Alfa Romeo
Land Rover
Toyota Tarago Gli and GLX
Weekend at Nanny`s
June 2006

IN the world of car storage, the person usually left out of the equation is the humble driver.

You know the story. You pack the car for a overnight stay. The missus has packed enough gear to fill three-people movers. (Why on earth wouldn`t Nanny have a something that could be used for a blanket for the baby?)

So by the time you pack all the gear and then find somewhere to put the kids in you're flat out fitting your wallet into the centre console - despite how thin it is from buying blankets.

So how refreshing that the Toyota Tarago has a storage binnacle behind the steering wheel where Dad can put his (empty) wallet and sunnies ... and perhaps stuff that wouldn`t fit in elsewhere - like his toiletries and clothes for the weekend.

Interestingly there`s also a swipe card holder for the likes of a toll card, so be sure not to leave your credit card in there or it will meet with a similar fate as the wallet.

Tarago is offered in two variants (GLi and GLX), both with ABS, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA) as standard equipment.

Safety features include up to seven SRS airbags (standard on GLX and part of Enhanced Safety Pack option on GLi), with a drivers knee airbag.

The Tarago was originally introduced in 1983, has sold 83,000 since then and this is its fourth "all-new" model.

Arguably the "least new" part of the latest incarnation is the engine/gearbox - not in technology perhaps, but in application.

It really stands out when you are carting the family to Nanny`s in the hills - it basically loses a lot of road speed until you kick down a gear or two.

It`s hard to pinpoint why exactly when you look at the figures compared to its rivals such as Kia Carnival and Honda Odyssey, and once asked to get going it does get back up to speed OK, so we have to put it down to the fact that it`s a four-speed gearbox and not five.

The fact that it will probably be driven by Mums to soccer practice (not in the hills) for the majority of its life probably tempers the need for a lumpier power plant, though.

Tarago has climate-controlled air conditioning and pollen filter, rear-seat cooler, electric power-assisted steering, tilt and telescopic adjustable steering column, cruise control, MP-3 compatible CD-tuner with steering wheel audio controls, remote central locking, power windows and a full-sized spare wheel.

GLi has one option the Enhanced Safety Pack, consisting of Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Toyota Pre-Crash Seatbelt System, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain-shield airbags and drivers knee airbag (giving a total seven airbags) and electronic Brake Assist.

These features come standard in the GLX along with roof rails, front and rear parking sonar, six-CD multi-changer and 17-inch alloy wheels, and rear seat climate-controlled air conditioner.

One bugbear is the speedo, which is centrally located on the dash. The location isn`t as much an issue as the angle - it isn`t at 90 degrees to the driver`s line of sight, which means the driver sees 100km/h on the speedo when you're actually doing about 105.

The seating is highly flexible, with 60/40 split-fold second- and third-row seats, both with folding centre armrests and height-adjustable head restraints.

The rear luggage area includes an under-floor storage area with lid. The side sliding doors are a blessing in that they are on both sides, although you do want to keep in mind not to use the off-side one when on a roadway for safety reasons.

The biggest consideration with most families is cost of the car and when Tarago is $10K higher than the cheapest Odyssey and almost $15K higher than the list price of the Carnival, the Toyota marketing team will have its work cut justifying a premium of that magnitude.

A good place to start would be the storage space for Dad`s wallet for that weekend at Nanny`s.



ENGINE: 2.4-litre

POWER: 125kW at 6000rpm

TORQUE: 224Nm at 4000rpm

TRANSMISSION: Four-speed automatic with sequential shift

FUEL ECONOMY: 9.5l/100km combined

TOWING: 1600kg braked

PROS: Plenty of storage; good rear seat access from front and via side doors; flexible seating options

CONS: Torque not great for hills; speedometer location/angle

BOTTOM LINE: Tarago GLi $48,990 - safety pack add $1500; Tarago GLX $51,990