The Toyota Tarago is unlike any other MPV on the market. Originally, the first-generation Tarago was simply a converted mini cargo-van, but over time, the Tarago has been redesigned for power, comfort, and safety, fitting for a van chosen by many to transport multiple family members. Affectionately known as the "egg van," the second-generation Tarago had a unique shape and character. While it eventually lost some of the egg shape, it still stands apart in comparison to other MPVs on the market.
The original Tarago had a mid-engine and cab-over design, which made for excellent visibility and manoeuvrability, but limited engine size to a maximum 2.4L i4. With the second-generation though, the engine was moved forward and gained a few cubic centimetres but overall remained a fairly sluggish MPV, even supercharged. For most of its life, the Tarago has been powered by one version or another of the 2.4L i4, some pre-2000 models being supercharged.
Still, Tarago was never known for torque, but by 2007 the Toyota Tarago finally gained a V6, the 3.5L from the Lexus RX 350, and it is one of the more fun to drive MPVs on the market today. Equipped with many modern conveniences, including power-sliding doors, GPS navigation system, and power-folding third-row seats, the Tarago today rivals even some luxury sedans in convenience, comfort, performance, and fuel economy.
The first-generation nearly flat-mounted 2.4L i4, naturally aspirated or supercharged, was mounted midway back, under the driver's seat, requiring special contortionist abilities to change oil or do a tune up. It wasn't particularly powerful, at 101kW and was mated to a 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual transmission and rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive configurations. This first-generation 2.4L was also mildly thirsty, consuming 8.5L/100km to 10L/100km.
The second-generation Tarago was redesigned on the Camry platform, moving the engine forward and making room for the 2.4L i4 engine and 4-speed front-wheel drive automatic transmission. The newer engine was only slightly more powerful at 116kW but still failed to deliver a whole lot of torque, which is important in an MPV. Overall though, fuel economy stayed pretty much the same.
When the third-generation Tarago was redesigned in 2007, they somehow managed to cram the 3.5L V6 engine from the Lexus RX 350 into the same engine bay as the available 2.4L i4. Mated to a 6-speed automatic, this was the power and performance that Tarago-lovers had been waiting for: 202kW and loads of low-end torque at 340Nm. While this made the Tarago much more engaging and fun to drive, it actually improved fuel economy to 10.2L/100km. No other V6-powered MPV even comes close.
Standard 17-inch alloy wheels help the Tarago keep its footing and excellent fuel economy, but it isn't rough-riding at all, thanks to the suspension soaking up any bumps in the road. The standard 8-passenger models feature extremely adjustable and removable second-row seats as well as fold-into-the floor third-row seats for maximum versatility.
Higher-end models include optional dual moon roofs, and dual power-sliding doors, power-lifting rear hatch, and power-folding third-row seats. The second-row seats in the 7-passenger models are adjustable captain's chairs that recline 72 degrees and have built-in ottomans. Satnav and a rear-seat entertainment system are also optional. Available roof rails and racks help manage more gear.
The Honda Odyssey is another great MPV, running cheaper than the Tarago across most of its iterations but in a smaller package. Odyssey still carries plenty of passengers, but there is less legroom and shoulder space. Odyssey's price just can't compete without the safety and convenience features that come with the Tarago.
The Kia Grand Carnival is another V6-powered MPV that, again, is a heavyweight but easily $10,000 to $20,000 cheaper, which makes for a fairly competitive vehicle. Older versions of the Carnival were equipped with a trouble-prone V6 from Rover but switched to a more reliable version later in the game. The Kia is just a simpler design and doesn't have as many of the safety and convenience features that the Tarago does.
The Chrysler Grand Voyager tends to find itself in roughly the same price range, but it doesn't hold up as well in the engine and transmission department. The Voyager is powered by a decent-size V6 as well, but it is much heavier than the Tarago. Driving and manoeuvring on the Voyager doesn't feel as refined as on the Tarago.