the big Tarago will move off from standstill rather rapidly, even chirping the front tyres if you’re callous with the accelerator.

Toyota claimed combined fuel consumption is 10.3litres/100km, but we averaged about 12.3 litres on the combined cycle. This engine demands premium fuel, too.

Once on the move, the Tarago is a mixed bag. It always has ample power but at the same time it feels like a big, tall and long people bus.

At low speeds, though, the steering is light and it felt surprisingly manoeuvrable. This should make negotiating school carparks a doddle.

Even with all three rows of seating in place, all seven passengers are seated with ample space and comfort. And there’s a huge boot too, which most seven-seat SUVs can’t claim.

The Tarago has quite possibly the biggest centre console in the world. It can store snacks, iPads, laptops, another seven people.

For its asking price, you don’t really get a lot of family-friendly entertainment equipment. There’s only one USB port and no tray tables on the back of the seats.

Verdict: It does the peoplemover thing quite well, but has a dated design and basic equipment levels. An in-car DVD system wouldn’t cost Toyota a fortune and would strengthen the Tarago GLX as a new-car proposition for families with small children.