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Toyota Kluger 2022 review: GX AWD Hybrid

The Kluger is the logical step up from a RAV4. But is it the right SUV for your family?

For thousands of Australian families the Toyota Kluger is the go-to seven-seater SUV.

This model has built such a strong reputation of being a simple step-up from the RAV4 SUV that it’s almost irrelevant what car reviewers, like me, say to prospective buyers of the Kluger - I found this out first-hand when I spent a week with this base model 2022 Toyota Kluger Hybrid GX AWD. 

For my week with this car, my family and I drove to see some extended family in Cowra, in the NSW Central West region, to show off the Kluger to a potential new customer - my sister in-law.

She’s a young mum with two kids who currently has a previous-generation RAV4, but wants a bigger boot and likes the idea of “bonus third-row seats”.

In this review, I’ll tell you what I thought of the car for my family of three, and also sprinkle in some of her thoughts about the Kluger compared to a RAV4 or any other seven-seater she’d seen or driven.

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What does it look like?

To me the new Kluger doesn’t look all that new at all. 

  • To me the new Kluger doesn’t look all that new at all (Image: Matt Campbell). To me the new Kluger doesn’t look all that new at all (Image: Matt Campbell).
  • To me the new Kluger doesn’t look all that new at all (Image: Matt Campbell). To me the new Kluger doesn’t look all that new at all (Image: Matt Campbell).
  • To me the new Kluger doesn’t look all that new at all (Image: Matt Campbell). To me the new Kluger doesn’t look all that new at all (Image: Matt Campbell).
  • To me the new Kluger doesn’t look all that new at all (Image: Matt Campbell). To me the new Kluger doesn’t look all that new at all (Image: Matt Campbell).
  • To me the new Kluger doesn’t look all that new at all (Image: Matt Campbell). To me the new Kluger doesn’t look all that new at all (Image: Matt Campbell).
  • To me the new Kluger doesn’t look all that new at all (Image: Matt Campbell). To me the new Kluger doesn’t look all that new at all (Image: Matt Campbell).
  • To me the new Kluger doesn’t look all that new at all (Image: Matt Campbell). To me the new Kluger doesn’t look all that new at all (Image: Matt Campbell).
  • To me the new Kluger doesn’t look all that new at all (Image: Matt Campbell). To me the new Kluger doesn’t look all that new at all (Image: Matt Campbell).
  • To me the new Kluger doesn’t look all that new at all (Image: Matt Campbell). To me the new Kluger doesn’t look all that new at all (Image: Matt Campbell).
  • To me the new Kluger doesn’t look all that new at all (Image: Matt Campbell). To me the new Kluger doesn’t look all that new at all (Image: Matt Campbell).
  • To me the new Kluger doesn’t look all that new at all (Image: Matt Campbell). To me the new Kluger doesn’t look all that new at all (Image: Matt Campbell).

I think the previous version - which had a boxier, less beaky look to it - was more attractive. This one, with the soft edges and US-flavoured chromey bits, just isn’t as stunning as it could be.

I don’t mean that all seven-seater SUVs should be pretty. But when the competition includes the Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe, Mazda CX-9 and even the new-gen Mitsubishi Outlander, then the rounded-edged look of the Kluger could well be a bit sharper.

Anyway, it is still a sizeable thing, and while the form mightn’t light my fire (you can tell me if you think I’m wrong in the comments below), I do appreciate the functionality of the design here.

It has seven seats, and when you’re using it as a five-seater, the boot is massive. More on that below. 

How does it drive?

This is a highlight for the Kluger. It’s really, really nice to drive.

The trip from our house out to Cowra is about three hours, and with my seven-month-old and our two dogs on the back seat, plus my partner comfortably sat in the front passenger seat, we made it there without even needing to stop.

The dogs got out happy, the baby wasn’t even bothered, and both myself and my partner didn’t get that fatigue you often feel after a decent drive like that.

The Kluger is a really, really nice to drive (Image: Matt Campbell). The Kluger is a really, really nice to drive (Image: Matt Campbell).

There are plenty of reasons for that, but I think the main one is the ride. The suspension offers a terrific level of comfort, and with the powertrain including all-wheel drive (by way of an electric motor on the rear axle that can kick in when it’s needed), you also know there’s good control on offer from the chassis, too.

It isn’t too soft, handles bumpy roads (there are plenty of those west of the Blue Mountains) with ease, and we even did a little stretch of gravel testing where the Kluger performed admirably. 

Sure, we all thought the side steps were a bit naff and definitely not country track-friendly as they lower the ground clearance significantly, but they came away unscathed.

The steering is excellent - very accurate and with a nice light action to it - and it’s easy to live with in the city, when parking, or even at higher speeds on the open road.

The powertrain in our test car was the new hybrid version offered in the Kluger for the first time in the current-gen model. It teams a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with front- and rear-mounted electric motors - and like a Prius or RAV4 hybrid, you can recoup lost energy through the regenerative braking system. 

The powertrain in our test car was the new hybrid version offered in the Kluger (Image: Matt Campbell). The powertrain in our test car was the new hybrid version offered in the Kluger (Image: Matt Campbell).

The brake pedal response is pretty good and not as graunchy as hybrid Toyotas of old, but what is annoying is that the adaptive cruise control system - which has braking for other cars - doesn’t have the intelligence to brake the car if you’re descending a steep gradient. Instead, it simply beeps to tell you that it’s going to head over the set speed.

This might sound like a small issue, but on country roads with lots of gradient changes, it’s very annoying.

Some customers might prefer the grunt and the sound of the petrol V6, too, as the hybrid powertrain can be a little bit annoying to listen to. It runs a CVT automatic transmission, the noise of the engine revving at a constant level (up consistent hills, for instance) because of the CVT means there can be some drone in the cabin.

But there’s ample power and torque on offer, and it never feels like it’s struggling. The response to sudden inputs - overtaking moves, for example - is good, and with a full car you never feel like you’re out of grunt.

How spacious is it?

It’s a roomy thing for those in the first and second rows, while the third row is better left for occasional trips for smaller occupants.

We say that not only because of the third-row seat space, which is limited for anyone taller than about 160cm, but also because it has no third-row airbag protection, which could be a big concern for customers. My sister-in-law definitely raised her eyebrows when I mentioned this to her, but she again referred to them as “sometimes seats”, which makes a lot of sense.

Those two seats in the back row don’t have child seat attachment points, either, unlike rivals such as the Mazda CX-9, Hyundai Palisade and Kia Sorento

For someone my size (182cm/6’0”) there isn’t enough space to be able to sit comfortably at all. The seat backrest didn’t quite go to the right level of recline for me to be able to sit in the third row without my head touching the ceiling in all positions, and while there are rear vents and cup holders either side, the knee room isn’t great. Check out a Toyota Granvia or LC300 if you really want a lot of third-row space in your Toyota.

So, what about boot space and cargo capacity for the Kluger? It argues a pretty strong case if you’re shopping upwards from a RAV4, with the five-seats-up measurement pegged at 552 litres (VDA), though the current RAV4 has 580L (VDA).

  • The boot space in the Kluger argues a pretty strong case if you’re shopping upwards from a RAV4 (Image: Matt Campbell). The boot space in the Kluger argues a pretty strong case if you’re shopping upwards from a RAV4 (Image: Matt Campbell).
  • The boot space in the Kluger argues a pretty strong case if you’re shopping upwards from a RAV4 (Image: Matt Campbell). The boot space in the Kluger argues a pretty strong case if you’re shopping upwards from a RAV4 (Image: Matt Campbell).
  • The boot space in the Kluger argues a pretty strong case if you’re shopping upwards from a RAV4 (Image: Matt Campbell). The boot space in the Kluger argues a pretty strong case if you’re shopping upwards from a RAV4 (Image: Matt Campbell).
  • The boot space in the Kluger argues a pretty strong case if you’re shopping upwards from a RAV4 (Image: Matt Campbell). The boot space in the Kluger argues a pretty strong case if you’re shopping upwards from a RAV4 (Image: Matt Campbell).
  • The boot space in the Kluger argues a pretty strong case if you’re shopping upwards from a RAV4 (Image: Matt Campbell). The boot space in the Kluger argues a pretty strong case if you’re shopping upwards from a RAV4 (Image: Matt Campbell).
  • The boot space in the Kluger argues a pretty strong case if you’re shopping upwards from a RAV4 (Image: Matt Campbell). The boot space in the Kluger argues a pretty strong case if you’re shopping upwards from a RAV4 (Image: Matt Campbell).

If you need to use seven seats, the figure is a still useful 241L (VDA), which is almost double some seven-seater SUV rivals with all three rows in use.

If you need to load and lug something large, folding both rear rows of seats down alleviates 1150L (VDA). And if you’re wondering, there is a full-size spare wheel under the boot floor, though it does take a bit of work to get to. 

There is a full-size spare wheel under the boot floor, though it does take a bit of work to get to (Image: Matt Campbell). There is a full-size spare wheel under the boot floor, though it does take a bit of work to get to (Image: Matt Campbell).

The second-row seat is split 60:40, with the smaller portion on the kerbside - meaning it should be easier for access to the third-row if you have any child-seats fitted behind the driver. As you’d expect, the second-row has ISOFIX points on the outboard seats and three top-tether points as well.

There are two USB ports in the second row, and because our test car was the hybrid GX, it also had three zone climate control (you miss out on that if you choose the petrol GX). 

We loved the fact there were air vents in the ceiling, as it made for a much more enjoyable experience for little ones in the back. Speaking of little ones, we had our seven-and-a-half-month old in her rearward-facing baby capsule and there was easily enough room in front of the seat for my partner to be very comfortable for a long time. 

We loved the fact there were air vents in the ceiling (Image: Matt Campbell). We loved the fact there were air vents in the ceiling (Image: Matt Campbell).

For adults or larger children, there’s heaps of room in the second row. I could easily sit behind my own driving position, but annoyingly it wasn’t possible to simply slide the seat forward using a rail underneath - instead the entire seat slides using a mechanism at the top, which could be difficult for inexperienced users or kids to master.

We made use of the large bottle holders and trenches in the doors in the front doors, and we loved the shelf that runs across most of the dashboard, too.

  • For adults or larger children, there’s heaps of room in the second row (Image: Matt Campbell). For adults or larger children, there’s heaps of room in the second row (Image: Matt Campbell).
  • For adults or larger children, there’s heaps of room in the second row (Image: Matt Campbell). For adults or larger children, there’s heaps of room in the second row (Image: Matt Campbell).
  • For adults or larger children, there’s heaps of room in the second row (Image: Matt Campbell). For adults or larger children, there’s heaps of room in the second row (Image: Matt Campbell).
  • The hybrid GX has three zone climate control (Image: Matt Campbell). The hybrid GX has three zone climate control (Image: Matt Campbell).

There is also a spot for your phone in front of the shifter – which looks like it deserves a wireless charger but doesn’t have it – and next to that there are three USB ports and a 12-volt outlet. 

There are cupholders next to the shifter as well, alongside the drive mode selectors and park brake trigger. Behind is a very large centre console bin with a movable top section, and there’s also a 12V in there as well to charge devices. 

  • The comfort up front was very good (Image: Matt Campbell). The comfort up front was very good (Image: Matt Campbell).
  • The comfort up front was very good (Image: Matt Campbell). The comfort up front was very good (Image: Matt Campbell).
  • The comfort up front was very good (Image: Matt Campbell). The comfort up front was very good (Image: Matt Campbell).

The comfort up front was very good, but just take note - tall occupants might find the passenger seat to be set too high, and you can’t adjust the height, which is annoying. My six-foot-four (193cm) brother-in-law’s hair was brushing the ceiling.

How easy is it to use every day?

There is a button for keyless entry on the base model, but it’s only on the front doors - and as a parent, you may be surprised how much you rely on the rear doors unlocking first… you often go there before you go to the driver’s seat, especially if you’re loading in a baby seat.

So, that was annoying. And what’s more annoying is that you don’t get an electric tailgate on the base GX. You do on the GXL, and the Grande has one with a hands-free sensor so you kick under the bumper to open it up. 

At least there’s push-button start, so you can get in and not have to worry about fishing for your keys in your pocket or bag.

You can forget about a wireless smartphone charger (unavailable on all Kluger models), there’s no auto-dimming rearview mirror on the GX, and you’ll need to rely on the maps on your phone (which you have to connect via USB to the media screen) as the GX also misses out on sat nav.

The unbraked towing capacity is 750kg and the braked towing capacity is 2000kg (Image: Matt Campbell). The unbraked towing capacity is 750kg and the braked towing capacity is 2000kg (Image: Matt Campbell).

Thinking of towing with your Kluger? The unbraked towing capacity is 750kg and the braked towing capacity is 2000kg. Our test car had a towing kit fitted, but we didn’t get a chance to test it.

How safe is it?

The Toyota Kluger comes well equipped with safety technology and equipment.

It has forward auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, rear AEB with backover prevention, lane departure warning, lane keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control, speed sign recognition, intersection turn assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a reversing camera (surround view on the top-spec only!), front and rear parking sensors, hill start assist and more.

There are seven airbags - dual front, driver's knee, front side, and curtain airbags. The curtain airbags don't completely cover the third row - instead, they only "sufficiently cover the glazed portion of the window" - so they won't offer any head protection for rear seat occupants in the event of an accident. That could be a deciding factor for you, and I'd totally understand why.

What’s the tech like?

The 9.0-inch touchscreen media system is basic, but it does the job. The system doesn’t have an inbuilt navigation / GPS and that might be a dealbreaker for some, but at least there’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and it works pretty well in most situations. Although do note, that you need to be at a standstill or not driving for the input of addresses and phone numbers to be possible using the smartphone mirroring tech, which seems really dumb. You can use the voice system, however.

The 9.0-inch touchscreen media system is basic, but it does the job (Image: Matt Campbell). The 9.0-inch touchscreen media system is basic, but it does the job (Image: Matt Campbell).

There’s an outdated 4.2-inch multi-info display in front of the driver as well, which, while basic, at least has a digital speedometer.

Other things you might like on the tech front include auto lights and wipers, heated side mirrors, and a reversing camera - but the latter only has solid guidelines, while the GXL gets moving guidelines, and the Grande has a surround view 360-degree camera.

There’s an outdated 4.2-inch multi-info display in front of the driver (Image: Matt Campbell). There’s an outdated 4.2-inch multi-info display in front of the driver (Image: Matt Campbell).

Also, if you do plan to tow, the camera’s centre line doesn’t line-up with the tow bar. That’s silly.

How much does it cost to own?

The list price for the Toyota Kluger GX Hybrid AWD is $54,150 (MSRP - before on-road costs).

The list price for the Toyota Kluger GX Hybrid AWD is $54,150 (Image: Matt Campbell). The list price for the Toyota Kluger GX Hybrid AWD is $54,150 (Image: Matt Campbell).

It’s the most affordable hybrid Kluger you can get, though if the hybrid powertrain isn’t that important to you, the GX V6 AWD is almost three grand cheaper ($51,650), and if you don’t need or want AWD, you can get a front-wheel drive V6 for $47,650.

And at that price point, it’s a fair bit easier to forgive some of the spec and tech shortcomings of the Kluger GX, but personally, I’d prefer the hybrid because of the lower real-world ownership costs and potential resale advantages. Curious about the cost differences between running a hybrid or V6 Kluger? We’ve done the maths for you!

But also on a personal front, I’d be tempted by the GXL, which just adds a few nicer things you probably want. At $9200 more, you’d have to really want those things - power adjustable and heated front seats (driver’s with lumbar adjust), the bigger 7.0-inch driver screen, a power tailgate, sat nav, better reversing camera, roof rails and different 18-inch wheels - but the step up seems almost justifiable to me.

The GX AWD Hybrid is the most affordable hybrid Kluger you can get (Image: Matt Campbell). The GX AWD Hybrid is the most affordable hybrid Kluger you can get (Image: Matt Campbell).

At the $64,000 mark, the competition is really stiff. You get a helluva lot of Kia Sorento for that, not to mention a really nice spec of CX-9, Santa Fe or Palisade… none of them with hybrid tech, mind.

Now, on those ownership costs, the fuel efficiency is the big party trick here. The official combined cycle claimed figure is just 5.6 litres per 100 kilometres. That is pretty phenomenal, if you can achieve it. In my testing of the car, I saw a real-world at the pump return of 6.6L/100km across well over 500km of driving, with the majority of that being highway and country roads.

But as you may know, hybrids can often be better suited to city and urban environments, so your fuel use may be better than what I got. 

Also, it’s worth noting that the Kluger requires 95RON premium unleaded petrol in hybrid trim, while the V6 can run on cheaper 91RON regular unleaded. The hybrid has a 65L fuel tank, and the V6 (which uses between 8.7L and 8.9L/100km depending on the spec) has a 68L tank.

There’s a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty for the car (Image: Matt Campbell). There’s a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty for the car (Image: Matt Campbell).

There’s a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty for the car, the powertrain has a seven-year cover if you maintain logbook servicing, and if you do your maintenance with Toyota they will do an annual battery health check that extends the warranty out to 10 years for the hybrid battery pack.

Service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km, which is the industry standard, and there is a capped price servicing plan that states you’ll pay $250 per visit for the first five years/75,000km. 

Note: unlike many other brands, Toyota doesn’t offer roadside assistance for free. You have to pay extra for it. 


The Wrap

So, my sister-in-law is sold on the Kluger hybrid, but she’s not going to go for the GX. Like me, she thought it could do with a bit more equipment, though we both reckon the price step-up to the GXL is a painful one.

Even so, despite some notable shortcomings, and a bit of concern around just how usable that third-row may actually be for larger families, it’s easy to see why people simply stay with Toyota when they step up from a RAV4.

All told, while the GX mightn’t be the ideal spec level, the Kluger is the consummate family car in a lot of ways - possibly hundreds, if not thousands of ways.

Likes

Efficient and usable powertrain
Comfortable drive experience
Enjoyable for the driver

Dislikes

No third-row airbag coverage
Second-row sliding seats could be better
Expensive for what you get

Scores

Matt:

4.2

The Kids:

4

$54,150

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.