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Toyota Kluger 2018 review

EXPERT RATING
7
Toyota's Kluger is a dominant force in the large SUV market. With seven seats and enough space to house a suburban sub-division, it's the standard by which others are measured.

Like the statues of Easter Island, the Toyota Kluger casts a huge shadow over the Australian motoring landscape. It's a strong seller for Toyota, having been around for ages and is one of three large SUVs in Toyota's armory next to the evergreen Prado and disappointing Fortuner.

Competition, of course, is growing ever more fierce. Hyundai is about to drop a new Santa Fe, the Kia Sorento gets better every year and more manufacturers are joining the party. Most notably, Mazda's CX-9 is also loaded with safety gear and a potent 2.5-litre turbo engine.

The intensity of the battle became apparent in my esteemed colleague Matt Campbell's recent comparison test where the Kluger came last behind the Kia Sorento and Mazda CX-9, thanks largely to Toyota's reluctance to fit the same advanced safety features.

They heard Matt (that's what he reckons, anyway) and recently added some important safety tech to the 2018 Kluger. Let's have a look to see if it's enough.

Toyota Kluger 2018: GX (4x4)
Safety rating
Engine Type3.5L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency9.5L/100km
Seating7 seats
Price from$34,999

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   6/10

Toyota isn't afraid to charge for the Kluger and its buyers aren't afraid to pay. With the extra safety gear, prices are up $950 on the GX and $1400 on GXL to pay for the new stuff.

There are three models in the Kluger range and how much you pay will vary depending on your thirst for standard features. Our price list features RRP prices and are a guide only - your dealer might be convinced to reduce the cost.

The GX and GXL have 18-inch wheels, while the Grande gets 19-inch wheels. (image credit: Peter Anderson) The GX and GXL have 18-inch wheels, while the Grande gets 19-inch wheels. (image credit: Peter Anderson)

The GX opens with the lowest price - $44,500 for the 2WD and $48,500 for the 4WD. Specs include six-speaker stereo, 18-inch alloys wheels (no 17-inch alloy wheels anymore), front and rear air conditioning, Bluetooth, forward and reverse camera, active cruise control, rear parking sensors, remote central locking, auto headlights, power windows and mirrors and a full-size spare wheel.

The GXL adds an lazy 10 grand in comparison to the GX - $54,950 (2WD) and $58,950 (AWD). The GXL adds a GPS navigation system, DAB digital radio, rear-cross traffic alert, keyless entry and start, partial leather seats, and electric tailgate with separate glass hatch.

The Grande - again, for a further 10 grand plus, is available for $65,646 (2WD) or $69,617 (AWD). You'll get the same satellite navigation as the GXL, 19-inch rims, electric sunroof, rear-seat entertainment system with 9.0-inch screen and Blu-Ray and heated and ventilated front seats.

The entertainment system is powered by a 6.1-inch touch screen in the GX and 8.0-inch in the other models, which also include satellite navigation. The software package is distinctly 2006, painfully so in the GX. The system includes AM/FM radio, CD player and USB. There's no DVD option, however.

Colours include 'Crystal Pearl' (white), silver, 'Rustic Brown' (looks better than it sounds), 'Predawn Grey', 'Rainforest Green', 'Merlot Red' (dahling), 'Deep Red', 'Cosmos Blue' and 'Eclipse Black'. All but the black are $550 extras, which is not modest but not extortionate either.

Toyota's accessories list is well-stocked, with items like nudge bar (which is remarkably well integrated), side steps, cargo barrier, roof racks (no roof rails, though) and various plastic shields, driving lights, floor mats, towbar, parking aids and blind spot monitor.

You're out of luck if you want a Toyota-branded seat belt extender or bull bar.

  • That big bluff front-end makes the car look rather bigger than it is, which is quite an achievement. (image credit: Peter Anderson) That big bluff front-end makes the car look rather bigger than it is, which is quite an achievement. (image credit: Peter Anderson)
  • The Kluger is not the longest in its class, coming in at 4.89m. (image credit: Peter Anderson) The Kluger is not the longest in its class, coming in at 4.89m. (image credit: Peter Anderson)

For comparison, the cheapest CX-9 is $700 less (than the GX), but with a higher spec level, while the fully-loaded Azami is also around $800 cheaper (than the Grande) but - again - better-equipped.

The Korean rivals, while older and slightly smaller, are significant cheaper - the Kia Sorento is priced from $42,990 to $46,990 while the Santa Fe starts at $40,990 and finishes at $57,090 (albeit not a petrol V6). All these cars are well-equipped, with more modern features and tech.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

The Kluger is handsome in a squared-off, what-are-you-looking-at kind of way. That big bluff front-end makes the car look rather bigger than it is, which is quite an achievement because it's pushing two metres wide and 1.73m tall. It's not the longest in its class, though, coming in at 4.89m.

Despite it hailing from the US, it's not too blinged-up, but neither is it CX-9 pretty. Some might find the grille reminiscent of a krill-hoovering whale or Bane from Batman, but it's certainly distinctive.

  • (image credit: Peter Anderson) (image credit: Peter Anderson)
  • (image credit: Peter Anderson) (image credit: Peter Anderson)
  • (image credit: Peter Anderson) (image credit: Peter Anderson)

The cabin is like the exterior - nothing flash, but what you see is what you get. Materials are mostly pretty good and it leans towards thoughtful and practical rather than sexy. Normally I'd say, "just like me", but I'm none of these things.

The interior dimensions of the big bruiser match its eclipse-causing exterior. No matter your size - well, within reason - you'll find plenty of space in the first or second rows. The third row features decent space for kids and very patient adults for short trips.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

The big question people ask me about the Kluger is "How many seats are in there?" - every Kluger packs seven seats, with two flip-up seats in the boot. Boot space dimensions are obviously dictated by whether they're up or down. With the seats down, you've got a decent 529 litres, leaving you with good luggage capacity and a cargo cover to keep it all hidden away. Lift the seats with the straps and you've got just 195 litres, about the same as a small hatchback.

Put the second and third rows down and Toyota says you'll have 1117 litres, but I reckon that's conservative.

  • (image credit: Peter Anderson) (image credit: Peter Anderson)
  • (image credit: Peter Anderson) (image credit: Peter Anderson)

The cabin is well-planned for families. Every row features cupholders - front and middle rows have a pair each, while those banished to the third row score two each, a total of eight across the car.

Back in the front row, the tectonic split in the dashboard is lined with a soft rubbery material, making it a great place to sling phones, keys and odds and ends. Between the seats is a massive 24-litre storage bin that a small grandparent could ride in. On second thoughts, that's probably not a great idea.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

Across the range, Kluger buyers are treated to the same engine specifications - a 3.5-litre V6 petrol. The big unit devlops 218kW/350Nm to help move the two-tonner.

No diesel, no LPG and they're all the same eight-speed automatic, with no option for a manual transmission.

As to whether the V6 features a timing belt or chain, it's the latter. The engine uses standard (OW-30) oil and 0-100km/h acceleration times are around nine seconds.

Towing capacity is the same for each model, coming in at 700kg for unbraked trailers and 2000kg braked. We haven't yet carried out a towing review.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

For its engine size and overall weight, fuel economy is always going to be marginal and continues to be the Kluger's weak spot. For the front-wheel drive, Toyota claims 9.lL/100km on the combined cycle. The heavier 4x4 version recorded an official combined fuel consumption figure of 9.5L/100km.

These mileage figures would be a stretch - in a week of gentle suburban running around in a GX AWD, we copped a figure of 13.7L/100km.

The big unit devlops 218kW/350Nm to help move the two-tonner. (image credit: Peter Anderson) The big unit devlops 218kW/350Nm to help move the two-tonner. (image credit: Peter Anderson)

The fuel tank capacity is a handy 72 litres, meaning a decent run between fills, especially when you're out on the open road.

Obviously, without a diesel engine, there are no diesel fuel consumption figures.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

The Kluger arrives from the US with seven airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls and rear parking sensors.

The 2018 Kluger is really about the battery of new safety features in the lower models. Added to the GX and GXL are pre-collision warning, forward AEB, lane departure warning, active cruise and auto high beam. GXLs also pick up a blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert. As you can imagine, the Grande has the lot.

There are three top-tether anchors for the middle row as well as two ISOFIX points.

As before, the ANCAP safety rating stands at a maximum five stars, awarded in November 2016.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / 100,000 km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   6/10

Toyota's three year/100,000km warranty also comes with a fixed price servicing plan. It seems the Japanese company can get away with the short warranty because of the long-held reputation for reliability and few problems or faults.

I've certainly never heard complaints from Kluger owners, or Toyota owners generally for that matter. Having said that, Hyundai and Kia both smack Toyota out of the park for warranty length and in Hyundai's case, lifetime fixed price servicing.

Service costs are fixed via Toyota's 'Service Advantage' pricing. For the Kluger you'll pay $180 per service for the first 36 months or 60,000km. You'll have to visit the dealer every six months or 10,000km for the stamp in your owners manual, which is always good for resale value.

Few owners report any genuine issues, such as engine problems or tranmission problems.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

You never really forget that the Kluger is a big unit. Ground clearance is a not-inconsiderable 200mm and the turning circle a fairly lazy 11.8 metres. People don't seem to mind that it feels big, and is one of the few in the segment that I feel like I'm climbing up into with my 183cm (six-foot) frame rather than stepping in.

From behind the wheel you can practically see the curvature of the Earth you sit so high. Fire up the near-silent V6 and you're struck by how incredibly smooth it is. Also smooth is the ride - the long travel suspension is probably exactly the same as it is for our American cousins vs, say, Hyundai's habit of setting up its cars for Australia.

Everything is soft and squidgy but in a reassuring way, even the warning beeps aren't too shrill or irritating. The steering is light and with the occasional moment of vagueness but again, it's all very predictable. The brakes, though a bit spongy at the top of the pedal, are more than up to the task of washing off speed in the unlikely event you've overcooked things.

The engine continues unchanged. There's enough horsepower to get you going and hold a decent clip, it will keep you out of trouble and do what Toyotas generally do - look after you. Performance is hardly the key point of the Kluger - it weighs in at a fairly unapologetic 2005kg in AWD form - but, as I say, there's ample power to keep you moving.

We're yet to perform an exhaustive off-road review, but our experience is that the Kluger has reasonable off road ability.

Verdict

The 2018 Kluger is still a very solid car, with tons of room for you and your things. And your family and their things. It remains way out in front (although the new Santa Fe is lurking menacingly) and the boost in safety gear will help ensure it stays there.

The pick of the range is still the GX which is now a much stronger proposition with the extra safety features. There's little of real interest in the higher models, you can't get better headlights (a curious state of affairs) or a better stereo, so it's difficult to understand the appeal.

The Kluger will serve you and your family well in a solid and unspectacular way. Given most of us like that in our cars, it's easy to see why it's a hit.

Does the Kluger's new safety focus do enough to lure you away from the competition? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Pricing Guides

$41,990
Based on 349 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$33,777
Highest Price
$61,880

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Grande (4x2) 3.5L, ULP, 8 SP AUTO $51,969 – 58,990 2018 TOYOTA KLUGER 2018 Grande (4x2) Pricing and Specs
Grande (4x4) 3.5L, ULP, 8 SP AUTO $51,880 – 61,880 2018 TOYOTA KLUGER 2018 Grande (4x4) Pricing and Specs
GX (4x2) 3.5L, ULP, 8 SP AUTO $33,777 – 40,888 2018 TOYOTA KLUGER 2018 GX (4x2) Pricing and Specs
GX (4x4) 3.5L, ULP, 8 SP AUTO $34,999 – 43,470 2018 TOYOTA KLUGER 2018 GX (4x4) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7
Price and features6
Design7
Practicality8
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption7
Safety8
Ownership6
Driving7
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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