The Toyota Spacia had a production life that spanned from 1994 to 2002 and was aimed at the mid-range engine, minivan market. The design was a hybrid of the Tarago II body shape, with some modernisation and remodelling.
Toyota added additional safety features and refinements to the Tarago shape and created a more affordable eight-seat minivan at a time when rising prices were putting the Tarago out of range of most people’s pockets. The Spacia’s shape contained substantial elements of the original Tarago with the addition of a new interior, sloping front end, and new tail light rig. The front’s steeply raked bonnet was designed to house the forward controls, however, this would be done away with in later models.
By 1998, Toyota decided to update the Spacia’s look, and the Spacia SR40 was an agreeably priced version of the Toyota Town Ace. This was a considerable upscaling of the earlier Spacia and gave the vehicle more stability and safety, as well as better all-round vision. Although built around a new, stronger body shape, it does still have a very commercial look at a time when rivals were producing softer, family-friendly minivan shapes.
The front end was completely redrawn, with a forward projecting engine compartment, allowing the Spacia to meet the technical requirements in line with the other Toyota station wagon models. Its interior, although simple, offers lots of room for up to eight adults to sit comfortably, and rear air con controls provide a fresh and relaxing environment throughout the cabin.
The first generation Spacia YR22 was driven by the 2.2L, fuel-injected 4-cylinder engine, linked to either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic gearbox. In the later Spacia MkII, the power was supplied by the reliable 2.0L DOHC, 16-valve engine that was hooked up to a 5-speed, manual or the 4-speed automatic gearbox. The later model's roomy engine bay also allows plenty of space for mechanics to gain access in order to work and service the vehicle.
The engine and transmission units available are proven Toyota models, and the smaller 2.0L engine on the later SR40, despite its reduced capacity, has a higher torque, and better power output than the slightly bigger 2.2L engines found in the Mk1 vehicles.
The steering is a tried and tested rack and pinion construction and delivers sure, flawless performance around bends and tight city streets. This car is not designed for sports car performance and super slick road handling, but it will give its passengers a safe and comfortable trip.
The fuel economy specs for the Spacia rate it as a good vehicle for its size on fuel with an average consumption rate of 10.9L 110/km. For acceleration, the automatic takes the car from 0 to 100/km in 14.6 seconds.
Entry-level options on the Spacia provided a very basic interior, with cloth seating and trim, power steering, and a radio/cassette system being the only accessories offered across the board. These models are very much at the starter level and have very little additional equipment included.
The second generation Spacias were far more generous and came with duel front airbags, central locking, powered steering, powered mirrors, and electric windows as a part of the standard options available to customers. Additional features such as anti-lock brakes and rear air con were possible extras.
Between 1999 and 2000, to keep interest in the vehicle, Toyota added larger diameter wheels and created a more comfortable, ergonomically conceived interior. There were more gadgets as standard too, including duel air con, remote locking, parking radar, and a quality CD player as standard.
The Toyota Spacia is not one of the names that automatically spring to mind when discussing minivans. The market is pretty much swamped by the likes of the Mitsubishi Nimbus and the Mitsubishi Starwagon, the Chrysler Voyager, and Honda Odyssey. There are also equally lesser-known models like the Kia Towner and the Carnival that positioned themselves in the same market place. If you want to spend a little more, Toyota’s own Tarago is also similar in many respects.
What the Spacia does provide is a well-proportioned minivan capable of seating eight people, and it does have lots of capacity with plenty of storage that will not end up breaking the bank. The later SR40 model features a particular increase in safety features and a more stable platform without losing its competitive pricing.