Car reviews - Toyota - Tarago - GLi people-mover
Brave design, intelligent interior, good to drive
Room for improvement
2.4 engine not very powerful or economical with big loads, parts and servicing can be expensive
23 Jul 2003
NOT so many years back, the average Australian family chose a station wagon - an extended version of the family sedan - to move the family from place to place.
Ford and Holden were the main providers of roomy wagons, the only serious competition coming from the eight-seat Peugeot 505 wagon and the Volvo 245, with its rearmost seats facing backwards.
Then came "people-mover" versions of commercial forward control vans which were roomier but nowhere near as safe as the conventional passenger vehicle.
The 1990 Toyota Tarago was a major breakthrough in people-mover design.
Designed purely as a passenger-oriented vehicle rather than based on a commercial van, Toyota claimed the Tarago combined passenger car driveability, ride, handling and safety with three rows of adult seating and a large luggage area.
It met all passenger car design rules for safety including front barrier crash test, side intrusion and braking.
Overnight, the major objections to the commercially-based people- movers were solved.
The Tarago was offered with either two-wheel drive to the rear wheels or full-time four-wheel drive via a viscous coupling.
The model range in ascending order of equipment grades was GLi, RV, GLX and GLS, with the GLi and GLX models having rear-wheel drive and the RV and GLS constant four-wheel drive, although these were discontinued in 1991 and 1993 respectively.
All Tarago models are classified as passenger cars for registration purposes.
The Tarago's trend-setting body was penned at Toyota's design centre in California.
The shape is very clean with a sharply raked windscreen. Windows, headlamps and rear lamps are flush fitting, resulting in low wind noise and a low drag coefficient of 0.34.
Access to the rear seats is by a single sliding rear door on the passenger side.
The 2.4-litre, four-cylinder engine was developed specifically for the Tarago and is mounted under the front seats and tipped over at 75 degrees to provide a flat floor line.
It is matched to a five-speed manual transmission with steering column-mounted shift lever or four-speed electronic automatic.
The engine accessory drive system is driven from the front of the crankshaft and accessibility through the bonnet to the engine belts, alternator and A/C compressor is good.
Suspension on the GLi and GLX is by MacPherson struts and coil springs at the front, and solid axle with coil springs and five- link trailing arm system at the rear. The top of the line GLX and GLS have independent rear suspension using double wishbones.
Steering is power-assisted rack and pinion and brakes are ventilated front discs and self-adjusting rear drums, vacuum-assisted.
A load sensing proportioning valve is fitted to the rear brake system to control rear wheel lock-up which was often a problem on the previous van-type people-movers.
The important feature of the Tarago is its people carrying capacity of eight, using three rows of seats. The floor is flat, giving walk-through access to the rear seats from the front.
The split rearmost seats fold back along the sides of the vehicle to provide more luggage room but this exercise is quite awkward to perform.
The driving position is car-like with the added advantage of the extra height giving greater vision over the sloping bonnet.
Standard features include central locking and a six-speaker radio/cassette player, with power exterior mirrors standard from 1992.
It is on the road that the advance from the old commercial people-movers is most obvious.
The willing engine performs well and is quiet except under hard acceleration.
The handling is good with understeer only becoming evident when the vehicle is pushed hard into corners. Ride is comfortable, the suspension soaking up bumps well.
The power-assisted steering is well weighted and nicely responsive. The brakes work well with a nicely modulated pedal feel.
Although the age of the Tarago design is starting to show, it is still an excellent vehicle for the job it is designed to do.
Roomy, well finished and with excellent road manners, it is ideal for large families.
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