TOYOTA FJ CRUISER REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Five-door large SUV
Price: $44,990 (plus on-road costs)
Engine: 4.0 litre petrol V6
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Official fuel efficiency: 11.4 l/100km
You could hardly accuse it of conventional good looks - Toyota's new FJ Cruiser. No, rugged maybe, and stylised, fresh, youthful... certainly.
It is something of a surprise from conservative Toyota, and not only for its retro-inspired styling. Both on road, and off it, the FJ Cruiser is better than we expected.
- Quality: The fit and finish inside, and the feel of tactile surfaces and materials is typically Toyota. That means practical, hard-wearing, and designed with utility in mind. Floor mats are rubber for easy cleaning... you can hose it out.
There are painted inserts in the door panels and a painted centre stack, a bit like the original FJ40, and a flat dash that looks ok (in a Leggo-land kind of way).
The glove box however, instead of being in the sensible spot - the flat area in front of the passenger - is nearly inaccessible, and drops onto the shins if you have to open it.
- Comfort: Seating and driving comfort is good; the fabric is 'water repellent' and ventilated (so that it 'breathes') and the front seats are well shaped.
Rear seats are higher, theatre style, giving a better view of the road ahead for kids in the back. They'll need it, the rear seats tuck in behind the thick C-pillar. Leg and headroom is good, but it's like sitting in a cave looking out.
A good touch is grab-handles on the backs of the front seats. The rear-mounted rear doors open out at right angles to provide good access to the rear, even for adults (but you might struggle to get your 80-year-old Gran in there).
- Equipment: Standard equipment includes rear fog-lamps, privacy glass, rear parking sensors, cruise control, air-conditioning, steering-mounted audio controls, a multi-information display, central locking, eight-speaker audio with CD stacker, USB, iPod, Bluetooth and aux connectivity - nothing lacking there.
- Storage: Back seats laid flat, and it’s a cavern in there; enough room for a mountain bike and a lot of camp clobber. Seats up: still wide, deep and high, it can swallow 990 litres of family gear. Towing capacity is 2200kg (braked).
ON THE ROAD
- Driveability: On road and off, the FJ Cruiser drives exceptionally well.
Basically it's a Prado in a shorter, lighter skin. It sits on bigger 17-inch rims, and doesn't have all the off-road electronic aids of the Prado, but it shares the platform, suspension, 200kW 4.0-litre V6 and well-tested (and very good) five-speed auto with low range transfer case.
A downside is the fuel consumption: an average of 11.4 l/100k (95 octane minimum) will have city drivers at the bowser more often than they’d like - and there is no diesel in prospect.
- Refinement: Those bigger wheels, combined with Australian re-engineered compliant suspension, give the FJ a very comfortable and refined feel on road; and, off-road, it simply swallows heavy bumps.
On tarmac the ride is supple, and road roar - even on coarse surfaces - is barely evident. Wind noise is a different matter: there is quite a bit of it around the upright screen, thick A-pillars and triple wipers.
- Suspension: Down below is a very well-sorted all-coil suspension, with high-mounted double-wishbones up front and a five-link system at the rear. Allowing long travel and good wheel articulation, it puts the FJ Cruiser at the top of its class for versatility.
- Off-road: Two days through the Flinders Rangers in SA gave us a good look at the FJ Cruiser’s off-road credentials. Over mixed trails with some deep dry-bed crossings and steep, loose and deeply-rutted grades, the FJ made light work of it.
Its low range transfer case, rear diff-lock and switchable off-road traction control, A-trac (which diverts drive to wheels with traction), give it real capability in the rough.
Approach and departure angles are among the best in class: 36-degree approach, 31-degree departure and 29-degree ramp-over. Combined with a high stance, tight turning circle, good wheel articulation and robust underbody protection, the FJ Cruiser can get in and out of some very marginal off-road situations without bashing the undersides about.
Torque and engine-braking from the 4.0-litre V6 is strong and well-harnessed by the dual-range five-speed box. And the body is rigid: we hit a washout at speed and couldn’t bash a creak out of it. The only debit was some occasional 'rack rattle' on smaller corrugations.
- ANCAP: (Not yet tested)
- Safety Features: There are six airbags, active front-seat head restraints, vehicle stability control, switchable active traction control (A-Trac), anti-skid brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution, active front-seat head restraints and reversing camera with a mirror-mounted display.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
- Warranty: The warranty period for all new Toyota vehicles is 3 years or 100,000 kilometres, whichever comes first.
- Servicing Costs: Service intervals are set for every 10,000km/6 months, with the first six logbook services capped at $210.
HOW IT COMPARES I VALUE FOR MONEY
- Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 3.8i ($46,000) - Retro charm and good off road. What’s more, there’s a diesel option; but it’s coarser than the FJ and not as well kitted. (see Wrangler reviews)
- Mitsubishi Challenger LS Wagon 2.5DT ($49,390) - Diesel, very capable off-road, comfortable and well-finished. But lacking personality and let down by drab styling. (see Challenger reviews)
Note: prices are Manufacturer's List Price and do not include dealer-delivery or on-road costs.
VERDICT I OVERALL
Toyota has hatched a very good one with its new FJ Cruiser. This is one competent and appealing car.
Four-by-four of the year? Certainly the most interesting release of the past twelve months. It’s a pity there is no diesel. While the petrol V6 is a very good one, that 11.4 l/100k average will likely be hard to duplicate in the real world - especially on grid-locked urban roads.
If the $45k-plus price isn't too much of a hurdle, this is a car we'd recommend in a flash. It’s one for the top of the list.