The Toyota TownAce (body type CR21) was introduced by Toyota in Japan in April 1983 as a short wheelbase mid-engined luxury 7/8 seat MPV resembling their Space Cruiser. A 4WD version (body type CR30) was introduced in December 1985. These were produced until a facelift in September 1993 to body type CR31 which ran until October 1996. It was available with either automatic transmission or manual transmission and petrol or diesel engine. Variants were badged as MasterAce (sometimes with "Surf" added) or LiteAce (sometimes with "FieldTourer" added). Top-end 7-seat TownAces were badged additionally "Royal Lounge". 8-seaters are often badged "Super Extra".
The left-hand drive Toyota Van for the USA market has a lot in common with the TownAce, but did not have all the luxury options, 4WD or the diesel engine. Although; 4WD was briefly offered in the USA as the WonderWagon during the late 1980's.
When the TownAce models became available as grey market exports they became popular in UK, where new Spacecruisers had been sold for many years. A 10-year old TownAce was an attractive option for a reliable, cheap MPV with many luxury features - such as aircon/climate control and automatic transmission. The 2CT diesel engine is low powered but offers 30+ mpg (less than 10 L per 100 km).
Second hand TownAce were also exported to Bolivia where they are mainly used as public transportation vans.
UK grey import TownAce owners ran into two main issues — the need to keep the engine's ageing cooling system well-maintained and the lack of manuals or other documentation for doing any DIY repairs or maintenance. Websites and forums emerged to solve these problems and Toyota GB provided good support with supply of spare parts even though new TownAces had never been sold in UK. It happened that Toyota had produced a good repair manual (RM025E) for the 2CT diesel engine and Autodata had published a comprehensive TownAce manual, but only in Russian. Other information was gleaned from manuals for the related Toyota Van sold in USA and the Toyota Tarago sold in Australia. In 1997 the TownAce re-emerged as a completely different vehicle, more like a van than an MPV.
In 2008, a new model based on the Daihatsu Gran Max which launched in Indonesia in late 2007 to replace the Toyota TownAce along with Toyota LiteAce in Japan. Both truck and van type are available in 1.5L engine.