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Toyota FJ Cruiser review

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    Theres plenty to like about the FJ its an honest performer and makes no bones about what it is meant for... Photo Gallery

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Stuart Martin road tests and reviews the Toyota FJ Cruiser.

Toyota FJ Cruiser 3.5
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  • Refinement
  • Bullish styling
  • Off-road ability and robustness
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  • Rear vision
  • Rear doors
  • Small fuel tank
  • Lack of diesel model 

It says Toyota on the front, not Tonka. And no, you can't buy spare parts from Lego stores. This is a 21st century interpretation of a Toyota classic, the original FJ40 LandCruiser, and the fifth model in Toyota's 4WD line-up is no school run special.

Its FJ-inspired features include angular lines, round headlights set either side of a wide, mesh grille, an upright windscreen with three wiper blades, a white roof and wrap-around rear corner windows.


Sitting in the mid-$40,000 range puts it right in the heart of small to medium SUV terrain, but theres few within coo-ee of it in terms of 4WD ability. The four-litre V6 five-speed auto (shared with HiLux and Prado) is the only drivetrain on offer, with an equipment list that includes Bluetooth audio and phone link, power front windows, 17in alloy wheels (including a full-size spare slung on the back door), rear fog lamps, rear parking sensors, cruise control, air-conditioning and an MP3/USB eight-speaker sound system, which uses the roofliner as an active part of the sound system.


The V6 petrol powerplant offers 200kW and 380Nm (with 310Nm spinning from 1200rpm), channelled via the five-speed automatic transmission to a part-time 4WD system that also has a rear differential lock and a switchable traction control system for extra off-road ability.

Toyota claims the FJ Cruiser consumes 11.4 litres of PULP (9.3 on the highway and 14.9 around town) but its packing a small 72-litre tank, which doesnt bode well for the bush, when fuel use can sky-rocket look for the long-range fuel tank option box. The dampers were stiffened by 10 per cent and steering have been locally-tested and recalibrated to good effect, and the wheel tyre package was upped to 70-series tyres on 17in wheels.


The look is love-it or hate-it, there seems to be no middle ground, although its easy to see the links to the LandCruiser FJ40, but the California design team threw a bit more stance and muscle inspired by one of the design team's pooches, an American pit bull. The upright windscreen with three-wipers, the white roof and the rear suicide doors, the high-waist, more than 220mm of ground clearance and old-school approach and departure angles, as well as the squared edges all suggest truck but looks can be a little deceiving.

Inside, its not quite a hose-out interior but its not far off, with rubber floor coverings and tough-looking seat fabric. The clever electrochromatic rearvision mirror with built-in screen for the reversing camera contrasts with the painted metal interior panels and roughnready fixtures, but if you were into Hummers but looking for Japanese build quality, this might be your cup of billy tea.


It might be retro but theres nothing 20th century about the safety features six airbags, traction and stability control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency brake assist, active front head restraints, a reversing camera and rear parking sensors.


The news is good, in relation to the exterior it drives far better than youd think from looking at it. Sitting on a ladder-frame chassis with front double-wishbone/coils and a five-link/coil system at the rear, the FJ is immediately a surprise for its decent ride. Its not going to corner like a Cayenne but its not a corner-roller like an old Range Rover either, making it remarkably easy to punt around town without feeling seasick.

Complaints are few tilt-only steering adjustment is a little too old-school for me, the rearvision is abysmal, with massive rearward pillars making the sensors and camera compulsory. The rear doors are a quirky gimmick - remember this was originally a US-destined machine - but entry and exit for some (without sidesteps) is not their forte, particularly in carparks, with no opening window also an issue for some.

Drivetrain refinement is well above average, with minimal engine noise and despite the upright windscreen - theres not a heap of wind noise either. The steering is light and not exactly sharp, but when you ditch the bitumen you get an idea of what the primary aim of the vehicle is.

Theres ample ground clearance for when you want to get dirty, as well as the rear diff lock and the active traction control that operates as an electronic limited slip diff. For serious climbing, lock the rear diff (with the option of more), select low-range and hit the active traction control button and the FJ clambers over all manner of obstacles with good wheel travel and without manic wheelspin or bashing the underbody protection.


Theres plenty to like about the FJ its an honest performer and makes no bones about what it is meant for; its not perfect but it thumbs its nose at the soft SUVs as it disappears into the mud without fear of it being a one-way return trip.

Toyota FJ Cruiser

3.5 stars

Price: from $44,990
Warranty: 3 years, 100,000km
Resale: n/a (new model)
Service Interval: 10,000km or 6-months
Economy: 11.4 l/100km; 267g/km CO2, tank 72 litres
Safety Equipment: six airbags, ABS, EBD, stability control.
Crash rating: 5-star (US rating)
Engine: 200kW/380Nm four-litre 24-valve DOHC direct-injection Transmission five speed auto, part-time 4WD.
Body: four-door, 5 seats
Dimensions: 4670mm (L); 1905mm (W); 1830mm (H); 2690mm (WB) Weight 2000kg
Tyre size: 265/70 R17
Spare tyre: full-size


Jeep Wrangler 2012 - compare this car
Price: from $32,000
Engine: Pentastar 3.6-litre V6, 209kW/347Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual standard, 5-speed auto optional, 4WD
Body: Four-door, 5 seats
Thirst: 11.2 L/100km (manual) 11.3L/100km (auto), CO2 259g/km (manual) 263g/km (auto)

Land Rover Freelander TD4 110 - compare this car
Price: from $44,990
Economy: 6.6-litres/100km
Engine: 110kW/420Nm 2.2-litre turbodiesel
Transmission: Six-speed auto transmission
Body: 5 Door
Weight: 2505kg

Mitsubishi Challenger 2WD - compare this car 
Price: from $36,990
Warranty: 5 years/130,000kms
Engine: 2.5litre diesel
Transmission: 5-speed manual, 5-speed automatic
Output: 131kw/400Nm
Thirst: 8.2litres/100km - manual, 9.6/100km - automatic


Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 5 comments

  • Yes, correct! I agree wholeheartedly with the above comments. A larger fuel tank for true, get away from it all driving for a couple of days of fishing and adventure! A definate must is a manual diesel motor that promotes longer distances. Love the hummer look and suicide doors though, and also the rugged interior. Price wise, it is quite reasonable for a mid size SUV.

    Phillip Wilson of lismore NSW Posted on 21 July 2013 7:35pm
  • Would love to have an FJ, it performs off road, why else would you want an off roade.
    As a serious off roader who has owned TOYOTA’s since the early 1980’s, I have owned almost every model Cruiser Wagon since the 60’s were introduced. Without exception every cruiser has been a Diesel Manual for a reason.  Reliability, Dependability, Durability and dare I say Off Road Ability.
    Die hards are running out of TOYOTA options in terms of ability, the FJ provides that in spades. Where it fails is in the choice of engine and drive train.  If Land Rover can put a Diesel Manual in it’s line up why can’t TOYOTA.  The 80 series was developed in Australia, the largest per capita market for 4X4’s. SUrely that hasn’t changed and if it has it’s only because lack of TOYOTA choices and the rising cost of full size wagons has chased the market elsewhere. C’mon TOYOTA, give us back the Diesel Manual and make us happy. We’re a loyal bunch.

    Gil Hassin of Sydney Posted on 15 November 2012 11:59am
  • If only this could have come with the 4.5L V8 diesel from the LC200 or the Workmate - plus a bigger tank. Would be awesome. I’d get two, as I have need for such vehicles.
    Take note for the future, Toyota: Plenty will buy if they get the engine they want, other than a pokey petrol six.

    Steve of Perth Posted on 06 September 2012 5:23pm
  • The FJ Cruiser is exactly what I wanted, but I need a manual diesel with 1000km range.  So I bought a Nissan instead.  Simple - I don’t want to carry petrol in jerry cans, I need to drive on ground where I have to be able to detect wheel slip where the next fuel is a long way on sand.

    Phil Gray of Brisbane Posted on 01 September 2012 11:29pm
  • att : Carsguide - The 4.0 v6 (1GR-FE) snuggled in the FJ Cruiser is not Direct-Injected. It is however Dual VVTi. If it was DI it would become 1GR-FSE, however Toyota currently does not make a DI version of the 1GR.


    You’re absolutely right. it was our error and has been amended. Thanks - Karla Pincott

    Crikey of Central Queensland Posted on 21 March 2012 12:53pm
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