The Toyota Vanguard is essentially a bigger version of the Toyota RAV4. It has been manufactured and sold in Japan since 2007. It is offered both as a five-seater and a seven-seater. As a bigger cousin to the venerable RAV4, it is an excellent option for many looking for a mid-sized practical sport utility vehicle (SUV).
The frontal styling is still recognisably RAV4 but move about and the Vanguard is a whole lot more angular and a good deal more spacious. While looking at this car in isolation, it looks pretty and well-designed with all the right curves making it easy on the eyes. This is possibly due to the common colours available, white and darker colours. Like the RAV4, if not well maintained, aesthetically this car will not age well.
Inside is everything you would expect for a car in its price range and a little more. There is an acceptable sound system and controls available for the car. The general layout of the cabin contains myriad of storage options, without being over the top. Upfront, there are generous bottle and cup holders for both passenger and driver. The position of instruments and controls is well considered, with the main items just where you need them. The back seats are large enough with bottle-holders in the doors and on the armrest.
In the five-seater configuration, the Vanguard’s boot space is really impressive. The third row seats fold neatly into the floor, creating a huge boot space. It can comfortably carry luggage for a family of five with room to spare. In the two-seater configuration, the second row seats fold down to create space almost comparable to a cargo van. In the seven-seater configuration, boot space is nearly non-existent that you can hardly fit a bunch of matooke.
On the road
As far as the oily bits go, you will have a choice of two engines, a 2.4 litre Inline-4 and a 3.5L V6. Most common on the used car market is the smaller of the two power plants. Few people buy Vanguards to take them off-road. It will manage a muddy potholed road at a pinch but if you are thinking of taking on Land Cruiser territory, you will need to be skilled enough. That said, the Vanguard shall do well in typical town off-road situations.
Most models you shall find are front-wheel-drive cars but rare four-wheel drive versions are available. These drive in two-wheel mode most of the time but when slippage is detected, the car instantly switches to four-wheel-drive mode. Everyday driving and cornering is totally manageable and predictable. The ride is pretty good on the whole. For most everyday drivers, the four-cylinder provides adequate town driving power, with the added benefit of improved fuel economy.
The Toyota Vanguard spare parts are easily available in Uganda, especially service and suspension parts. For body parts, it is a mixed bag as some, such as headlamps, can be hard to find. The price for service and suspension parts is affordable. Body parts can get expensive depending on the part and its availability. Nonetheless, being a Toyota, reliability shall be high up on the list of attributes.
The RAV4 bloodline makes the Vanguard a jack of all trades, but a master of none. It drives well enough, it handles well enough, and it is good value for money given its high resale value. It is a very competent used buy, if a little unexciting. As long as the car has been treated reasonably, it should prove faithful and capable.
The Vanguard’s cousin, the RAV4’s spark has diminished over the years, but the Vanguard would be a great option for many looking for a car in that class. Fortunately for the Vanguard, the competition including the Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Xtrail, and the Subaru Forester simply do not have that genuine Toyota character and charisma most Ugandans love, a reputation for building cars that gave little or no trouble.