Vehicle Style: Four-wheel drive wagon
Fuel Economy (claimed): 11.4 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 12.9 l/100km
The Toyota FJ Cruiser’s buff good looks are backed up by genuine off-roader underpinnings, so don’t mistake it for a poser’s car.
Better still, as we discovered, it’s just as capable powering through the bush as it is turning heads in inner-urban shopping strips.
Quality: Hard plastics abound in the FJ’s cabin, and the colour-coded panels in the centre stack and door trims look a tad cheap. That said, construction is hard to fault, and nothing rattled during our test - even during punishing off-road driving.
The floor is un-carpeted with a rubberised covering designed to be easily wiped down. It may look a bit austere in there, but the FJ’s cockpit is ideal for an off-roader.
Comfort: The cloth-upholstered seats give decent support, but the lack of reach adjustment on the steering column is an oversight.
There’s also a shortage of legroom for back-seat passengers, and the shape of the dashboard cuts into knee room for the front passenger.
Thanks to the especially thick B-pillar, the back seat can feel a little claustrophobic - even though there’s plenty of headroom and enough space to sit three abreast.
Getting in and out of the back seat isn’t exactly easy either, thanks to the narrow space between the door frame and the front seatback.
Outward visibility is very poor; a consequence of Toyota putting the FJ’s form ahead of its function. Over-the-shoulder vision is hampered by the thick B and C-pillars, while the fat A-pillars can make approaching some intersections difficult.
The wing mirrors are also very narrow, creating a massive blind spot either side of the FJ Cruiser.
Equipment: The FJ Cruiser is only offered in one specification level, with no factory-fitted options.
Standard equipment is generous though, and includes cruise control, power windows and mirrors, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, six-stacker CD tuner with USB/aux inputs, Bluetooth integration, an inclinometer, compass, air-conditioning, an auto-dimming rear view mirror and 17-inch alloys.
Storage: The FJ’s boot isn’t especially big by SUV standards, but there’s ample room for bicycles, prams, camping gear or flat-pack furniture.
Tie-down points help secure loads, and the rubberised boot mat is easy to clean. Fold down the 60/40 split rear seat backrest and there’s even more room.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Driving the FJ Cruiser is almost exactly like driving a Prado. There’s the same mushy performance from the 4.0 litre 200kW/380Nm petrol V6, and similar acceleration.
It’s not a terribly responsive engine, but once it gathers some steam its performance is more than adequate. That said, the FJ could have benefited greatly from the extra torque of the Prado’s 3.0 litre turbo-diesel four. Instead, it has to make do with the petrol V6.
We would have also liked a manual transmission option. The standard five-speed auto does a fairly good job of keeping the car in the right gear but some buyers prefer a manual, especially for towing.
Refinement: There’s substantial tyre and wind noise, but it’s to be expected of a car fitted with nobbly 4WD tyres and boasting the aerodynamic profile of an apartment block.
All that noise is in keeping with the FJ’s image as purposeful off-roader though.
Suspension: Spring and damper rates are quite soft, enabling the FJ to sail over pockmarked roads. Ride quality is very good in both front and rear seats. But despite its weight and the soft underpinnings, the FJ handles pretty well.
The steering rack is slightly quicker than the Prado’s, and its shorter wheelbase makes it slightly easier to handle around town.
Braking: The four-piston front brakes with 319mm rotors perform well, although the pedal’s firmness can take some adjusting too.
The ABS calibration also works well on tarmac and loose surfaces, but the FJ Cruiser’s weight means braking distances aren’t exceptional.
Off Road: The FJ Cruiser’s shape endows it with exceptional approach and departure angles, along with a decent ramp-over angle.
A locking rear differential, dual-range transfer case and an off-road specific traction control program give the FJ excellent traction, and the soft suspension aids wheel articulation.
As we found, it has little trouble dealing with the roughest of fire trails and off-road tracks. There is some occasional rack-rattle though over heavy corrugations.
ANCAP rating: Not tested
Safety features: ABS, EBD, brake assist, traction control with off-road mode and stability control are standard on the FJ. Passengers are protected by three-point seatbelts, dual front airbags, dual front side airbags and full-length curtain airbags.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km.
Service costs: The first six services are capped at $210 each under Toyota’s Service Advantage program.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Jeep Wrangler Ultimate Rubicon Manual ($46,000) - More utilitarian, the Rubicon has marginally better approach and departure angles and is a more capable off-roader. But its 3.8 litre petrol V6 is no match for Toyota’s FJ. (see Wrangler reviews)
Land Rover Defender 90 Wagon ($44,990) - Don’t expect much in the way of creature comforts, but the Spartan Land Rover is a very capable heavy-duty off-roader.
Its 2.4 litre turbodiesel four is outgunned by its competitors, but the 1815kg aluminium-bodied Defender is lighter. (see Land Rover reviews)
Toyota Landcruiser Prado GX diesel Manual ($55,990) - The Prado has a lot of under-the-skin similarities to the FJ Cruiser, and a wider range of transmissions and powertrains - as well as greater occupant comfort.
With the torquey 3.0 litre diesel four, the Prado GX is a better tow vehicle than the FJ, but the Prado’s greatest enemy is its price. The FJ Cruiser is a comparative bargain. (see Prado reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
There are compromises, yes, but the FJ’s redemption is in its capabilities on a challenging fire trail. Toyota’s rugged FJ Cruiser is more than just a homage to Landcruisers of old, it’s a highly capable off-roader in its own right.
The unavailability of a diesel engine and manual transmission hurt its appeal, but the FJ Cruiser’s price makes it a brilliant entry point to Toyota’s 4WD range.
Not only that, but the FJ’s burly styling gives it incredible presence - that alone will account for a lot of sales.