Check carefully before you buy. A bit of a bargain though not cheap to run
Major fault when bought was a cracked cylinder head. Supplying "specialist" dealer claimed to have gone out of business (untrue) and "full" warranty sold with vehicle didn't cover this.
Minor faults were worn steering bump stops and exhaust which failed after 3 weeks. Although the vehicle had been inspected by a well-known motoring organisation (not AA or RAC) they denied liability as faults were not "apparent" to the engineer (they probably wouldn't have been apparent to my elderly mother either, but don't you pay for these people to know what they're doing?).
In all, repairs (including re-con cylinder head) cost me £2600 and the vehicle was off the road for 6 weeks. Excellent Toyota dealer (an import specialist) advised me that head failures are very common on the LiteAce, TownAce and Lucida, all of which use basically the same engine in the middle of the car where airflow and natural cooling through heat rising is restricted. The weight of the vehicle means engine always has to work hard too.
Since this early disaster not too much has happened. Starter failed recently though and recon replacement was a heavy £350. Another common failure, I'm told.
Car has since overheated twice. On each occasion it was shortly after pulling off a motorway after a long fast (80mph) run. No sign of head damage thankfully.
Vehicle has been a magnet to thieves and vandals (stands out because of size, two-tone blue/silver paintwork and privacy glass). Damage includes smashed windows, deliberate dents from thrown rocks, smashed lights and several deep scratches. Two spare wheels stolen (third one is still there thanks to a motorcycle chain).
Room and comfort: excellent for my family of two adults and four kids. Kids love it for its fully reclining seats in all rows, reversible centre row seats, curtains and privacy glass. They can get their bikes in too.
Double-air/con is excellent and really worked on holiday in Spain. Having twin electric sun roofs is great too. In fact the kids prefer the open roof to the air/con. We have slept in the vehicle a couple of times without too much problem.
Diving experience: Great driving position, high and well forward, with tight turning circle. Over-shoulder visibility very poor though. Reversing mirror works extremely well though privacy glass reduces rear vision especially at night. Handles a bit like a boat, lots of roll understeer followed by sharp oversteer if you push too hard. Grip at back can be lost quite easily in tight turns. Once you get used to it though it is possible to make reasonably quick progress. Autobox usually smooth though a bit slow to change up. Ratios very wide leading to frantic revving on kick-down or hill climbing. You learn to allow for this!
Quite a lot of engine noise at any speed though virtually no wind noise (mine has wind deflectors) or road noise. 4WD really works enabling me to drive safely in snow/ice when other cars were sliding badly.
Main weakness: Running costs very high. Averages only 21 mpg (worse in winter) with about 24 mpg on long runs. Insurance very costly and spares either expensive or mind-blowingly expensive from Toyota dealer. Oil changes every 3000 miles are a pain, but it's an easy job. No bodywork protection and soft metal is very easily dented. Radio is abysmal, though the cassette player is quite good. Not enough storage space for this type of vehicle. Front tyres wear out around about 20,000 miles.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 16th August, 2004