In an overwhelmingly image conscious market like ours, positioning a van as a family vehicle is an unenviably tough task. Honda with its Odyssey, Kia with the Carnival, and Mercedes-Benz with its V-Class have been trying to break free from the perception of being fleet limos but with limited success. I have driven all these minivans, or MPVs as they’re called, and can say they are among some of the best family vehicles out there. However, none of them have managed to become a part of as many households as their utility and comfort would warrant. Now, Toyota has made an even bigger gamble by bringing the Granvia, based on the commercial Hiace van, to the Middle East and positioning it as a luxury people mover ideal for limousine operators as well as large families. Do not let the Hiace underpinnings fool you into thinking the Granvia is some unrefined, agricultural van with a Spartan interior. On the contrary, this new Toyota has one of the swankiest cabins in the people mover class. The Premium variant that we tested has three rows of captain’s chairs, with the second and third rows equipped with power-reclining function and power-folding ottoman footrests, helping them transform into near flatbeds like the airline business class seats. Adding further to the ambience of luxury are features such as adjustable interior illumination with different colours to choose from, woodgrain trim and metallic finishing, as well as rear air conditioning that has nanotechnology to help remove bacteria and odours. It also provides an incredibly large amount of storage space with cubby holes and pockets all across the three rows.

 

Photos: Stefan Lindeque

The 3.5-litre V6 produces 278 horses and 351Nm of torque and is mated to a six-speed auto. This setup is more than enough to haul the Granvia and its occupants in sublime comfort. The ride quality is right up there with the best luxury SUVs that cost many times more. And for its large dimensions, it’s easy to manoeuvre with an almost car-like turning radius. There’s also a raft of sensor and camera-based tech features that help in the vehicle’s overall manoeuvrability on the road and in parking lots.

It’s also much safer than its commercial counterpart, incorporating energy-absorbing reinforcements, emergency brake warning, tyre pressure monitoring, and driver and passenger airbags, knee airbags, as well as curtain airbags.

The 2020 Toyota Granvia SE model starts from Dh177,000, while the top-spec Premium model is priced at Dh199,900. For those who are able to look beyond the slab-sided exterior and the perception of vans being fleet limousines, the Granvia Premium is one of the most luxurious family vehicle options below Dh200,000.