People carriers are back, baby!
SUVs and pickups may have been in the headlines lately, but the humble multipurpose vehicle (MPV) – or the vehicle for transporting people to most Australians – saw a rebound in sales after having spent decades in the doldrums, growing almost twice as fast as the overall growth of the new vehicle market this year.
The king of movers, of course, is the Kia Carnival. Now in its 22nd year in Australia, the old seven- or eight-seater cheapo has morphed into the striking, almost space-based fourth-gen version to rightly dominate the burgeoning segment. Sleek design, exceptional packaging, refined powertrains, excellent after-sales service – what not to like!
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Will other manufacturers just sit back and leave the Kia cream in sales – and profits?
Not likely. Since the death in 2019 of this dean of minivans – the venerable Toyota Tarago who had reigned since the early 1980s – the passenger transport class is now wide open. With the latter’s “replacement” – the unpopular Granvia – representing the exact opposite of what buyers want, the old regime has been overthrown.
Take into account the new wave of fresh and promising minivans looming, and it’s a perfect storm for a coup.
Here are some of the most interesting candidates to come or study.
Kia’s big internal rival, Hyundai, has stunned the world this year with its all-new Staria – a pickup truck that appears to have been designed by the Cylons of Battlestar Galactica.
Due in Australia later this year, the progressive one-box mover joins the Carnival by being SUV-derived, and is therefore tied to popular crossovers like Hyundai’s Santa Fe and Kia Sorento. It also means independent rear suspension, eight airbags and a host of driver assistance safety systems.
Available with up to eight seats, the Staria will include an upscale Premium category, suitable for more luxury-oriented travel. Operators of five-star hotel and resort chains should start saving now.
Two engines will be available – a 130 kW, 2.2-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel and a 200 kW 3.5-liter gasoline V6, driving the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic torque converter. This is in stark contrast to the rear-wheel-drive, van-based iMax that Staria is replacing. Hybrid alternatives are also in the works.
Note that there is also a Staria Load version (usurping the previous iLoad), in two or five seat configurations.
With more than a whiff of the previous generation Toyota Tarago in its sleek futurism, the Staria launches all-out war against the Kia. Carnival may be over.
LDV Maxus MIFA
Commercial vehicle specialist LDV – a subsidiary of SAIC Motor and known as Maxus elsewhere in the world – previewed an all-new electric vehicle at the Shanghai Motor Show in April, and it’s quite telling .
Dubbed the MIFA concept, it showcases SAIC’s âMaxus Intelligent Flexible Architectureâ (MIFA) engineering, but the big news is that this van is essentially what will go into production by the end of the year. Sure, the wheels can be smaller, the wing cameras can disappear, and the interior will become less sci-fi quirky, but the basic look will continue with what Maxus calls “an oriental-charm space capsule.”
More importantly, Maxus’ EV powertrain is intended for the MIFA minivan; It is not yet clear how close it comes to the two-engine 500kW / 900Nm specification claimed by the concept, delivering a 0-100km / h sprint time in under four seconds and a range of 600. km.
Yes, we could look at the Tesla of minivans. Or not. Time will tell us.
Toyota Sienna Hybrid
Back in reality, Toyota must be furious that its trusty old Tarago is no longer in production and that the gawky Granvia has completely taken off the market.
Enter the Sienna – a front-engine, all-wheel-drive passenger transport vehicle designed in the United States and focused on the North American market, which has been around for nearly 25 years and over four incarnations.
With strong ties to the new Kluger – the two share the same plant in Indiana, USA as well as the TNGA-K platform first seen in the current Camry – it doesn’t seem like a stretch to conclude. that he would make a natural successor to the emblematic Tarago.
We think Toyota Australia is missing a tip, especially since it is a hybrid-only minivan, using a variant of the 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline-electric engine that was just launched in the ‘Kluger hybrid. Here it delivers 181 kW of combined power, or 7.1 L / 100 km – an impressive result of parsimony.
Sleek, spacious and dynamic, this is exactly the post-Tarago tonic Toyota Oz needs right now.
VW T7 Multivan
The long-awaited redesign of the VW Multivan has just made its debut, with everything completely different to match the new styling, giving the German automaker a head start in passenger transport vehicles.
Shifting from the current van-derived platform to a variation on the modular MQB transverse architecture that underpins most VWs before / AWDs, including the Golf, the T7 Multivan is expected to make considerable progress in terms of handling, refinement, comfort, safety and technology. And its interior will look more like a car than ever.
Another interesting development is the switch to a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) version, thanks to the new eHybrid system that allows sustained EV driving until a downsized turbo petrol engine is started to increase range.
We are talking about more than 70 years of continuous evolution in the movement of people here. And the pioneers of the minivan are not going to be left behind.
Nissan Elgrand / Toyota Alphard
Judging by the hordes of Nissan Elgrand, Toyota Alphard and Mitsubishi Delica have used gray imports plowing the Australian cityscape, it must surely be only a matter of time before one of the Japanese brands bites the bullet. and import those delicious OTT MPVs as new models.
We would love to see the promising next-generation Nissan Elgrand – a full-size, minivan-shaped but car-based passenger transport vehicle, with a distinct, vertical styling that maximizes interior space, comfort and luxury. .
Equipped with the company’s muscular 3.5-liter V6, the current and aging E52 series offers plenty of effortless performance. It’s easy to see why so many of them have become reliable second-hand imports in the second-hand market.
One of the advancements envisioned for the next-gen Elgrand is the adoption of Nissan’s latest e-Power EV with gasoline-powered range extension technology, to help bridge the gap between conventional hybrids and the complete electrification.
So come on, Nissan Australia: we are ready and waiting. If you don’t, maybe the conceptually similar and large Toyota Alphard in Japan could be the locally piercing Japanese MPV instead.