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It’s highly unlikely either one of these new MPVs will be officially sold by Toyota New Zealand in the foreseeable future but it could be something they could look into with Honda bringing in the more van-like Odyssey. MPVs and vans are popular business in Asia and Japan, a quick look around the streets and it’s evident Japanese families prefer vans to SUVs as their family car of choice. Toyota’s Alphard and Vellfire are the company’s flagship people carriers, think of them as MPV version of the Crown.

Like their predecessors the Alphard and Vellfire are twins with different personalities. The Alphard has been designed to be the “luxurious” while the Vellfire has been designed to be “bold”. I can’t argue with that but it seems the once elegant (for a MPV at least) looking Alphard has been given the same grille treatment as the new Crown. It doesn’t seem to have worked quite as well in the bigger car to be perfectly honest. It just looks messy and unhappy. The Vellfire at least continues to push MPV design boundaries, a boring looking van this is not. Those split headlights and aggressive bumper give the Vellfire an almost sporty look. Sporty look for an MPV, I think I may need to get my head checked after this. The Vellfire also gets an extra bit of chrome running down the body from the B-Pillars. It also gets Altezza-style clear taillights, classy.

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It’s sporting aspirations end there though, thankfully. Toyota have not tried to make a Nurburgring conqueror with either one. Inside comfort, luxury, and refinement have been top priority. There’s seating for six adults with the middle row being a pair of captain chairs. The front passenger seat is a laz-y-boy style chair, electrically operated of course. Toyota have emphasised the increased noise, vibration, and harshness insulation in both the Alphard and Vellfire. The design for the interior of both cars are identical, the only differences are optional wood trim and colour for the upholstery. It’s very typical Toyota being fuss free and with everything logically in place. A big central infotainment display dominates the centre console. As a whole it looks appropriately premium inside with materials seemingly of decent quality. Only the 1980s analogue clock and glossy wood trim letting down the interior.

Being at the top tier of Toyota’s MPV range the Alphard and Vellfire come fully laden with the latest tech Toyota has to offer. Radar guided cruise control, pre-collision system, and an active city driving assist similar to Volvo’s CitySafe called “Intelligence Clearance Sonar” are available. On top of that are what Toyota claims are “world firsts” in the form of the Panoramic View Monitor which allows the driver to switch from a bird’s eye view of the car and its surrounding or to a side view monitor apparently giving a sense of “transparency”. There’s also a system called “Intelligent Parking Assist” that not only allows the car to park itself but also lets it get out of the spot. Perhaps we could see these in other Toyota and Lexus vehicles in the future.

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Both the Alphard and Vellfire will be available with the same choices of engine. There’ll be a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine mated to a 7-speed CVT, a 2.5-litre hybrid mated to an electric motor sending power to all-four wheels via a 6-speed CVT, and topping the range is a 3.5-litre V6 mated to 6-speed auto. All 2.5 models are eligible for government subsidies and tax breaks as they fall under the “eco car” category. I’m just as shocked as you. Prices start from ¥3,197,782 ($36,383) for the base 2.5 petrol and topping at ¥7,036,691 ($80,065) for the top-spec Hybrid.

Would you like to see Toyota brings these to the New Zealand market as an alternative to SUVs or are MPVs a dying species?

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